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  • Print publication year: 2001
  • Online publication date: March 2008

11 - The political economy of urban utilities

from Part II - Governance
The growth of the urban infrastructure was the most dynamic element in the British economy from the 1870s to the 1930s. The difficulties of making the transition were indeed a key ingredient in the push to nationalisation in the decades after 1920. A 'very extraordinary interference with property' was how Edward Baines, member of parliament, characterised regulation of the railways and this was typical of mid-century parliamentary attitudes to government involvement with industry. Both John Kellett and Derek Fraser have shown that municipal socialism as an ideology was very much a phenomenon of the early decades of the twentieth century and of debates about London government in particular. The urban utilities had flourished during the nineteenth century as long as the technology for water supply, gas and electricity plants and tramways was efficient over areas corresponding roughly to the size of the average provincial town.
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The Cambridge Urban History of Britain
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