Urban History

Research Article

The structure of elite power in the early twentieth-century city: Norwich, 1900–35

Barry M. Doylea1*

a1 Dept of Economic and Social History, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH8 9JY


Through a study of middle-class power in Norwich in the first third of the twentieth century, this paper tests a number of hypotheses concerning the behaviour of British urban elites. Analysis of networks (freemasons, business organizations and family) assesses the level of social unification among the middle class; elite involvement in chapel, charities and voluntary organizations addresses the question of social leadership; whilst elite politics is considered through three questions: did they become unified behind a single anti-socialist stance? Did the more important members of the elite leave urban politics? And did they abandon faith in grand civic projects? Its conclusions suggest that the power and involvement of the elite continued into the 1930s, maintaining a positive approach to the scope and function of municipal authority.


* Versions of this paper were given to the Urban History Group Conference, ‘Elites in Urban in History’, Edinburgh, March 1995 and the ‘Mid-West Conference on British Studies’, Ann Arbor, Michigan, November 1995. I am very grateful to the Overseas Conference Grants section of the British Academy, and the Special Staff Travel Fund and the Department of History at the University of Durham for financial assistance towards the completion and presentation of this research.