Developing a ‘New Class Map’ for Understanding Inequalities, Mobilities and Stabilities in Belfast, Northern Ireland, 1911-2021

Niall A. Cunningham, Newcastle University
Ian Gregory, Lancaster University
Aidan McGuire, Sensible Code Company
Richard Webber, OriginsInfo

This paper will provide an insight into initial findings of research seeking to connect geographies of class and wellbeing in the city of Belfast, Northern Ireland, over the period from 1911 to 2021. The city of Belfast offers us a chance to explore class dynamics in contexts which are both exceptional and unexceptional. Belfast in 1911 was a pre-eminent, but in many respects, typical industrious provincial British city. It had an economy built on manufacturing, particularly shipbuilding and textiles, that led to rapid urban growth and in-migration leading to extremes of both wealth and poverty. At the same time, its exceptional character and history of sectarianism was a growing problem, shortly to explode in the most violent and intense period of ethnic and politic unrest the city has yet witnessed. This paper will outline initial efforts to respond to Grusky & Weedon’s call for a ‘new class map’ by linking historic individual-level census data to contemporary proprietary geodemographic datasets to establish how class geographies in the city have evolved over the long-term and how these patterns relate to ethnicity, deprivation, conflict and health inequalities. Microgeographical approaches to socio-spatial historical change in the UK have been hampered by disclosure rules and the destruction of original census returns. However, this paper spotlights the potential for generating new insights through the meshing of contemporary and historic commercial and administrative individual-level datasets to consider how contemporary geodemographic taxonomies reflect or mask longer-standing patterns of inequality.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 162. Connecting Urban Dynamics: Owners, Tenants, Spatial Narratives, and Built Environment