Slum Clearance in Manchester: Making Space for Modernity

Alistair Kefford

SONY DSCHistory Department, University of Manchester


Slum clearance has often been viewed by scholars through the prism of national policy objectives and the supposedly unified priorities of the planning profession. In practice, this paper argues, the delegation of slum clearance powers to local authorities provided an opportunity to formulate locally-determined visions of urban modernity. In Manchester in particular, clearance powers provided a mechanism through which conceptions of Mancunian modernity were negotiated and enacted. This process reflected the city’s previous experience of planning and the established priorities of councillors and officials, but it also demonstrated an engagement with contemporary debates about the form and functions of the city. Such debates were mediated by local newspapers, which tended to privilege a somewhat sectional vision of the city and of the modern citizen. The paper argues that the way that Manchester was re-imagined and reshaped in the 1950s and 60s had long term implications for urban policy in the 1970s and beyond.

(Courtesy of Manchester Local Image Collection, ref. m26264)

(Courtesy of Manchester Local Image Collection, ref. m26264)


Alistair Kefford is a PhD researcher in the History Department at the University of Manchester. His research focuses on the relationship between spatial planning and urban social policy in Manchester and Leeds in the post-war period.


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