Historicizing counterurbanization: in-migration and the reconstruction of rural space in Berkshire (UK), 1901-51
Burchardt, J. (2012) Historicizing counterurbanization: in-migration and the reconstruction of rural space in Berkshire (UK), 1901-51. Journal of Historical Geography, 38 (2). pp. 155-166. ISSN 0305-7488
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1016/j.jhg.2011.08.017
This article uses census data for Berkshire to argue that large-scale counterurbanization began much earlier than is generally recognized in some parts of southern England. This was not just movement down the urban hierarchy, which as Pooley and Turnbull have demonstrated was a long-term feature of England’s settlement system, but in some cases at least amenity-driven migration to rural areas of the kind increasingly recognized as a core component of recent counterurbanization. Despite a reduction of acreage Berkshire’s rural districts saw a 54% rise in population between 1901 and 1951. The sub-regional pattern of growth is assessed to gauge whether ‘clean break’ migration to the remote west of the county (which remained effectively out of commuting range from London throughout the period) was taking place, or whether counterurbanization was confined to the more accessible eastern districts. However, whilst population did increase in both west and east, it was in fact the central districts that grew most impressively. Three case study parishes are investigated in order to gauge the nature and consequences of counterurbanization at a local level. Professional and business migrants figure prominently, seeking to preserve and promote the rural attributes of their new communities, without however cutting their ties to urban centres. It is argued that migration to rural Berkshire in the first half of the twentieth century cannot adequately be described either as a form of extended suburbanization or an anti-metropolitan ‘clean break’. Rather, early counterurbanization marks the first stage on the long road to a post-productivist countryside, in which countryside becomes detached from agriculture, there is socio-economic convergence between town and country, and the ‘rural’ increasingly becomes defined by landscape and identity rather than economic function.