The introduction provides a concise account of provincial urbanisation between 1780 and 1880 and outlines the weaknesses of received historical wisdom that relies on categorising eighteenth and nineteenth-century attitudes to this process as conforming to the extremes of ‘celebration’ or ‘despair’. While acknowledging a debt to recent work on images of London, it makes a clear and compelling argument for shifting our attention away from the capital city and towards the growing provincial centres. Finally, it argues convincingly for a wider and more interrogative use of visual material as a means for accessing contemporary impressions of towns and cities and for tracking the use and gradual departure from inherited pictorial traditions.
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