Leeds Beckett University
TheGovernanceOfConservationAndEconomicRestructuringInAHistoricCity-FRENCH.pdf (2.02 MB)

The governance of conservation and economic restructuring in a historic city : York 1966-2011

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posted on 2022-11-14, 11:54 authored by Jonathan French

Many historic cities have experienced the challenges common to other cities since the 1960s, including deindustrialisation. An additional issue has been the need to conserve the historic built environment in a period of economic change. Historic cities have also seen a growth in the appreciation of heritage related employment opportunities in the service economy and especially in tourism. This thesis focuses on the role of local governance practice in the management of that process of change, examining what specific characteristics in historic cities might build and reinforce effective governance mechanisms. This focus has provided the opportunity to position historic cities, and particularly conservation, in the wider theoretical discourse on local governance. 

York provided an opportunity for a single case study, being a ‘jewel’ historic city that also experienced significant losses of manufacturing employment. An historical institutionalist approach was adopted enabling a thick and deep understanding of the processes of institutional change over a long period of development and economic restructuring. Narratives were prepared on the governance of conservation, economic development and tourism that demonstrate how the qualities of a place influenced governance mechanisms. Evidence was gathered from documentary and interview sources, the latter especially informing the motivations of participants in governance processes. 

The thesis concludes that regime theory is appropriate to explain the interaction of national, local and voluntary organisations in conservation in the research period. The role of independent institutions in York, with the financial capacity to act, (in science development and tourism as well as conservation), enabled some of the governance mechanisms to be categorised as regimes. Underpinning governance activity in York has been strength in social capital formation, occurring over a very long historic period and maintained through processes of path dependence. The discovery of regimes challenges a literature that postulates regimes as USA centric and not a feature of UK governance. Overall the thesis demonstrates the importance of a historical approach to institutionalist studies.


Qualification name

  • PhD


Strange, Ian ; Edwards, Bronwen ; Seavers, Jennifer

Awarding Institution

Leeds Beckett University

Completion Date


Qualification level

  • Doctoral


  • eng


Leeds Beckett University

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