Slavery and the Black Country: lords and ladies

This post, and possibly the next couple, is about the Black Country and the slave trade. Historians have had a busy few weeks lately, with the flag controversy, debates about the British Empire, Nazis and memorials in America and yes, this is a little in light of all of that. But I don't want to …

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That particular articulation of social relations which we are at the moment naming as… Doulton Brook

A break from the Irish this week. I've been mostly reading Doreen Massey this week - if you're not familiar with her she's an urban geographer of major importance, who died earlier in the year (2016 striking again). She was a radical, a feminist, an unorthodox Marxist, and one of the best at problematising what …

Coming over here, taking our jobs…

Crowds of miserable Irish darken all our towns. The wild Milesian features, looking false ingenuity, restlessness, unreason, misery and mockery, salute you on all highways and byways... He is the sorest evil this  country has to strive with. So wrote the great crusading reformer Thomas Carlyle in 1839. Heroes of the Left like Friedrich Engels were little better: True, the …

The Other immigrants of Carribee Island: Wolverhampton’s Jewish community 1

My PhD research focuses on a small section of Wolverhampton town centre in the nineteenth century that was well-known - perhaps notorious, even - for it's substantial Irish immigrant population. "Carribee Island" and the "Stafford Street district" became by-words when any sort of unrest occurred amongst Wolverhampton's Irish. My cursory go at statistics so far …

“Slums” of the Black Country: Waste Bank, Lye

The South Staffordshire coalfield defines the Black Country for many purposes, but as a culturally-defined region, its borders are highly porous. Wolverhampton is in or out, depending on who you ask; Walsall preferred to be out, at least in 1866. The coalfield knows no political boundaries either, stretching well into Worcestershire in the South (see this map Bob …

“Slums” of the Black Country: Gold’s Hill, West Bromwich

The Black Country is constructed not just upon topography but upon geology. Mines can only be built where there's something to mine; other sorts of works require proximity to those materials; infrastructure is built around, and to meet the demands of, the geology. The communities that build up around such environments therefore tend to be ad hoc, at the …

“Slums” of the Black Country: Darlaston

I've ummed and aahed a bit about what to write about the Post's report on Darlaston. It's really the same old story: surface drainage, evils, abomination, bubbling and seething, stagnant, over-flowing, the cholera, back courts, and so on; there's not a lot to add compared to previous outrages at Oldbury or Bilston. Despite the fact that the journalist's …