University of Leicester
2016PARKERMPhD.pdf (1.97 MB)

Making the City Mobile: The Place of the Motor Car in the Planning of Post-War Birmingham, c. 1945-1973

Download (1.97 MB)
posted on 2016-02-08, 16:55 authored by Matthew Parker
This thesis explores the ways in which Birmingham was planned for the purposes of mass automobility between 1945 and 1973. The urban landscape was reshaped substantially during this period; the relationship between automobility and town planning is examined to elaborate a deeper historical understanding of the impact of the motor car on the urban environment. Existing literature on the impact of the motor car on British society has focussed on specific roads or patterns of car usage. This thesis instead addresses the issue of how the city changed as a result of planning for automobility and what the repercussions of this strategy were. City centre redevelopment, slum clearance, public transport provision and pollution are investigated to show how the city’s commercial, civic and residential spaces changed, and how the lives of Birmingham’s inhabitants were affected as a result of living in a ‘motor city.’ Birmingham City Engineer Herbert Manzoni believed that a modern city should be redeveloped to facilitate increased car use. The redevelopment of Birmingham as a ‘motor city’ was in large part ideological. Birmingham was not planned as a ‘motor city’ in reaction to increased motor car use, but rather proactively redeveloped to facilitate future increases in motor ownership. This thesis argues that Birmingham Corporation utilised other aspects of the planning process, such as city centre redevelopment and slum clearance, to implement new road systems. It also argues that these policies had repercussions for everyone, including pedestrians. The pursuit of automobility in Birmingham resulted in a lack of resources being directed towards public transport and growing concerns with public health caused by motor car pollution. As a consequence by the early 1970s the tide had turned against the motor city ideal.



Gunn, Simon

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Historical Studies

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



Usage metrics

    University of Leicester Theses


    No categories selected



    Ref. manager