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New LSE book on the transformation of post-industrial European cities

bilbaoAnne Power’s new book, Cities for a Small Continent, collects compelling evidence from seven archetypal industrial cities across Europe that were the power-houses of the industrial revolution. She argues that far from being “clapped out”, “jobless, poor and dirty” they are stuffed with assets that can be recycled and reused. 

Over ten years LSE traced the fortunes of Sheffield, Belfast, Lille, St Etienne, Leipzig, Turin, Bilbao and other cities, alongside US “rustbelt” cities such as Detroit, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia with the Brookings Institution in Washington DC. These cities were world leaders in coal, steam engines, iron, steel, textiles, tools, machines, ship-building, engineering of every kind. Renowned for making the world’s best stainless steel, linen, small cars, trains, bicycles, cutlery, and armaments, they experienced a common boom and bust. All grew dramatically in the 19th and 20th centuries, profited from two world wars, were heavily bombed as a result and recovered spectacularly post-war. In the 1980s their great industries collapsed, losing jobs and population. Their environments were deeply damaged, their people over-exploited, their wealth-creation capacity collapsing.

The story of their recovery in the 1990s and 2000s is equally surprising. Huge reinvestments from central governments and from the European Union, to make good the vast damage of boom and bust economics, brought them back from the brink. Their imposing former industrial infrastructure was restored and an alternative service economy was created. One unexpected backbone of this recovery was the extraordinary multiplication of small and medium enterprises – often break-aways from the departing large industries.

Cities for a small continent FC

By the time of the financial crisis of 2008 and the Eurozone crisis of 2010 these cities had all, bar one, begun to recover population and jobs. Innovative policies to promote sustainability and careful resource management followed the environmental devastation caused by industrial growth. Anne power explores the exciting potential of reclamation and restoration efforts, set within a new form of devastation.

Austerity and banking failures hit city after city, causing mounting debts, frozen investments, dramatic job losses, hitting young people particularly hard. The generous investments had to be repaid even though funds to do so were disappearing – a triple whammy.

Professor Power’s compelling framework spells out the green shoots of a new industrial economy to combat environmental and social unravelling. Community investment, social enterprise and integration, have gained momentum as Europe’s crowded, resource-constrained cities face environmental and social limits faster than other less densely urban countries, such as the US. She concludes that “Europe’s urban renaissance points to a more viable, more balanced urban future in the world’s smallest, most crowded, most city-loving continent.”

Richard Rogers, writing the foreword says “Anne Power is a tireless enthusiast for cities and communities, and a powerful advocate for a fairer society.  'Cities for a Small Continent’ is a passionate, original and informative book, telling how urban recovery and reinvention can point to a more radical and sustainable urban future.”     

Bruce Katz, contributing a chapter on America’s troubled but also recovering cities, says “This book arrives at a time when European cities are on the front lines of addressing some of the continent's most pressing challenges: international migration, demographic transformation, climate change, sluggish economic growth and public safety. Cities for a Small Continent is an essential read for political, business, civic leaders and all those who are interested in urban problems, at all levels of society.”


Launch date: Tuesday 24 May 2016

Time:  6.30-8pm

Venue: Old Theatre, Old Building, Houghton Street, LSE

Speakers:  Professor Anne Power, Professor Bruce Katz, Donal Durkan

To request a press seat, email LSE.Press.Events@lse.ac.uk

Please note that press seats are usually allocated at least 24 hours before each event.

To request a review copy of the book or an interview with Anne Power, contact: j.rowan1@lse.ac.uk

Bruce Katz (@bruce_katz) is the Centennial Scholar at the Brookings Institution, where he focuses on the challenges and opportunities of global urbanisation.

Anne Power is a Professor of Social Policy and Director of LSE Housing and Communities (@LSEHousing), a research and consultancy group within the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE).

Donal Durkan is Director of Development at Belfast City Council.

Cities for a Small Continent is published by Policy Press

The research was funded by La Fabrique de la Cite

16 May 2016