Urbanization Case Study: Birmingham Essay

Introduction:

Birmingham is a city in the English West Midlands. It’s considered to be the UK’s second largest city (after London) and the largest of England’s core cities. Birmingham has a reputation of being a somewhat powerhouse of the industrial revolution in Britain. Currently the population is just over one million people, 30% of whom are non-white, making it a very culturally diverse city.

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City History:

Birmingham’s history is well over 1000 years old, when it was still a small Anglo-Saxon farming village. In the 12th century Birmingham was granted a charter to hold a market, and soon after this, it developed into a small but growing market town. In the 16th century, the city’s access to resources like iron ore and coal meant that many industries became established. During the industrial revolution (from mid 18th century and on), Birmingham grew rapidly into a major industrial centre. During the Victorian era, the population of Birmingham grew rapidly to well over half a million. In recent years, Birmingham has been transformed; the city has been extensively rebuilt and renovated, causing much immigration from the Commonweath of Nations.

Introduction to Urbanization in MEDC’s

Usually more developed countries have around 70% of their population living in urban places. The UK has had its urban percentage rise from 33.8% in 1801 to 78% in 1901. As of today this percentage is around 90%.

Industrialization in the 19th and 20th century has been closely linked with the urbanization process in many MEDC’s. Societies gradually changed from being dependant on agriculture to depending on industry, mainly located in towns. In the UK, vast industrial growth was based on the development of markets at home and abroad, together with the ability to employ new technologies, like steam and electric power. This growth attracted large amounts of people to come live near the factories. Towns such as London, Birmingham and Manchester grew the fastest in the 19th century.

Along with urbanization, comes a process called suburbanization. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was the rapid development of suburbs. City centers became noisy and dirty, also often very dangerous and as a result, those who could afford it, moved away to the edge of the town. This process became a way for towns to spread outwards in leaps and bounds. Birmingham is a good example of a phenomenon called re-urbanization. This is MEDC occurrence happens when cities have showed their ability to survive and start growing again. Cities give themselves a face-lift by redeveloping their centers or decayed inner city zones. As a result, people are attracted back to this area.

Birmingham’s urban expansion:

Birmingham is a great example of where, in the 1960’s the local authorities tried to rejuvenate the inner city areas by clearing down large areas of Victorian terraces, replacing them with taller tower blocks. The terraces were often viewed to be old-fashioned, with poor living standards. Often they lacked things that we would take for granted, like central heating, and had poor kitchen and bathroom facilities. The local governments decided that the way to tackle these problems would be to take down all the old terraces and completely start anew. Many other British cities followed with the same idea.

However, with these new tower blocks, came many new sorts of problems. The buildings were poorly constructed (to save finances) and soon needed costly repairs. They had poor facilities and few nature/green sites. As a result, there was a lack of community sense for the people who lived in Birmingham, leading to increases in crime, vandalism and graffiti around the city. All these things combined to make Birmingham a very dangerous place to live. Many areas of tower blocks became centers for illegal drug traders and other criminal gangs

The standard of living was incredibly poor, and illness and overcrowding became a regular occurrence. Most people would choose not to live in this type of housing, so it was inhabited by the poorly paid, unemployed or newly arrived immigrants. As a result of this, social tensions rose and in the early 1980’s, cities like Birmingham, Liverpool and Bristol, experienced serious racial-related rioting.

Statistics to try and remember for IB urban exam question:

* Over 30% of Birmingham is made up of non-whites (Asians, blacks, other minorities)

* In the 1960’s, a process of rejuvenation started in the city of Birmingham

* The population has dropped below the one million mark, however after the re-urbanization; it is now back to being above one million.