‘Through the Gains of Industry we promote Art’: George Dawson’s Civic Gospel and the architecture of the Improvement Scheme, Matthew Key
This essay explores two artefacts from late Victorian Birmingham; a period in which the city went through remarkable transformation, culminating in one commentator describing it as ‘the best governed in the world’. The artefacts include George Dawson’s speech on the inauguration of Birmingham Reference Library (1866) and a drawing of Birmingham in 1886 by H.W. Brewer. These artefacts reveal how Unitarian preaching on civic morality was used to justify the hegemonic entrepreneurial politics of civic government during the period. However, what has been traditionally portrayed as a symbiosis of humanitarian progressivism, civic pride and business acumen, had less altruistic undertones.