Milton Keynes in British Culture : Imagining England book cover
1st Edition

Milton Keynes in British Culture
Imagining England

ISBN 9780367000516
Published February 17, 2019 by Routledge
218 Pages

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Book Description

The new town of Milton Keynes was designated in 1967 with a bold, flexible social vision to impose "no fixed conception of how people ought to live." Despite this progressive social vision, and its low density, flexible, green urban design, the town has been consistently represented in British media, political rhetoric and popular culture negatively. as a fundamentally sterile, paternalistic, concrete imposition on the landscape, as a "joke", and even as "Los Angeles in Buckinghamshire". How did these meanings develop at such odds from residents' and planners' experiences? Why have these meanings proved so resilient?


Milton Keynes in British Culture traces the representations of Milton Keynes in British national media, political rhetoric and popular culture in detail from 1967 to 1992, demonstrating how the town's founding principles came to be understood as symbolic of the worst excesses of a postwar state planning system which was falling from favour. Combining approaches from urban planning history, cultural history and cultural studies, political economy and heritage studies, the book maps the ways in which Milton Keynes' newness formed an existential challenge to ideals of English landscapes as receptacles of tradition and closed, fixed national identities. Far from being a marginal, "foreign" and atypical town, the book demonstrates how the changing political fortunes of state urban planned spaces were a key site of conflict around ideas of how the British state should function, how its landscapes should look, and who they should be for.

Table of Contents

List of figures




Milton Keynes in British history

Decline, status, and postwar landscapes

Chapter summaries

Chapter 1: Landscape value in modern Britain

Modernity and landscape value

From Howard to new towns: mourning urban change

World War II: Technocracy ascendant

Declinism, postcolonial melancholia, and postwar planning

"White Heat" and reforming the reconstruction movement

North Bucks New City

Chapter 2: The Plan for Milton Keynes, 1967-1972

Initial responses, 1967

MKDC marketing and the Interim Report, 1967-1969

The Plan for Milton Keynes, 1970

The Plan in national media, 1970-1971

(Relative) radio silence, 1971-1972

Chapter 3: The post-tower-block city? 1972-1975

The Heath Government and the ideology of public spending, 1970-1974

Milton Keynes, the post-tower-block city? 1972-1975

Crisis and urban planning, 1973-1975

Chapter 4: Mirroring England, mirroring decline, 1976-1978

The IMF crisis and signification spirals, 1976

Milton Keynes and the crisis of over-absorption

"The Facts"

Dissenting voices: Jack Trevor Story

"A Mirror of England," 1978

Chapter 5: The Concrete Cows, 1978-1979

Concrete community art in Milton Keynes

The Electric Whale

MKDC responses: "Our nation needs a new shop window"

Chapter 6: "You’ve never seen anything like it": the aspirational turn, 1979-1986

The Shopping Building

Thatcher comes to Milton Keynes

The Point, Energy World, and novel landscapes

Media and popular cultural responses

Chapter 7: Milton Keynes and "the middle," c. 1980-1989

The shifting centre in British politics

Thatcherite spatial politics: the middle against the radical fringe

"Best of both worlds?"

Postwar landscapes in 1980s Britain

Chapter 8: The wind-up: c.1986-1992

In on the joke?

Approaching the ‘wind up’

Basildon Man and the meanings of new towns

Perpetuating the myths? Image and Reality



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Lauren Pikó is a historian specialising in the cultural history of post-1945 landscapes and national identity. She completed her PhD at the University of Melbourne, where she lectures and tutors in urban history and theory, and modern British, Australian and world histories. Her current research explores the imperial legacies of shaping British and Australian attitudes to borders and ideal landscapes. She is a former resident of Milton Keynes.