Defining the Metropolitan Region

Town, Countryside and Environment in London & the South East, 1580-1914

A Colloquium

17-18 April 2009, at the University of Kent, Canterbury, organised by the Kent History School and the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies.

Our aim is to discuss and contextualise research in progress on the “strength of the urban variable” in Britain over the past four centuries. Many historians view London's rise as a world city and the growing rural-urban divide as key elements in British growth in the post-medieval period. Compared with other European cities, London's environmental advantages were enormously enhanced by its position at the core of an increasingly integrated metropolitan region, including parts of the Home Counties and, above all, Kent. Contrary to the traditional view, Kent as a whole did not de-industrialise during the early modern period. Relocation and diversification of the industrial economy followed the decline of the older Wealden industries, cloth and iron, as the county's economic centre of gravity moved towards the north and east, to Thameside and the Medway. How far were these changes shaped by growing market integration within London's expanding hinterland? Can we disentangle improvements in agricultural productivity from autonomous urban growth as the prime movers of change?


Paul Warde (Cambridge and East Anglia), John Beckett (Institute of Historical Research and Nottingham),
Vanessa Harding (Birkbeck), Andrew Hann (English Heritage), David Ormrod (Kent), Owen Lyne (Kent),
Jim Gibson (Rochester Bridge Trust). Please click here for more information on the conference speakers.

New Research

New research on rent movements and the property market in the long run. Since early 2007, the ESRC has supported new research at Kent into the movement of agricultural and urban rents from 1580 to 1914, which will help to answer these and other questions (Pathways to Modernisation: the separation of town and countryside in London and the South-East, 1580-1914). The project draws mainly on the extensive archives of the estates of the Rochester Bridge Trust. Housing and living conditions in the City of London have also attracted the attention of funded research teams in recent years, supported by the AHRC and the Wellcome Trust (People in Place. Families, households and housing in London, 1550-1720; and Housing Environments and Health). The colloquium will provide an opportunity to compare results, and we intend to create a workshop environment to help evaluate the strengths and limitations of our data and their interpretation.

Your participation is welcomed: please use the registration form below. The Vice-Chancellor’s reception, Plenary Lecture and Colloquium Dinner on Friday evening are open to those not wishing to attend all or indeed any of the workshop sessions.

The ESRC and The University of Kent