Stuck between modernity and postmodernity? The modern history of Coventry

I’m starting to practically sketch out plans for a project I’ve had in mind for a couple of years now: a social history of Coventry told through life history interviews with life long residents of the city who were born prior to the second world war. I’ve been fascinated by the changes the city has undergone, as I’ve better understood the scale of them with each passing year of living here: the city’s rise and decline as a centre of the car industry, the relative affluence of much of the city in the 50s and 60s,  the crime and unemployment which came with deindustrialisation in the 70s and 80s, the destruction of the city centre in the 40s and its reconstruction as a modernist city of the future in the 50s, the mergers and expansions which ultimately led to Coventry University and the foundation of Warwick, the increasing centrality of the universities to the local economy.

My idea is to try and understand these changes through the life histories of people who have lived here since before the war. So, in practice, people who were born in 1935 or earlier, since I’d hope that their memories of the blitz would have at least some (perhaps very fuzzy) memory of pre-WW2 coventry to counterpose the aftermath to. Which means I’m trying to talk to people who are 76 or over and, obviously, there’s probably not that many of them around (with time obviously being somewhat of the essence here), particularly those who have lived in the city for most of their lives. If this isn’t feasible, I might just try and get in contact with people who’ve lived here for decades but it was an exhibition about the blitz which set me off on these project in the first place.

I’m not exactly sure what form this’ll take and I think it’ll be more interesting (and more realistic given all the other stuff I’m doing at the moment) to not try and determine it in advance. Once I hit on a name for the project, I’m going to buy a domain name for it, setup a site and post up the project bit by bit (snippets of interviews, articles, photography, things I’ve been reading etc) in a properly proof read form (i.e. unlike most of my posts on here) then just see where it leads over time.  Some of the things it’ll include:

  • Life history interviews with life-long Coventry residents –> whole interviews or just editing fragments?
  • Podcast interviews with academics who’ve worked on the broader themes I’m looking at (deindustrialisation, globalization, neoliberalism) in the UK with the discussion centred specifically around Coventry [obviously going to be easier/better if they’re Warwick / Cov Uni people]
  • Podcast interviews with people who’ve specifically studied the history of Coventry (either professionally or as a hobby)
  • Reproductions of archive material (etc) which expand upon the above
  • Short articles as I get further into the project, stimulated by the interviews and the reading I’m doing

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