Birmingham (England)

All Sources -
Updated Media sources (1) About content Print Topic Share Topic
views updated

Birmingham (bûr´mĬngəm), city and metropolitan borough (1991 pop. 934,900), central England. The city is equidistant from Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, and London, England's main ports, and near the Black Country iron and coal deposits; it was connected to the Staffordshire mines by the Birmingham Canal in the 18th cent. Birmingham is Britain's second largest city (in both area and population) and is the center of water, road, and rail transportation in the Midlands. The chief industries are the manufacture of automobiles and bicycles and their components and accessories. Other products include electrical equipment, paint, guns, and a wide variety of metal products.

By the 15th cent., Birmingham was a market town with a large leather and wool trade; by the 16th cent. it was also known for its many metalworks. In the English Civil War the town was captured by the royalists. Birmingham's industrial development and population growth accelerated in the 17th and 18th cent. In 1762, Matthew Boulton and James Watt founded the Soho metalworks, where they designed and built steam engines. Joseph Priestley, the discoverer of oxygen, lived for a time in Birmingham. In 1791 a mob, incensed at his radical religious and political views, burned his home.

The town was enfranchised by the Reform Bill of 1832 (see under Reform Acts) and was incorporated in 1838. John Bright represented it in Parliament from 1857 to 1889. During the 1870s, while Joseph Chamberlain was mayor, Birmingham underwent a large program of municipal improvements, including slum clearance and the development of gas and water works. Birmingham was among the first English localities to have a municipal bank, a comprehensive water-supply system, and development planning. The area of the city was enlarged in 1891 and again in 1911 under the Greater Birmingham scheme.

Birmingham was severely damaged in World War II. Subsequent rebuilding resulted in modernization, especially of the city center. Notable buildings include the town hall, built in 1834, modeled after the temple of Castor and Pollux in Rome; the 18th-century baroque-style Cathedral of St. Philip; and the 19th-century Cathedral of St. Chad, the first Roman Catholic cathedral to be built in England after the Reformation. Bull Ring, in the center of Birmingham, is the site of the city's oldest market. Also in the center of the city is the Univ. of Aston. The Univ. of Birmingham is in the suburb of Edgbaston, as is the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, a Roman Catholic shrine that was formerly the parish house of John Henry Cardinal Newman. There is a museum and art gallery (noted for its pre-Raphaelite collection) and a museum of science and industry. Annual music festivals date from 1768, and Birmingham has a noted symphony orchestra and ballet company. The city library includes an excellent Shakespeare collection.

views updated

BIRMINGHAM. A large industrial city in the West MIDLANDS of ENGLAND, often referred to as Brum, an abbreviation of the METATHESIS Brummagem. The city's inhabitants are Brummies, and their speech is known as Brummie, Birmingham, and Brummagem. Accents vary according to such factors as age, education, locality, region of origin, and social aspirations.


Middle-class speech in the city is RP or near-RP. The following points apply mainly to working-class speech: (1) It is non-rhotic and generally aitchless. (2) The vowel /a/ tends to be used in both bat and bath. The pronunciation of Edgbaston (the name of a better-off part of the city) is a class SHIBBOLETH: the a is short among the working class, who stress the first syllable (‘EDGE-biston’), and long in ‘posh’ usage, with stress on the second syllable (‘Edge-BAHston’). (3) There is a tendency towards /ʊ/ in both but and boot, although the /ʌ/ pronunciation in words such as but, cut, and shut is spreading. (4) Words such as course and force are sometimes realized with a triphthong /ʌʊə/, especially among older speakers. (5) The monophthong /ɪ/ is close, so that it often sounds like eat and did like deed. (6) The -y ending of words such as happy is often pronounced /əi/ or /ʌi/. (7) The diphthongs in gate and goat tend to vary as between /aɪ∼ʌɪ/ and /aʊ∼ʌʊ/ rather than the /eɪ/ and /əʊ/ of RP. (8) The diphthong of house and mouth is /æʊ/. (9) The diphthongs in tie and toy have merged in /Dɪ/, producing homophones and uncertainty in such sentences as Where's your tie/toy? (10) Words and syllables ending in -ng tend to close with a voiced velar plosive: for example, /sɪŋgɪgŋg/ for singing and /kɪŋglʊɪ/ for kingly. This feature has been criticized so often that many Birmingham speakers tend to overcompensate in the attempt to avoid it, using /ŋ/ where /ŋg/ is standard, as in /fɪŋə/for finger.

Grammar and vocabulary

Especially among older speakers, the following grammatical features occur: up instead of to, as in He went up the pub half an hour ago and We'll go up town tomorrow; use of her instead of she, as in What's 'er doing then?; use of as as a relative pronoun, as in It wasn't 'im as went; use of /dai/ for did not, especially with know, as in They dai know where they was. Most people use the standard vocabulary, but older speakers may continue to use such words as brewins an outhouse, closet a toilet, miskin BrE dustbin, AmE trashcan, and suff a drain.

views updated

Birmingham. The rise of Birmingham from local to national importance was largely an 18th-cent. development, when improvements in turnpike roads and canals enabled it to turn to advantage its central situation. The name indicates the ham or settlement of the people of Beorma, presumably a Saxon leader, and at the time of Domesday Book (1086) it was no more than a tiny hamlet, with five villeins and four smallholders. It grew during the Middle Ages, acquiring a market, but was overshadowed politically by Warwick and Coventry. Birmingham's reputation for cutlery began early, for in the 1530s Leland found it ‘a good market town’, with one long street by the brook: ‘there be many smiths in the town that use to make knives and all manner of cutting tools,’ exploiting the local coal and iron. Camden, 40 years later, was more enthusiastic—it was ‘swarming with inhabitants and echoing with the noise of anvils’: the upper part of the town had ‘an abundance of handsome buildings’. During the civil wars, Birmingham declared for the Parliament, which must have found its guns, pikes, and swords of great value: Clarendon, on the king's side, accused it of ‘hearty, wilful, disloyalty’. Being near the front line of each side, it was repeatedly harassed but suffered no permanent damage. By 1700 it had well over 10,000 inhabitants. It still had no parliamentary representation and no corporation, which cynics thought a great advantage, since it allowed the people to shun politics and concentrate on business. But by 1830 the Birmingham Political Union had taken the lead in pressing for reform and the town acquired two MPs in 1832 and a council in 1838. Under the mayoralty of Joseph Chamberlain in the 1870s Birmingham became celebrated for municipal enterprise, and Mason's College, founded in 1870, received a charter as a university in 1900. Birmingham's economy diversified, with Cadbury's established at Bournville in 1879, General Electric in 1896, the Dunlop Rubber Company at Castle Bromwich in the 1890s, and the Austin Motor Company in 1905. The development of the railway system in the 19th cent. and the motorway network in the 20th helped Birmingham to continue to exploit its geographical position, and during the Edwardian period it overtook Liverpool and Manchester as the second city in England and Wales.

J. A. Cannon

views updated

Birmingham. City in West Midlands, Eng., with splendid mus. tradition. Fest. was held there triennially, with occasional breaks, from 1768 to 1912. Costa cond., 1849–82; Mendelssohn's Elijah f.p. 1846 and Gounod's Rédemption 1882. Richter became cond. 1885. Byrd's Mass in 5 parts was revived 1900. Most significant fest. were of Elgar works: The Dream of Gerontius (1900), The Apostles (1903), The Kingdom (1906), The Music Makers (1912). Sibelius cond. f.p. in England of his 4th sym., 1912. CBSO was founded 1920 with Appleby Matthews as cond. (though first concert cond. Elgar). Conds. since then have been Boult 1924–30; Heward 1930–43; Weldon 1943–51; Schwarz 1951–7; Panufnik 1957–9; Rignold 1960–8; Frémaux 1969–78; Rattle 1980–98, Sakari Oramo from 1998. New concert-hall, Symphony Hall, opened 1991. At univ., Peyton Chair of Mus. was founded 1905 with Elgar as first prof. Succeeded by Bantock (1908), other incumbents being V. Hely-Hutchinson, J. A. Westrup, A. Lewis, I. Keys, and C. Timms. New Elgar Chair, S. Banfield from 1993.

views updated

Birmingham Britain's second-largest city, in the West Midlands, England. A small town in the Middle Ages, during the Industrial Revolution it became one of Britain's chief manufacturing cities. James Watt designed and built his steam-engine here. Later it became known for the manufacture of cheap goods (‘Brummagem ware’). The Birmingham Repertory Theatre (opened 1913) has a high reputation. The city also possesses a well-known symphony orchestra, and three universities. A transport centre, the city's network of intersecting motorways are known as ‘Spaghetti Junction’. Industries: car manufacture, mechanical and electrical engineering, machine tools, metallurgy. Pop. (1994) 1,220,000.

More From

You Might Also Like