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Ring Road: Birmingham and the Collapse of the Motor City Ideal in 1970s Britain

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journal contribution
posted on 23.11.2016, 16:03 by Simon Gunn
Reconstructing Britain’s cities to accommodate the ‘motor revolution’ was an integral part of urban renewal in the post-war decades. This article shows how opposition to urban motorways had a pivotal role in the retreat from urban modernism in the 1970s. It takes as its case study Birmingham, Britain’s premier motor city, headquarters of the motor industry and with heavy investment in roads, including the Inner Ring, Britain’s first urban motorway completed in 1971. The article traces the collapse of the motor city ideal in Birmingham sparked by controversy over car pollution at Spaghetti Junction, the growth of roads protest and the implication of the Inner Ring in municipal corruption. In so doing it identifies the intersection of environmental, political and economic factors that lay behind the volte-face in urban policy and compares Birmingham with other cities which witnessed similar revolts. It argues that the 1970s in Britain saw the end of a specific engineering vision of the post-war city, centred on the car and the ‘citizen-driver’.

Funding

Research for this article was made possible by a standard grant from the Leverhulme Trust, AAM1011029 ’Motor Cities: Automobility and the Urban Environment in Nagoya and Birmingham 1955- 1973’, held with Dr Susan Townsend, University of Nottingham.

History

Citation

Historical Journal, 2017

Author affiliation

/Organisation/COLLEGE OF SOCIAL SCIENCES, ARTS AND HUMANITIES/School of History

Version

AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Published in

Historical Journal

Publisher

Cambridge University Press (CUP)

issn

0018-246X

eissn

1469-5103

Acceptance date

02/10/2016

Copyright date

2017

Available date

17/06/2017

Publisher version

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/historical-journal/article/ring-road-birmingham-and-the-collapse-of-the-motor-city-ideal-in-1970s-britain/C47E70E97E52E51E27E60911A307C14A

Language

en

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