'Under My Care': Gordon Stephenson and the Re-Founding of the Town Planning Review, 1948-54

By Massey, David | The Town Planning Review, March 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

'Under My Care': Gordon Stephenson and the Re-Founding of the Town Planning Review, 1948-54


Massey, David, The Town Planning Review


On taking up the Lever Chair at the University of Liverpool, Gordon Stephenson effectively re-launched the Town Planning Review from Volume XX (1949-50), persuading a range of internationally renowned authors to publish in the Journal. His ambitious project, including the resumption of regular quarterly publication, a pioneering international editorial network (with substantial US links), a 'contents' policy open to the social sciences, and related book publishing ventures, proved difficult to sustain academically and financially. Nonetheless, it provided a viable base from which his successors were able to maintain publication in the longer term, albeit on a reduced scale.

The profile of the small and specialised scholarly professional world of town planning journals in Britain in the years immediately following 1945 was that of an inheritance from the early 1900s. Among the subject's few publications, the academic aspect was represented by Town Planning Review, the professional aspect by the Journal of the Town Planning Institute, and the wider policy and campaigning interest by Town and Country Planning. Planning topics and discussions also found a place in a rather less focused way in architectural, legal and engineering periodicals, some representing their parent professional bodies, others which were published by commercial firms. A close relationship existed between the different threads of the subject, with thoughtful practitioners and academics crossing easily between the different publications and contributions by researchers from allied subjects making an occasional appearance.

However, the traditional structure was about to change in concert with the major shift in planning policies, powers and practice represented by the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act. In planning education, two undergraduate planning courses were established in Newcastle and Manchester universities and proposals were developed for a postgraduate degree at the University of Liverpool (Batey, 2012). Along with the developments in policy, practice and education came an increased recognition of the role of research and scholarly activity required of higher education staff. This in turn led to a reconsideration of the availability of appropriate media for publishing research and the lessons of pioneering practice. The response of Newcastle University and J. S. Allen, its professor of town and country planning, was to launch a new twice-yearly departmental journal in 1948 - Planning Outlook (Allen, 1949; 1950, 257). For Liverpool University, however, which had edited and published Town Planning Review since 1910 but only an intermittent basis since 1939, a more ambitious approach was set in place by Gordon Stephenson, the fourth Lever Professor of Civic Design.

Achieving Stephenson's aims for TPR were to prove more difficult than early optimism might have suggested. The purpose of this article is to use archival sources to construct a narrative of his role in re-founding the Journal and explore some consequential issues of his term as editor. It begins by outlining the first steps taken by Stephenson to re-establish key components of the Journal. Three strands which were to prove central in the next few years as Volume XX (1949-50) (Figure 1) and its successors were prepared, printed, published and distributed are then considered: first, broadening and internationalising the editorial base at a time when most scholarly journals were national in outlook; second, developing an editorial policy for the content of the Journal as 'academic in the best possible sense of the word', when there were few planning schools or academic staff and when advanced practice rather than research provided the leading edge of disciplinary development; and, finally, dealing with the financial crisis which emerged in late 1952 as costs rose, while income failed to cover expenditure and the University's funding support became exhausted.

The first steps

Within three weeks of taking up his professorial appointment at the beginning of 1948, Stephenson (GS) wrote in the first of two letters to Frederick J.

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