What do we know about the forces of urbanization which caused the emergence of the large industrial city; the mismanagement of natural resources that created air and water pollution, the crowded and unsanitary living conditions of the poor; and the utilitarian ugliness of the environment? It is François Vigier's hope that a better understanding of the major technological, social, and economic transformation of Lancashire during the period 1750-1835 may enable us to achieve some control over a future urban pattern satisfactory to the needs of society.
In this study, Vigier examines the development of pressures and tensions associated with the Industrial Revolution in Liverpool and Manchester, cities with contrasting traditions of local government. His analysis of these organizational structures—how they were archaic and how they were able to respond to conditions created by rapid demographic changes and appearance of the urban cluster—forms the basis for a general theory of the preconditions necessary for municipal institutions to participate in a period of widespread social upheaval.
The port of Liverpool, gateway for Irish, American, and West Indian trade, had an established tradition of self-government with the power to legislate locally, and, when necessary, to adapt existing institutions to new circumstances. In fact, the Dock Estate was a large revenue-producing corporation created for the general interest. Manchester, marketing center for the county's textile trade, remained without self-government until 1838 and was forced to develop a series of ad hoc institutions to deal with urban problems; special committees formed by the Police Commissioners which competed and collided with the anachronistic Court Leet and the Parish Vestry. Vigier concludes that in both towns these institutions failed to provide for the general welfare of a large working-class population. This failure, he points out, cannot be attributed to ignorance of conditions, nor to financial or administrative inability to take appropriate action, but to lack of communication between local government and the community and apathy towards circumstances that did not threaten the prerogatives of groups within the decision-making structure. Instead, the institutional resources of Liverpool and Manchester were used to expand and defend economic competitiveness and to prevent political disturbances generated by appalling living conditions.
A large number of charts and illustrations supplement this provocative analogy to contemporary planning dilemmas.
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