Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 9
  • Cited by
    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    PAGE, ADAM 2016. Planning permanent air raid precautions: architecture, air war and the changing perceptions of British cities in the late 1930s. Urban History, Vol. 43, Issue. 01, p. 117.

    FÖLLMER, MORITZ and SMITH, MARK B. 2015. Urban Societies in Europe since 1945: Toward a Historical Interpretation. Contemporary European History, Vol. 24, Issue. 04, p. 475.

    HANNA, ERIKA 2015. Seeing like a cyclist: visibility and mobility in modern Dublin, c. 1930–1980. Urban History, Vol. 42, Issue. 02, p. 273.

    Harle, Matthew 2015. Fictions from the underground. City, Vol. 19, Issue. 4, p. 444.

    SAUMAREZ SMITH, OTTO 2015. CENTRAL GOVERNMENT AND TOWN-CENTRE REDEVELOPMENT IN BRITAIN, 1959–1966. The Historical Journal, Vol. 58, Issue. 01, p. 217.

    Todd, Selina 2015. Phoenix Rising: Working-Class Life and Urban Reconstruction, c. 1945–1967. Journal of British Studies, Vol. 54, Issue. 03, p. 679.

    Beer, Chris 2013. Planning against hunger in a time of abundance: scarcity, affluence, and food security within contemporary Australian urban planning. Australian Planner, Vol. 50, Issue. 1, p. 35.

    Faith, Rosamond Davis, James Paul, Helen Murphy, Anne L. Crook, Tom Velkar, Aashish and Godden, Chris 2013. Review of periodical literature published in 2011. The Economic History Review, Vol. 66, Issue. 1, p. 297.

    Hale, Matthew Raymond, Graham and Wright, Catherine 2012. List of publications on the economic and social history of Great Britain and Ireland published in 2011. The Economic History Review, Vol. 65, Issue. 4, p. 1524.



  • DOI:
  • Published online: 11 May 2011

This article recovers Buckinghamshire county council's proposal to build a monorail city for 250,000 residents during the 1960s. The project was eventually taken over by Whitehall, which proceeded to establish Britain's largest new town of Milton Keynes instead, but from 1962 to 1968 local officials pursued their monorail metropolis. By telling the story of ‘North Bucks New City’, the article develops a series of claims. First, the proposal should be understood not as the eccentric creation of a single British county, but rather as one iteration of larger state efforts to manage the densities and distributions of growing populations. Second, while the 1960s witnessed the automobile's decisive triumph as a means of personal mobility in Britain, that very triumph ironically generated critiques of the car and quests for alternatives. Third, the monorail was part of a complex social vision that anticipated – and, in part through the facilitation of recreational shopping, sought to alleviate – a crisis of delinquency expected to result from a world of automation and affluence. Fourth, despite its ‘futuristic’ monorail, the plan ultimately represented an effort by experts and the state to manage social change along congenial lines. Fifth, the proposal advanced a nationalist urbanism, promising renewed global stature for post-imperial Britain by building upon its long urban history. Finally, the article concludes by arguing that this unrealized vision points to the limitations of ‘modernism’ in the history of urban planning, and to the problems of teleology in the history of the 1960s.

Corresponding author
Department of History, New York University, 53 Washington Square South, New York, NY 10012,
Hide All

I am grateful to Clare Jackson and the anonymous reviewers for the Historical Journal for their comments and suggestions. This article has also benefited from the responses of James Cronin and the British Study Group at Harvard, Peter Mandler and the Modern Cultural History Seminar at Cambridge, and Richard Williams and the North American Conference on British Studies in Baltimore. Special thanks to those who commented upon written drafts: Ken Alder, Herrick Chapman, Greg Downs, Simon Gunn, Jenny C. Mann, and Kirk Willis, as well as to my interlocutors on monorails and futurism, Michelle Standley and Larry Wolff. I would also like to thank the staff of the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies in Aylesbury, especially Roger Bettridge, Chris Low, and Sally Mason. All quotations from papers produced by county officers are reproduced by permission of the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Suge, ‘The nature of decision-making in the post-war new towns policy: the case of Basildon, c. 1945–70’, Twentieth Century British History, 16, (2005), pp. 146–69

Timothy Hyde , ‘Architecture in the sixties and the sixties in architecture’, The Sixties, 2, (2009), pp. 97105

L. Rydz , ‘The formation of the Great Ouse water authority: part II’, Public Administration, 49, (1971), pp. 245–68

M. J. Wise , ‘The future of the south-east’, Geographical Journal, 130, (1964), pp. 270–3

Smith Wilson , ‘A new look at the affluent worker: the good working mother in post-war Britain’, Twentieth Century British History, 17, (2006), pp. 206–29

No hammock for the idle: the Conservative party, “youth”, and the welfare state in the 1960s’, Twentieth Century British History, 16, (2005), pp. 441–70

John Pendlebury , ‘Alas Smith and Burns? conservation in Newcastle upon Tyne city centre, 1959–1968’, Planning Perspectives, 16, (2001), pp. 115–41

Williams, ‘Brasília after Brasília’, Progress in Planning, 67, (2007), pp. 301–66

A; Goldhagen , ‘Something to talk about: modernism, discourse, style’, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 64, (2005), pp. 144–67

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Historical Journal
  • ISSN: 0018-246X
  • EISSN: 1469-5103
  • URL: /core/journals/historical-journal
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *