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VARIATIONS IN POPULATION CHARACTERISTICS & SERVICE
PROVISION IN URBAN AREAS
CASE STUDY: BIRMINGHAM, UK
The city of Birmingham is located in the West Midlands of the UK. In the 18th century Birmingham
grew rapidly into one of the world's first major industrial towns. In 1791, Birmingham was
described as "the first manufacturing town in the world". Birmingham's skilled workforce, and the
fact that Birmingham was located near the coalfields of northern Warwickshire & Staffordshire,
meant that the town grew rapidly. In the latter half of the 18th century, Birmingham's population
tripled from 24,000 in 1750, to 74,000 in 1800.
Birmingham's growth and prosperity was based upon metalworking industries. Birmingham became
known as the "City of a thousand trades" because of the wide variety of goods manufactured there
-- buttons, cutlery, nails and screws, guns, tools, jewelry, toys, locks, and ornaments were amongst
the many products manufactured. For most of the 19th century, industry in Birmingham was
dominated by small workshops rather than large factories or mills. Large factories became
increasingly common towards the end of the century when engineering industries (military
hardware, bicycles & car assembly) became increasingly important.
Housing: Slums to Post WW2 Redevelopment As in many
industrial towns during the 19th century, many of
Birmingham's residents lived in overcrowded and unsanitary
conditions. During the early to mid 19th century, thousands
of back to back houses were built to accommodate the
growing population, many of which were poorly built and
badly drained, and many soon became slums. In the postwar
years, a massive program of slum clearances took place, and
vast areas of the city were re-built, with overcrowded
"back to back" housing being replaced by high rise flats /
Ethnic diversity & immigration: In the years following
WW2, a major influx of immigrants from the Commonwealth
changed the face of Birmingham, with large communities from Southern Asia and
the Caribbean settling in the city, turning Birmingham into one of the UK's leading
multicultural cities. As of 2001, 29.7% of the city's population was made up of ethnic minority
communities. Amongst the largest minority communities, 10.6% of Birmingham residents are
Pakistani, 5.7% are Indian, 6.1% are Black Caribbean or African, and 2.9% are of mixed race.
The changing functions of Birmingham:
In the 1970s and 1980s, manufacturing industry in Birmingham went into decline, mainly through
competition from foreign competitors, and by the early 1980s unemployment rates in Birmingham
were amongst the highest in the country. The City Council undertook a policy of diversifying the
city's economy into service industries (banking, finance & insurance), retail and tourism to lessen
the dependence upon manufacturing. The city also developed its base as an educational centre with
3 large universities with a total student population in excess of 65,000.
As with many cities in the UK, Birmingham has an interesting diversity and mixture of residential
zones with contrasting populations, needs and service provision. The inner city redevelopment areas
of Ladywood and the student dominated Selly Oak provide an interesting contrast between inner
city zones whilst the wealthy suburb of Bournville stands in marked contrast to the suburban
council estates of Kingstanding.
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RESEARCH - Tasks & Activities
Given our location in Singapore, primary fieldwork is impossible! We can however, use secondary
research data such as 2001 UK census data & applications such as Google Earth/Maps and internet
search engines to produce an interesting study of the contrasting needs and challenges facing
Birmingham City Council.
You will need to work in small groups to conduct this research, after which you will share your
findings with the other groups and vice versa.
1. UK Census data (2001).…read more