The Workshop of the World


October 31st, 2016



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Birmingham is a city with an extraordinarily diverse achievement in fields as varied as science, industry, politics, education, medicine, printing and the arts. Labels such as the ‘first industrial city’, ‘city of a thousand trades’, ‘the best-governed city in the world’ and ‘the youngest city in Europe’ have been applied to the town. This new publication, the first major history of Birmingham since the 1970s, is published to commemorate the 850th anniversary of Birmingham’s market charter in 1166, an event which marked the first step in the rise of Birmingham as a commercial and industrial powerhouse. Authored by scholars, but written for a general readership, this detailed, accessible and richly illustrated book is both a definitive reference work and a readable account of a diverse, culturally rich and high-achieving city. Many aspects of the history of Birmingham are presented for the first time outside academic publications: its diverse people’s history, a rich prehistoric and Roman past, the rise of Birmingham in medieval and early modern times, the evolution of an innovative system of education, a varied experience in art and design and an extraordinary printing history. The book covers economic and political themes and new approaches to the history of society and culture. It is illustrated with many images which have never before been published either in books or on the web. The result is a visually stunning and factually illuminating book which will appeal to many kinds of people.


'This is an attractively produced book, resplendent with colour and monochrome photographs, historical maps and explanatory figures, which is a welcome addition to those already available on historical aspects of the City....'
Della Hooke, Transactions

'This is Chinn at his best, deeply engaged, passionate and reflective.'
Stephen Roberts, The Local Historian

'The book’s more than two-hundred full-color illustrations reproducing maps, paintings, era documents, photographs, and material artifacts make it worth the price of admission alone. The intellectual contents of the volume’s chapters are likewise impressive, covering a great deal of historical ground, including not only the city’s geography, built environment, economy, population, and politics, but also the histories of religion, the arts, medical and educational institutions, and Birmingham’s relationship to the wider history of print and communications media.'
Christopher Ferguson, Journal of British Studies

‘The intellectual contents of the volume’s chapters are likewise impressive, covering a great deal of historical ground.’
Christopher Ferguson, Journal of British Studies

Author Information

Carl Chinn is Professor of Community History at the University of Birmingham and history advisor for the schools of Perry Beeches The Academy. He is a social historian with a national profile, columnist with the ‘Birmingham Mail’, public speaker, writer, and charity fundraiser. Professor Chinn is the author of 31 books that include studies of working-class housing, urban working-class life, working-class women’s lives, illegal betting, manufacturing, Birmingham, the Black Country, ethnic minorities, and the racecourse wars of the 1920s. Malcolm Dick is Director of the Centre for West Midlands History at the University of Birmingham. He directed two history projects in Birmingham between 2000 and 2004: the Millennibrum Project, which created a multi-media archive of post-1945 Birmingham history and Revolutionary Players which produced an online resource of the history of the West Midlands region. Malcolm has published books on Joseph Priestley, Matthew Boulton and the history of Birmingham and co-directs the Centre for Printing History & Culture.

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
Introduction   Carl Chinn and Malcolm Dick
1 The Peoples of Birmingham   Carl Chinn
2 Before Beorma: Prehistoric and Roman Birmingham   Mike Hodder
3 Medieval Birmingham   Steven Bassett and Richard Holt
4 The Tudor and Stuart Town   Richard Cust and Ann Hughes
5 The City of a Thousand Trades, 1700–1945   Malcolm Dick
6 Birmingham: a Political Profile, 1700–1940   Roger Ward
7 The Policy and Practice of Enlightened Education   Ruth Watts
8 Art, Design and Architecture   Sally Hoban
9 Healthcare in the Heart of England   Jonathan Reinarz
10 Printing and the Printed Word   Caroline Archer-Parré
11 The Transformation of Post-war Birmingham   Matt Cole
12 Birmingham: Forward into the Future   Carl Chinn