Slavery and the Black Country: collars and chains

Last week I looked at money: finance that filtered from Africa to Jamaica to Britain through the holdings of wealthy landlords such as the Earls of Dudley. This week I want to look at things: the industrial links that the Black Country had with enslavement and unfree labour. These are not easy to trace, just as …

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Birmingham’s furthest outpost: Michel de Certeau and the strategies of Elan Village’s builders

 I was very fortunate recently to get to camp in one of the most beautiful spots in the country, in the Elan Valley, Powys. It's among the most sparsely-populated parts of the UK, falling within what John Henry Cliffe described as 'that great desert of Wales' as far back as 1860. Despite that descriptor, it's far from …

Foucault in Northfield: Birmingham’s reformed pubs

As I mentioned recently, apparently historians love pubs more than anything. I was particularly intrigued by a discussion with Nathan Booth at the Urban History conference in Cambridge about the internal layout of pubs in his recently-completed thesis on Stalybridge - I hadn't given this a lot of thought, focusing mainly on the streetscape. So …

Fox News Facts

Last night was a fun night for a midlander to be on Twitter. Footage emerged showing Steven Emerson, noted US terrorism theorist, describing Birmingham as "entirely Muslim" and "a no-go are for non-Muslims". This of course came as news to the the 78% of Brummies who don't identify as Muslim, many of whom took their sarcastic selves …

Ring Roads

For some reason, I spent most of yesterday thinking ring roads. Specifically, the Birmingham Queensway system that no longer exists. As a geographer, town planning sits very much inside my sphere of reference, and this is a famous example of a mid-C20 town planning 'blunder' (probably depending on who you ask). Certainly it was swept …

Heritage Open Weekend

I'll be a busy boy this weekend, for many and various reasons (not least very amateur plumbing), but I'll hope to make time for some of the Heritage Open Days. I'm particularly interested to finally go and see the Back-to-Backs in Birmingham (cf. National Trust). This will be very helpful for my thesis I should …