School of Politics and International Relations

Jack Brown - The London Docklands Development Corporation and Canary Wharf: 1981-1998

 Jack Brown - The London Docklands Development Corporation and Canary Wharf: 1981-1998

Jack Brown, PhD Candidate, School of Politics & IR

Primary Supervisor: Prof Tim Bale


I grew up and live in North East London, completing both my undergraduate and MA degrees in Contemporary British History at Queen Mary. I also spent a couple of perhaps unconventional 'gaps years' either side of my studies working at a small sports supplement wholesaler in Leyton. During my MA studies, I was fortunate enough to work as a Mile End Group Assistant, and I am currently Communications Coordinator for the MEG (see for more details) alongside my studies. From September 2013, I will also be a Teaching Assistant on the first year undergraduate module Background to British Politics, convened by Professor Tim Bale.

My PhD thesis focuses on the incredible transformation of London's Docklands, including the emergence of Canary Wharf, that was orchestrated by the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) between 1981 and 1998. Using a model similar to that of the New Town Corporations, Michael Heseltine established the LDDC as one of two Urban Development Corporations that took development powers away from local councils in declining inner-city areas and aimed to 'prime the pump' for private investment by rebuilding and rebranding the area. Alongside the Enterprise Zone on the Isle of Dogs, where the Canary Wharf development was placed, the LDDC has led a tremendous turnaround in Docklands, with Canary Wharf alone now home to more jobs than the docks that preceded it. My PhD thesis aims to establish how a self-declared non-interventionist, right-wing Conservative government, increasingly radical left-wing local authorities, supposedly short-termist and self-interested capitalists and the hugely varied but small workforce of the LDDC interacted to produce today's Docklands. My thesis questions the widespread assumption that today's Docklands and Canary Wharf are a product of Thatcherite free market, laissez-faire economics, and examines the role of public-sector intervention in making private sector investment viable, as well as the role of key individuals in driving through change. It seeks to challenge aspects of popular understanding of the Thatcher government's approach to the economy, as well as offering a 'first-look' historical study of events for which the National Archives are only just beginning to open up.