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"Strawopolis": The transformation of Luton 1840-1876

Bunker, Stephen Thomas; (1992) "Strawopolis": The transformation of Luton 1840-1876. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access


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Luton's development in the nineteenth century was largely governed by the fortunes of the straw hat industry, studies of the workings of which have already been produced (Dony 1941, Pindar 1970). The reason for the ascendancy of Luton, an imimportant market town with commimications inferior to its neighbours, has never been explained convincingly. This thesis contends that the fundamental reason for Luton's swift dominance, and consequent rapacious urbanisation, lay with the abundance of freehold building ground which became available from the 1830s. This allowed for the widespread growth of the domestic production imits which were the distinctive feature of the hat industry in Luton in its earliest phase. It was not only the economic base of Luton that was transformed: the abandonment of the market town by a substantial proportion of its landowning elite left a vacuum which was filled by a new generation of entrepreneurs who can loosely be placed within the ranks of the petty bourgeoisie, and by a small number of larger manufacturers, professionals and theologians. United by politics (overwhelmingly Liberal) and by religious denomination (nonconformists outnumbered anglicans by a ratio of three to one in 1851), these two groups frequently possessed differing perceptions as to how Luton should develop. New institutions and ethics were also required to replace those obliterated with the market town. The new ethos which emanated from the chapels, and the sheer necessity for public improvements, revealed a stark dichotomy with the prevailing spirit of opportunist enterprise upon which the town was built. Only divisions within the petty bourgeoisie allowed for the development of institutions which can be regarded as the hallmark of a stable and mature society. Often undertaken against a backdrop of bitter acrimony, public improvements were driven on by an active minority, culminating with incorporation as a borough in 1876. This accolade was achieved in the face of widespread indifference from the majority of Luton's citizens.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: "Strawopolis": The transformation of Luton 1840-1876
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Social sciences; Urbanization
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10110207
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