Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: The noisy city : people, streets and work in Germany and Britain, c. 1870-1910
Author: Walraven, Maarten
ISNI:       0000 0004 5357 4817
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2014
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
This thesis surveys the sounds of everyday street and work life to argue for a reassessment of the way historians have understood community, space, materiality and identity in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century Germany and Britain. It will demonstrate that sound played an important role in the organisation of urban space and social order. Furthermore it will show how the historical subject as listener emphasises the volatility of identity, place-making and community. Sounds either defined a community through positive responses or created conflict where one group heard the sounds of another group as noise. Sound helps to define the social groups that this thesis focuses on, such as experts, intellectuals, local administrators, immigrants or factory labourers. The ephemeral nature of sound and the subjectivity of listening, however, also pull apart such neat definitions and reveal the fractures within each of these social groups. Throughout this thesis, differing reactions to everyday sounds in the conurbations of Manchester and Düsseldorf will demonstrate how communities sought to define themselves and their environments through the production and reception of sound. What emerges is a re-composition of everyday life in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth century that challenges examinations of it based on images of class, sociability and culture. Düsseldorf and Manchester were substantial cities that grew during the period studied here and underwent similar processes of technological change that affected both the social order and the physical environment. This thesis demonstrates that the audibility of specific technologies, buildings and machines physically affected listeners, and that working classes, middle-class professionals and local administrators all created regimes of noise intent on controlling behaviour in streets and workplaces. One of the key tropes within studies of sound is that listening places the historical subject at the centre of their environment while seeing places them outside of it. Using this idea, this thesis will make an original contribution to a number of debates. First of all, sounds broke down visual boundaries between street and workplace and this dissertation examines how that changes historical notions of place and space. Secondly, this thesis establishes how sound exposes the lines of fracture and cohesion within and between social groups that historians of popular street culture have tried to emphasise through class relations. Thirdly, sound allows for a re-examination of the power structures in which factory labourers and immigrants worked and lived as it presents practices of listening and sound production that breathe new life into ‘histories from below’ and challenge the top-down approaches associated with governmentality. Finally, this thesis will challenge the notion of noise as unwanted sound, prevalent in the growing number of histories on urban noise by demonstrating the diversity of everyday and medical reactions to ‘noise’ and exploring the problem of ‘silence’ in negotiations of migrant and worker identity and the development of road technologies. Overall, this thesis will determine that the role of sound in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century complicates historical debates on the physical and social organisation of urban space. Different communities transformed their identities around shared listening practices and adapted their rhythms of everyday life to sounds that resonated between street and home, work and leisure.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Modern European History ; History of Sound ; Noise ; Urban History ; Soundscape ; British History ; German History ; Manchester ; Dusseldorf ; Ruhrgebiet ; Silence