Town, county and region : spatial integration in the East Midlands, 1700-1830
This thesis investigates the nature of spatial integration in the East Midlands in the long eighteenth century, assessing the relative importance of different scales of interaction between people and institutions - from the most localised, intra-urban scale, to the county, regional and national scales. In contrast to the historiographical picture of the emergence of distinct, internally integrated regions in eighteenth-century England, the East Midlands was an ill-defined, incoherent space, within and across which multiple layers of spatial interaction co-existed. Whilst intra-regional interaction appears to have been dominant in regions such as the North West and West Midlands, in the East Midlands, both more localised and more extensive (extra-regional) connections were more common. The thesis adopts an explicitly spatial frame of reference, drawing on Lefebvre's ‘triad’, and thus being based on the premise that spaces were shaped by the conceptions of outsiders, the attitudes and perceptions of their inhabitants, and, most importantly, the practices of individuals within those spaces. Several types of spatial practice are considered, covering economic, social, political and cultural activity, and relating to a spectrum of social groups. The space-economy of the hosiery industry is reconstructed through an analysis of different factors of production, and the nature of the transport network with which these production processes were associated. The influence of the county - as both an administrative and socio-cultural reality and an imagined community - is also discussed. Patterns of migration and the socio-spatial features of will-making illustrate the spatial scales at which social and economic life most commonly operated in the East Midlands. Thus, the thesis demonstrates the complexity of regional development in this period, concluding that, in the East Midlands, the most localised scales of spatial interaction were of greater importance than the regional in structuring the lives of its inhabitants. This apparent lack of region-wide integration can be explained, firstly, by the unusual dominance of three county towns at the head of weak county urban networks, and secondly, by the persistence of a proto-industrial structure in the East Midlands' staple hosiery industry.