- Malcolm Elliott
15th November 2010
Leicester has been neglected by national historians. It is neither typical of industrial centres nor has it the charm of an ancient town that escaped the ravages of Victorian rebuilding. Yet it is both a market town of great antiquity and the scene of phenomenal industrial growth. This book is about its transformation. In the formative years of the city, the Corporation of Leicester had the services of Samuel Stone, famous author of the Justices' Manual, as Town Clerk from 1836 to 1872. He was one of a liberal oligarchy that so dominated municipal affairs that division inevitably appeared within its ranks as supporters of civic improvement clashed with more cautious 'economists'. Some historians tend to view social reform from the standpoint of Westminster and particularly through the eyes of Edwin Chadwick but not all the local authorities that opposed him were enemies of progress. In Leicester centralisation was opposed not by provincial parsimony but by a determination to face social problems without waiting for initiatives from London. In matters of public health, particularly the first Medical Officers in Britain were appointed in Leicester, in 1846, and problems of sanitation and housing were tackled with a vigour far in advance of most other towns. In many respects, Leicester led municipal growth. This book will fascinate students of urban history, all historians of life in Victorian Britain and all those present-day inhabitants of Leicester with an interest in the making of their city.