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Civic and municipal leadership: A study of three northern towns between 1832 and 1867

Civic and municipal leadership: A study of three northern towns between 1832 and 1867
Michael Joseph Brennan


School of History, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UNITED KINGDOM.


This thesis examines the development of local government circa 1832-1867 by studying in depth the experience of three northern industrial towns, Halifax, Oldham and Rochdale. All were textile towns, all had rapidly growing populations and they are situated next to each other across the Pennines. Four institutions are examined in each town: the vestry, bodies acting under the authority of local improvement acts, the Poor Law board of guardians and the municipal corporation. The contribution of each of these bodies to the evolution of civic governance in each town is assessed. An examination of office holders in these bodies, their political and social background and relationships with other local civic activists and central authority helps to illuminate the character of contemporary local government. Attention is also given to the role played by parliamentary politics in the light of the Reform Act of 1832, which gave all three towns seats in the House of Commons. The role of radicals, Chartists, other reformers and the local press shed further light on this growth and development, leading to conclusions about the nature of civic governance by 1867. These conclusions highlight the close links between the institutions, the connected role they all play in developing civic governance and the impact of reform movements. They will show that the most important role is that of the leaders within these institutions, who are often the same people taking part in each movement. Their leadership was the driving force for civic governance within each town.