The Development of Environmental Politics in Inter-War and Post-War Britain
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Beginning in the inter-war years and ending in the early 1970s, this thesis explains how and why the ‘environment’ came to play a significant role in mainstream British politics. During this period, a range of rural and urban problems became conceptualised as ‘environmental’, and governments came to understand their responsibilities not simply in terms of providing basic standards of public health, but also in terms of improving the broader ‘quality of life’ of all citizens. Chapter two explores rural preservation in the inter-war period, and the passage of town and country planning and National Parks legislation in the 1940s. Chapter three examines air pollution, focusing on the London smog of 1952 and the passage of the 1956 Clean Air Act. Chapter four explores Britain’s early nuclear power programme, and shifting attitudes towards modernisation, risk and the countryside in the 1950s and 1960s. Chapter five examines the growth of political interest in ‘environmental’ problems during the 1960s, and the eventual formation of the Department of the Environment in 1970. Finally, chapter six focuses upon the challenge of traffic in towns, exploring proposals for the construction of a motorway network in London in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The thesis concludes that the ‘environment’ was established as a field of public policy by the early 1970s. Whereas many existing accounts have emphasised the importance of radical critiques of human interaction with the environment, it is the contention of this thesis that environmental politics in Britain developed in the political mainstream, taking shape amid efforts to address new challenges of governance. The rejection of modernity, in the form of industrialisation, urban life, consumer culture and economic growth, was never more than a minority position within British politics, and successful arguments for environmental protection had to be framed in line with dominant social and economic priorities.
AuthorsSims, Paul David
- Theses