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Vision, vested interest and pragmatism: who re-made Britain's blitzed cities?

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Abstract:

For many British cities, the received history of post-war reconstruction, accepted rather uncritically by succeeding generations, suggests a fairly swift and harmonious development and implementation of a plan, driven forward by one or two key individuals such as a city engineer, a main planner and, perhaps, a lord mayor. Such suspiciously tidy versions of post-war history have had high visibility and have been hard to challenge. This paper utilizes the theory of actor networks to reveal new insights into the reconstruction of Plymouth by evaluating the mismatch between the intentions set out in post-war urban reconstruction plans and their actual implementation. Using a rich but neglected archive of evidence in Plymouth, one of Britain's most badly bombed cities, a chronology of the dynamic interactions of the network(s) involved in devising and realizing the 1943 Plan for Plymouth is reconstructed. The discussion illustrates that, while the formulation of the plan itself, with its radical and ambitious proposals, was the work of a relatively small elite network, its implementation drew in other much larger groups of actors and interests. The interactions and tensions amongst the players in these bigger networks led to significant compromises and, ultimately, there was a mismatch between the original vision and the reality that was delivered.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/02665430701553415

Affiliations: School of Geography, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK

Publication date: 2007-10-01

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