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Title: Government in an English provincial town : the Corporation of Ipswich, 1720-95
Authors: Clemis, J. David.
Award date: 1999
Presented at: University of Leicester
Abstract: Despite an increasingly rich historiography detailing the economic, cultural, and political development of eighteenth-century provincial towns, governance and politics under the municipal corporation has received little recent attention. For the most part, a conventional view prevails holding that the corporations were increasingly corrupt, under-resourced and institutionally obsolete. The rise of statutory authorities and other forms of government are seen as evidence of the ineffectiveness of the old corporate regimes. This thesis attempts to understand what sort of role the static, institutionally ossified municipal corporation was able to play in within a community undergoing important social, cultural, and economic changes over the course in the eighteenth century. In the case of Ipswich, Suffolk, it is argued that while the ancient Corporation did not function in accordance with modem standards of bureaucratic effectiveness and democratic openness, it nonetheless played central role in the life of the community. As an instrument of for the regulation of trade and the maintenance of commercially vital infrastructure, the Corporation operated with great effectiveness until the last decades of the eighteenth century. Moreover, in contending with the problem of poverty, the town's leaders were able to co-ordinate parochial relief with considerable resources they directly controlled. The community was not subject to the tyranny of an unresponsive oligarchy nor dominated by its wealthiest members. The Ipswich Corporation's particular institutional structure and the town's developing political culture meant that domination of the senior offices by a narrow elite grew increasingly difficult. Moreover, the negotiation of power relations and the place of the Corporation in the life of the community must be understood within the context of the participation of a broad cross-section of the community in various aspects of government and politics. For most of the eighteenth century the Corporation was able to function effectively and provided various means of participation in its affairs for a wide spectrum of the community. By the 1780s, however, a contentious politics had developed which exploited institutional weaknesses and financially undermined the corporate regime. The Corporation's success depended on its pre-eminence and the cohesiveness of its governing elite. The increasingly profound loss of the later gradually undermined the former. This opened the way for other forms of public authority whose principles, methods, and very existence undermined the ancient Corporation in the early nineteenth century.
Type: Thesis
Level: Doctoral
Qualification: PhD
Rights: Copyright © the author. All rights reserved.
Appears in Collections:Theses, School of Historical Studies
Leicester Theses

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