The Best Governed City in the World? Birmingham 1838-1914

Department of History, School of History and Cultures

College of Arts and Law


Code 20383

Level of study Second Year

Credit value 20

Semester 1&2

Module description

During the 1870s and 1880s Birmingham gained the reputation as the 'best governed city in the world' because of the dynamism of Joseph Chamberlain, who embraced the concept of civic gospel and implemented the policies of municipal socialism. How important was Joseph Chamberlain to the growth of local government in Birmingham and how successful was he and his successors? Was the period before Chamberlain's mayoralty (1873-6) as 'black' as it has been portrayed? What were the problems facing municipal government between 1838 and 1914? Did the poor of Birmingham benefit as much as the middle class from municipal activity from the 1970s to 1914? This module will aim to examine these questions via student led seminars that will encourage discussion, through guided secondary reading, and through a sample of primary documents.