Civilizing the Urban: Popular Culture and Public Space in Merthyr, c. 1870-1914

Civilizing the Urban: Popular Culture and Public Space in Merthyr, c. 1870-1914

Civilizing the Urban: Popular Culture and Public Space in Merthyr, c. 1870-1914

Civilizing the Urban: Popular Culture and Public Space in Merthyr, c. 1870-1914

Synopsis

Early industrial Merthyr is synonymous with the darker side of the British urban experience. The spectacular rates of urban growth, the acute social unrest and the appallingly high death rates that shocked and horrified many Victorian observers continue to command the attention of historians. In contrast, attempts to construct a 'civic image' for the town in the late-Victorian and Edwardian eras have gone unnoticed.

This book considers the efforts of a group of dedicated civic 'boosters' to civilize the town's public spaces and its inhabitants, and it shows how this vision of Merthyr depended on the taming and regulation of popular culture. Streets crowded with respectable choral singers and well-behaved rugby fans were often regarded as proof that civic Merthyr had arrived; the presence of public drunks, pugilists and prostitutes suggested otherwise.

Civilizing the Urban traces elements of the fascinating journey from the 'urban' to the 'civic' and develops new ways of understanding the often uneasy relationship between popular culture, public space and urban meaning in the context of the nineteenth-century British 'civic project'.

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