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  • Print publication year: 2000
  • Online publication date: March 2008

1 - Introduction

A fundamental factor in the changing image and role of British cities and towns was urbanisation, the process by which the growing proportion of population living in cities created distinct behavioural and structural changes in society. British cities assume a two-sided function in the political system of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, both as the lairs of corrupt influence and as arenas, theatres, where a new kind of pluralistic, participatory politics was produced. Trade fluctuations and changes in the urban economy, together with agricultural improvement, created cyclical crises of unemployment and large-scale poverty, while large numbers of middling traders were at risk from bankruptcy. Urbanisation caused mounting environmental problems. Life cycle and gender helps to define the nature of urban social organisation and its response to urban problems. As in modern-day developing countries, one can identify both integration and divergence in the British urban system.
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The Cambridge Urban History of Britain
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