Clear Research in the Foggy Albion
Between October and December 2018, I did my APO Secondment at Leicester University in England. The objective was to work with contemporary and historical materials published in English. This visit was also my first visit to England. For this reason, apart from my research objectives it was also interesting to experience English education system and English scientific culture. During the whole period of stay, Professor Simon Gunn and all the researchers of the Centre for Urban History were very helpful with valuable recommendations about the literature, places to visit and people to speak with.
First, I started to work with the literature about transport planning history in the Leicester University Library. There were many shelves dedicated to Transport History, especially interesting for topics like: the tramway abandonment in England in the 1940s and 1950s and the rise of automobile usage. A huge part of the publications was dedicated to automobile-oriented city planning, New Cities experience and new concepts in public transport planning in the 1960s and 1970s. All this literature helped to form a new vision on understanding the problems of transport planning in the western world.
After working with the University Library, the next step was to visit London. Among many places which I visited, British library was very useful as I could find books dedicated to Soviet Transport Planning politics, western countries’ evaluation and critic on that topic. I also could locate there the Conference proceedings of the International Organisation for Public Transport (UITP), which is especially interesting literature, as it gives clues on shared problems in public transport systems both in western and socialist countries.
The next step was to visit School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) of London of University College London. This visit was important as I could find materials about transport planning, economics and geography related both to the USSR the and Socialist Europe countries. Near that school I found also Bartlett School of Architecture with its fascinating library. This visit helped to find secondary literature on transport and traffic planning history. During my research I read many articles of professor Michael Hebbert, one of them was “Engineering, Urbanism and the Struggle for Street Design” which was especially useful in understanding the influence of traffic and transport planning on urban planning. I had an opportunity to meet professor Hebbert and had a fruitful discussion about my research topic.
Finally, in relation to my cultural experience in England, I can highlight my visit to National Tramway Museum located at Crich Tramway Village. The museum contains old collection of trams stored after the decline of tramway system in England after the WWII. It was an interesting experience to ride on old trams and feel the difference in its technological development over the period. England after all is not that much foggy and rainy, as it is described by many people. Fortunately, there were some sunny days too. And when it was not so sunny, it was a pleasure to spend some time having a cup of tea with milk around 5 p.m. in company of nice people.
Text and photo: Elvira Khairulina