The making of the civic community: Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1850-1900



This thesis explores a cultural history of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the second half of the nineteenth century. Particularly, I focus on a group of provincial liberal citizens, who dealt with the problems of growing urban society and in that process developed a forceful notion of 'civic community'. Their civic mission revolved around a new intellectual strand of liberalism, which reconsidered the ideas of the individual and the social and contemplated active citizenship. In Victorian cities, voluntary institutions and the popular press served to prepare the ground for liberal urban government. As the centre of an industrial district, Newcastle enjoyed a strong, progressive sense of community deriving from its achievements in science and technology. To express the sense of urban modernity, the practitioners of urban liberalism sought to design a free-flowing, transparent, clean and supposedly 'neutral' environment as a governable sphere of the city. Exhaustive, active constructions went hand in hand with the advancement of engineering technologies.
Furthermore, urban elites were concerned with producing a 'public culture' as the essential agency of self-governing citizenship. Civic ritual and new urban institutions such as free libraries, art galleries and public parks acted to encourage a civic mentality, linking the anonymous individual with a virtuous, patriotic awareness of collective public life. In Newcastle, urban intellectuals explored an inclusive social imagery of 'the people' by turning to extra-urban traditional idioms of 'native' folk society and culture. History was also employed in service of various civic principles and practices, where urban inhabitants increasingly enjoyed the past as part of the public culture in order to make sense of progress and modernity.
Even though what the provincial liberal intelligentsia produced did not fully discipline the masses, we may see that the public culture vitalized the norms of the civic community and endured well during the Victorian period.







Ito, Kota, “The making of the civic community: Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1850-1900,” Centre for Regional and Local History Theses and Papers, accessed July 22, 2024,