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Working-Class Housing in England between the Wars: The Becontree Estate (Oxford Historical Monographs) [Hardcover]

Andrzej Olechnowicz

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Book Description

9 Jan 1997 Oxford Historical Monographs
This book presents an important episode in the twentieth-century history of the United Kingdom: the largest public housing scheme ever undertaken in Britain (and at the time of its planning, in the world). Built between 1921 and 1934, the London County council's Becontree Estate housed over 110.000 people in 25,000 dwellings. Andrzej Olechnowicz discusses the early years of the estate, looking in detail at the philosophy behind its construction and management policies, and showing how it eventually came to be denigrated as a social concentration camp exemplifying all the political dangers of a mass culture. He investigates life on the estate, both through an appraisal of the facilities provided and , as far as possible, through the eyes of the inhabitants, using interviews with surviving tenants from the inter-war period. Thus he is able to show how high rents excluded many families in greatest housing need, and how tenants found it difficult to adjust to the costs of suburban living. This is a wide ranging study that deals with both the `nuts and bolts' of mass housing, with ideas on citizenship and the creation of communities.


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Review

Authoritative, detailed exploration of Becontree. (Journal of Contemporary History)

Olechnowicz has added significantly to our understanding of the New Estates Community Committee (NECC) and how residents actually used their leisure time. (The Historian)

This book comes at a propitious time. It seeks to understand why council housing has gained a reputation in Britian as one of the "basic social failures of the twentieth century" ... The book's attention to domestic economy is extremely valuable ... This book deserves much praise for integrating policy analysis with the lived experience of tenants. It sets a fine standard for other historians of public housing to follow. (Sean Purdy, Urban History Review)

This is a solid and well-researched book whose admirable footnotes provide biographical details of the major protagonists involved in the development of inter-war housing ... The urban historian will find much in the book to illustrate the social snobbery of England in this period. (Urban History)

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WHY did the LCC plan the largest housing estate in the world in the middle of Essex in 1920? Read the first page
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