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Constructing Britain’s Road Network: The Scientific Governance of British Roads and Their Users, 1900-1963

Cook, Justine Denise (2018) Constructing Britain’s Road Network: The Scientific Governance of British Roads and Their Users, 1900-1963. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:69378)

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This dissertation argues that the period 1900-1963 may be seen as one in which various models for the governance of roads and their users were developed. Demands for governance came from road campaigners and governmental bodies; these various groups called for, and attempted to implement, such governance in various ways. Of all these methods, scientific governance, via experiment and road network architecture, came decisively to supervene. The development of centralised and localised forms of governance, channelled through the civil and traffic engineering implemented by its County Surveyors, facilitated the state governance of Britain's road network and its users.

The co-operation of road users was vital to the success of this state governance. Previously a law unto themselves, road users (most especially motorists) were self-governed by a gentlemanly code of tacit rules of the road. Overhauling the mindset and behaviour of road users first required the reform of the systematic structures of highway administration, along with legislative enforcement. This, however, was dependent upon the premise of central governance and thus government acceptance of roads as a national responsibility. This state of affairs brought with it two important factors. First, the financial means to fund road improvement measures was provided. Second, centres of scientific investigations were established, and credible methods developed, to explore advanced methods of construction and systems of traffic control.

Understanding the interaction of roads, vehicles, and users was fundamental to the successful implementation of scientific governance. Roads were a socio-technical problem that required a scientific solution, both in terms of their physical construction and in terms of the ways in which they were used, and used safely. Science was in-built into in the driving experience through such innovations as the use of white lines, the implementation of speed limits, road layouts and road signs. Together, these and other developments constructed the British road network, and worked as means of governing user behaviour. The result of all these factors and developments was the State-based, scientific governance of British roads and their users.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Sleigh, Professor Charlotte
Thesis advisor: Higgitt, Rebekah
Uncontrolled keywords: Roads, Road Network, Highways, Motor cars, Users, Governors, Twentieth Century British History, History of Science, History of Technology
Subjects: D History General and Old World
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2018 15:11 UTC
Last Modified: 17 Jan 2022 09:08 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Cook, Justine Denise.

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