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Government and the Metropolitan Image: ministers, parliament and the concept of a capital city, 1840–1915

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The two basic obstacles to reconstructing Victorian London as a magnificent capital were its lack of effective local government, and the prevailing system of parliamentary government.

Fear of disease forced ministers to act on sanitary issues, but they were reluctant to outface those interests that resisted, on one hand, interference with the peculiar powers of the City of London, and on the other opposed spending any part of national taxation on London. Even necessary improvements in government buildings were attacked as misuse of public money.

Improvements in London’s image achieved in the Victorian era were largely the work of a handful of junior ministers influenced by developments in other European capitals, especially Paris. Only at the end of the nineteenth century was a means devised of safeguarding improvement schemes from capricious undermining.

Document Type: Original Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-8365.00176

Affiliations: Queen Mary & Westfield College, University of London

Publication date: November 1, 1999

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