The image of Coventry in flames was one of the most haunting of the Second World War. Yet the excitement and optimism of the 1950s and 1960s were succeeded by a quarter century of urban blight and economic slump. The collapse of manufacturing industry - machine tools, aeroplanes, cars - left a proud community adrift and demoralised. Today a revitalised twenty-first century city, Coventry has embraced the new millennium and evolved from bleak post-industrial desert to vibrant cultural oasis, in the process rediscovering a sense of purpose and a vision for the future. "The City of Coventry" tells the story of an experiment in social democracy carried out by a Labour-controlled council which envisaged the bomb shattered city as a model of urban regeneration and imaginative planning. Post-war reconstruction could be a striking success, as in the pedestrian-friendly Precinct and the bold new cathedral, or a notable failure as in the ever more intrusive ring roads and grim high-rise flats.
In offering a fresh perspective on the city, this innovative volume of essays rediscovers Coventry as an inspiration for poets and painters such as Philip Larkin and Terry Frost, musicians as varied as Benjamin Britten and The Specials, and film-makers such as Humphrey Jennings, whose "Heart of Britain" was shot in the immediate aftermath of the Blitz. Adrian Smith skilfully mixes memoir, family history and meticulous scholarship to paint a complete and incisive portrait of Coventry. Drawing on new research into topics as diverse as the place of Surrealism in West Midlands culture and the shadowy presence of rugby league in a union bastion, Smith brings a unique insight into the recent history of his native city. Attractively presented, highly readable and with broad appeal, "The City of Coventry" is a lively re-examination of an iconic city of the twentieth century illuminating the profound changes that engulfed industrial England during and after the Second World War.
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About the Author
Adrian Smith is Senior Lecturer in History at the Universtiy of Southampton.
Table of Contents
• Surrealism, Sky Blues, and Specials AKA
• Cars, cricket and Alf Smith: The place of works-based sports and social clubs in the life of mid-century Coventry
• "Temporary Gentleman": My father and World War II
• Sent to Coventry--reassessing Humphrey Jennings' Heart of Britain (1941)
• An oval ball and a broken city: Coventry, its people, and its rugby team Part 1
• An oval ball and a broken city: Coventry, its people, and its rugby team Part 2 1995-98 * "Back, Moody, Kronfeld? We don't need those lads at Treize Tigers": sport, counterfactual history, and the twin codes