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Pavement Politics: Community Action in Leeds, c. 1960-1990

Ellis, David J (2015) Pavement Politics: Community Action in Leeds, c. 1960-1990. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Community action, centred on everyday issues affecting life at neighbourhood level, was a new form of political activism that flourished across urban Britain from the 1960s to the 1980s. Existing historical narratives of politics in late twentieth century Britain overlook this development due to the low profile of community action nationally and activists’ lack of interest in recording their work for posterity. This thesis recovers part of the forgotten history of community action through a case study of Leeds. In so doing it re-balances a historiography concerned largely with established political institutions. The thesis builds upon the work of historians who have sought to broaden our understanding of the political and scholars who have stressed the importance of the local and the quotidian. In 1960s and 1970s in Leeds, the growth of community action was a response to the failure of traditional political organisations to represent those who disagreed with various aspects of urban policy. Community action challenged the centralising tendencies of the British state, pushing for more direct citizen involvement in policy making. Over the 1970s, activists re-shaped policy on urban renewal, housing and transport. The Leeds experience shows how community activists forged a partnership with local government and together they pioneered new forms of urban policy. Activists developed an infrastructure of grassroots institutions managed by local people, only for it to wither in the 1980s as the Thatcher governments advanced a neo-liberal policy agenda. With the exception of a handful of full-time organisers, Leeds activists were unable to act local and think national. As such, community action was unable to mature into a true social movement. It lacked strong national networks, a set of unifying institutions and a clear ideology. It did, however, survive as an approach to politics and its contribution to public policy remains visible today.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > History (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.678782
Depositing User: Mr David J Ellis
Date Deposited: 05 Feb 2016 14:05
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2018 15:21
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/11727

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