Centre for Urban history

Urban and Industrial Change in the Midlands 1700-1840

A collaborative project funded by the Leverhulme Trust.


  • Centre for Urban History, University of Leicester
  • Department of Modern History, University of Birmingham
  • Division of Geography, Coventry University
  • School of Engineering and Technology, University College Northampton*
  • Department of History, University College Northampton*
  • Department of History, University of Derby 

(* now the University of Northampton)


This two and a half year interdisciplinary project led by Peter Clark at the Centre for Urban History brought together a group of scholars to investigate the economic, social and cultural development of industrial towns in the Midlands.

The project stemmed from a growing recognition that, whereas many of the orthodoxies concerning the classical Industrial Revolution have been challenged in recent years, established views of the role of towns in the industrialisation process in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries have failed to attract critical scrutiny. Urban studies have mostly concentrated on individual towns, making it difficult to explore the linkages between urban growth and wider economic change - especially industrialisation. Analysis of industrial and industrialising towns in this period has also suffered from a traditional stereotyping between 'old' stagnant or slow growth centres and 'new' dynamic places.

The overall significance of this work for urban and economic history is threefold:

  • The survey of economic and population growth offers a reconceptualisation of towns as part of networks incorporating both hinterlands and other towns.
  • In providing insight into the development of several towns, it has demonstrated the existence of common factors that appear important in shaping urban and industrial growth in all towns: elite groups, cultural and political institutions, service functions and external linkages.
  • The project as a whole provides a framework for parallel studies of regional networks and economies elsewhere in Britain and Europe.


In addition to the final project report, a collection of conference papers relating to the project has been published as:

  • J Stobart and P Lane (eds.) (2000) Urban and Industrial Change in the Midlands, 1700-1840, (Centre for Urban History, Leicester)
  • J Stobart, P Lane and N Raven (eds.) Towns, regions, and industries : urban and industrial change in the Midlands, c.1700-1840 (Manchester University Press, 2005). A major book which links findings from the project with wider debates of industrialisation, urbanisation and regional development in Britain and Europe.


  • Research Director: Peter Clark
  • Project Team: Neil Raven, Leonard Schwartz, Jon Stobart and Barrie Trinder
  • Research Officers: Penelope Lane, Andrew Hann and Tristram Hooley

Further information

For further information about the project and the project database, please contact Andrew Hann.

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