Discordant Echoes

HOW CHAMBERLAIN’S EXCEPTIONALISM BECAME BIRMINGHAM’S PECULIARITY

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Joseph Chamberlain’s work gave Birmingham an exceptional combination: the high profile and powerful role of the Council; and, joining the forces of its Liberals and Unionists, eliminating the Liberals and inhibiting Labour, changing the political values of the city and emphasising Imperialism and civic action for social improvement.

With the demise of Neville Chamberlain, however, the consensus about exceptionalism ends. Some see Birmingham emerging from the Second World War as just another city. Roger Ward says of Neville that ‘with him to the grave in 1940 went ‘Birmingham exceptionalism’’.

Kenneth Newton’s study of Birmingham politics in the 1970s asserts:

In spite of the fascination of returning to the scene almost 100 years after Joseph Chamberlain’s first election as Mayor, the concern of this book is not with Birmingham as an exceptional city, but rather with the extent to which it now reflects general patterns common to most cities.

Yet it seems unlikely that the disappearance of a single family can bring to an end a tradition of such distinctiveness. On closer inspection Birmingham’s politics remained different from those of the surrounding area and of superficially similar cities; the differences, however, were less pronounced, and not always ones of which Chamberlain would have approved.

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Speeches that changed Britain

A fascinating and richly illustrated book exploring speeches made in Birmingham that changed history. Meet some of Britain’s most famous orators. The book reflects the importance of oratory in making a political argument. It may in a sound-bite era be a dying art but these speeches fulfil the first requirement...

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