Mirroring England?: Milton Keynes, decline and the English landscape
AuthorPiko, Lauren Anne
AffiliationSchool of Historical and Philosophical Studies
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2017 Dr. Lauren Anne Piko
This thesis traces representations of the new town Milton Keynes in British media, politics and popular culture from 1967-1992. From the time of its designation, Milton Keynes has been represented symbolically in terms of the ideologies which were understood to have created it, both in terms of political ideologies and particular theories of urban planning practice. While early responses to the town reflect concerns with its potential to over-determine the landscape, representations of Milton Keynes quickly adapted to the economic and political changes of the mid-1970s to reflect anxieties about the role of postwar socialism in having generated a form of national decline, and to have inscribed this decline on the landscape itself through the postwar housing and reconstruction policies which had led to Milton Keynes’ designation. By 1978, the town was consistently understood as symbolising a technocratic positivism opposed to ideals of national heritage, and therefore as undesirable and foreign, whether as a threat or as a “joke”. Even as it adapted to the political and ideological climate of post-1979 Britain through reimagining its public image and administration, in media and political representations Milton Keynes continued to function as a symbol of a failed Keynesian postwar reconstructionist state, and of the ideal of newness itself. As such it has also acted as an ongoing reminder of a political alternative to neoliberalism and its legitimating cultural narratives; it has therefore continued to challenge what and where can be considered a normal, typical or ideal representation of English and British landscape, and how particular landscape forms are understood as containers of both people and of national heritage. Historicising Milton Keynes' reception and meanings helps render explicit the “common sense” which underpins judgements about ideal landscapes, the role and value of heritage in narratives of Englishness and Britishness, and how these symbolic identities are made and remade.
KeywordsBritish history; urban history; urban planning; Milton Keynes
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