Studies of Urbanization and Migration in Advanced and Developing Countries
Edited by H. S. Geyer
Chapter 5: Population change and migration in the British urban system
A. G . Champion INTRODUCTION Britain’s experience of urbanization is quite distinctive in several ways, though it exhibits some parallels with other countries. It was the first country in the world to undergo mass urbanization, with the urban share of its population passing the 50 per cent mark by the middle of the nineteenth century. Following more than a century of very rapid population growth through to the First World War, its high overall population density was already at that time leading to the fusion of adjacent urban places, making it more difficult to identify the separate components of its urban system. The introduction of a powerful land-use planning framework after the Second World War, allied with an overarching policy of urban containment and the ‘green belt’ philosophy, has subsequently kept cities and towns much more separate in physical terms than would otherwise have been the case. Nevertheless, as for most other countries, improvements in personal mobility and increases in other forms of spatial interaction have led to steadily greater functional interdependence between settlements. Moreover, though a major trading nation on the world stage well before the term ‘globalization’ was coined, in recent decades Britain has seen its urban system being impacted ever more strongly by international events. This account of urbanization and migration in Britain begins by providing more detail on the historical context, focusing mainly on the developments of the past half-century but also reviewing the legacy of the nation’s long history of settlement. The following section examines the...
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