University of Leicester
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Voluntary Associations and the Civic Ideal in Leicester 1870-1939

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posted on 2011-11-25, 13:02 authored by Siobhan Begley
This thesis discusses the contribution of voluntary associations to the civic ideal in Leicester between 1870 and 1939. It demonstrates the growth in local voluntary associations over the period and illustrates the role they played in public life. Voluntary associations throughout the period 1870 to 1939 helped in the management of local public affairs and provided an organized social life in the town. They promoted social cohesion and a perception of civic unity as well as allowing an expression of difference. Associational life in Leicester became denser between 1870 and 1939, mutating from an elite to a more inclusive model and involvement in voluntary groups that embraced the civic ideal helped previously marginalised groups to integrate into public life. Although national influence encroached on local associational life over these decades there remained a balance between local bodies and those with a national dimension, with branches of some national associations assuming a strong local identity. The meetings of the voluntary associations helped structure an annual local calendar that was represented by the Leicester newspapers as part of a shared culture of interest to all Leicester residents. This regular programme of associational life underpinned the organisation and credibility of a ‘one off’ spectacular, the Leicester Pageant of 1932, an event which was supported by local voluntary associations, through which thousands of Leicester townspeople were mobilised to participate. The success of this occasion demonstrated that, in the 1930s, Leicester residents still retained a sense of civic and local identity. This is contrary to a perception in recent scholarship that the popularity of civic ceremony in provincial towns had decreased from the end of the nineteenth century and that this was symptomatic of a decline in the credibility of the civic ideal.



Rodger, Richard

Date of award


Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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