Time, person and place in the north-east of England
The thesis is concerned with the exploration of cultural identity in the north-east of England. Superficially that exploration invites an ethnographic approach based on the detailing of socio-cultural relationships which have developed from a unique experience within the region as defined by its industrial past which receives specific expression politically through its long-term loyalty to the Labour Party a devotion unparalleled in twentieth-century England. The examination begins by considering the region's lack of response to the 1981 riots and the local press' celebration of the same. It moves on to consider the deeply-felt sense of peripherality found in the northeast in relation to the 'rest of the country'. That peripherality, marked by comparison with national socio-economic standards is examined in its most potent ethnographic context Beamish Museum. What emerges in these considerations is the importance of examining experiential data as a means of evaluating the singularity of north-eastern cultural identity. Experiential data in the form of archival material, the testimony of a 'traditional' working-class whose experiences provided the constituency for Labour politics, is the key evidence offered here. As a framework for evaluating the substantive content of this evidence, the values and beliefs of the English cultural system are delineated. A primary source for these values is identified as the 'local' press - whose ideological stance it is shown is derived less from the specifics of a north-eastern locality than its role as propagator of national values. In the thesis, two areas which are held to have a local specificity are considered industry and community. These two find their most exemplary expression in the term 'industrial community' which is the real and imagined context from which popular conceptions of 'north-easternness' spring. A third area for consideration is the region's relationship with the English imperial system. This system lacks any conceptualizations which could produce a local specificity. What is of interest is that it exemplifies the frame of reference for evaluating north-eastern particularity the comparison between region and nation. It is the involvement in and the response to this system which is crucial. Overall, this thesis examines firstly the ideology which governs the ordering and interpretation of the north-eastern experience since the industrialization of the nineteenth-century. How did the people of the region interpret these transformations and changes? Secondly, the purpose is to delineate the webs of significance from which determine these experiences. Are they 'home grown' or externally-derived by way of the material structure established a century ago and dismantled since? This is achieved by utilizing Anderson's concept of the 'imagined community' to suggest that as an English region, the north-east claims simultaneous membership in two communities one regional, the other national. It is the weight given to the latter which is in the end determinant. The conclusion being that the region's stability in the 1981 riots is founded on its adherence to the ideology which sprang from an older England that of the nineteenth-century industrial/imperial nation.