Past and present visions of an island-city
: Portsmouth's urban improvement plans 1750s-2010s.

  • Andrea Verenini

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The thesis analyses the plans for the city of Portsmouth in the period between c.1600 to 2010s, with particular focus on the history of planning ideas and the influences behind them. The text is subdivided into four main chapters, each dealing with a particular historical period characterized by ideological (often linked to political) shifts within the idea of creating physical urban improvement as sought after catalysts for both social and economical enhancements. Chapter 1 is entitled ‘From City as Heaven to City as Threat’. It discusses the birth of Portsmouth up to the industrial revolution, when the city went from being a supporter of culture and life to being perceived as a threat to its citizens. Chapter 2 is entitled ‘The Origins of Urban Improvement in Portsmouth’, and discusses a timeframe that spans from 1850s to 1930s. This section analyses the early responses to the urban problems, which span from the urban health reforms and regularization strategies, to Town Planning and ultimately a more specific interwar Garden City methodology of suburbanization. Chapter 3 is named ‘In Pursuit of Modernity’ and discusses the time frame from 1940s to 1970s. This section examines the impact of the Second World War’s destruction, the subsequent ‘Re-planning’ of the city, its ‘Reconstruction’ in the ‘50s-‘60s and its reactions in the ‘70s through the practice of ‘Urban Renewal’. Chapter 4 has the title ‘Towards the Millennium and Beyond’ and discusses the 1980s up to the 2010s. This final section of the thesis highlights the effects that post-industrialization had for the city, leading to processes of ‘Regeneration’ in the late ‘90s, and how those principles continue to inform the urban improvement strategies in the new millennium. In discussing Portsmouth’s development history, the thesis highlights how the idea of centrality and poly-centrality are a reoccurring phenomenon in Portsmouth’s pursuit of urban, social and economical improvement. The thesis serves as a critical body of work that will benefit both historians and pioneers in the field of urban improvements interested in Portsmouth specifically and British-European planning more generally.
Date of AwardAug 2014
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorFabiano Lemes De Oliveira (Supervisor), Lorraine Farrelly (Supervisor) & Marius Kwint (Supervisor)

Cite this