• “We’re full”: Capacity, Finitude, and British Landscapes, 1945-1979

    Lauren Piko (see profile)
    Great Britain, History, Emigration and immigration, Imperialism
    Item Type:
    British history, Immigration history, Imperial history, Urban history
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    The language of urban fullness and finitude has long had an active life in British politics and popular culture. After 1945, however, ideas of the finite, overspilling British city, teeming with inert masses of working‐class people, drove the development of paternalistic state urban reconstruction and new town programmes. More infamously, post‐war immigration anxieties often used a sinister metaphorical language of flooding and drowning to describe the arrival of people from Commonwealth countries as catastrophic. Despite this shared conceptualisation of British landscapes as finite, embattled, inert spaces, the interrelationships between these ideas of “human floods” have largely been treated separately by historians. This article proposes that these histories can be traced in terms of their shared cultural logic of landscape finitude and capacity, as part of a post‐imperial reimagining of heritage and national identity. Through reading representations of post‐war immigration and urban overcrowding together, a wider preservationist political logic can be seen entrenching and defending ideas of urban and national finitude against a range of post‐imperial ideological and demographic change. Through tracing symbolic representations of borders and population fullness, this paper gestures towards a more integrated history of post‐imperial landscape politics and their role in shaping policies and practices of exclusion in post‐war Britain.
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    5 years ago
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