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Swings and roundabouts: a social and environmental history of the children's playground in Britain, 1840 to 1980

Winder, Jon (2022) Swings and roundabouts: a social and environmental history of the children's playground in Britain, 1840 to 1980. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.93713) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:93713)

Language: English

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Children's playgrounds are a ubiquitous feature of British towns and cities. And yet the politics and values that have informed their creation, purpose and form have rarely been historicised by scholars, professionals or the wider public. To address this, Swings and Roundabouts answers two broad questions. Firstly, why do children's playgrounds exist and, secondly, why do they look the way they do? Focusing on dedicated public spaces for play, the study examines the individuals and organisations that promoted and created such places, explores the changing social, political and environmental assumptions that informed such work, and reveals how play spaces and the wider urban environment changed as a result. Grounded in the fields of environmental history and critical geography, the thesis uncovers the changing eco-cultural values that helped to establish the principle of the playground and in turn shaped its material form. To do so, it draws on the archival materials of social reformers and parks superintendents, equipment manufacturers and architects, from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It finds that the ideal playground has long represented a site where changing conceptions of nature, health, childhood, commerce and technology have all been played out, with a corresponding impact on the built form of towns and cities across Britain. As such, Swings and Roundabouts plots the erratic evolution of the playground in public parks, housing estates and other spaces in the urban environment, charting its journey from marginal obscurity to popular ubiquity and the subsequent challenges to its status as a site of health, nature and safety. In doing so, this study sheds light on a previously unacknowledged influence on the urban environment and points to the enduring power of historical values in shaping the public places where we live and play. As a result, it provides vital contextual information for scholars and policymakers seeking to imagine and create more equitable opportunities for the child in the city.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Jones, Karen
Thesis advisor: Pattinson, Juliette
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.93713
Uncontrolled keywords: playground child city nature health technology urban planning
Subjects: D History General and Old World
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
Funders: Organisations -1 not found.
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 24 Mar 2022 09:10 UTC
Last Modified: 01 Apr 2022 10:45 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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