‘North East’ identity is not as deep-rooted as we think
(2 June 2008)
The ‘North East’ regional identity isn’t as deep-rooted and cohesive as previously thought, shows a new book.
The book, which is launched tomorrow (Tuesday, June 3), also highlights the wider political implications for the regionalism debate. It delves into historical records over 700 years, from the Middle Ages to the present day and shows that the term ‘North East’ has only been in mass use for the last 50 years and that the region was traditionally split into two. The book’s editors, from Durham and Teesside Universities, say the findings hold significant implications for the history of regions and modern-day regionalism, particularly given the recently failed efforts in North East England to set up a regional assembly. They highlight the recent political movement to promote 'City Regions', such as Tyneside, Wearside and Teesside, saying that their research could provide a stronger historical basis for the promotion of these separate areas than a single North East region. The book, a volume of essays, demonstrates that there were historically two separate ‘regions’ – Durham and Northumberland. It shows the term ‘North East’ only appeared in the late 19th Century to refer to the industrial zones on the Tyne, Wear and Tees, but it was really only with the advent of regional broadcasting, particularly Tyne Tees TV, that the current sense and mass usage of the ‘North East’ term appeared. The term was used in news reports, and subsequent documentary TV programmes which focused on Geordie miners came to stand for the North East as a whole. The book, Regional Identities in North-East England, 1300-2000, is edited by Dr Adrian Green of Durham University and Professor Tony Pollard of The University of Teesside. It is published through the North-East England History Institute (NEEHI) and presents the findings of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Research Centre for North-East England History, which ran from 2000 to 2005 and involved researchers from all five North East Universities. Dr Green, of Durham University’s Department of History, said: “The book focuses on the period from the later Middle Ages through the Reformation and Industrial Revolution, Twentieth Century and up to the present. “The use of the term North East began to appear in the late Nineteenth Century, initially to refer to the industrial zones on the Tyne, but was only slowly adapted by business and labour organisations. It was then used by the press and the Great North-East railway in the early Twentieth Century. “It was only with the advent of regional broadcasting in the 1950s that our current sense and popular usage of the North East appeared. “Our research continues to inform the developing political agenda for regional devolution. Since the Regional Assembly failed there has been a move towards promoting 'City Regions', such as Teesside and Newcastle, and our research would provide a stronger historical basis for these separate areas than a single North East region.” Prof Pollard, of Teesside University, added: “We were surprised to discover that the research by our contributors pointed to a more fragmented region than recent commentators have supposed. “There may be implications for planners in that the smaller city regions now in vogue, based on the Tees Valley and the Tyne and Wear basin, have very ancient, pre-industrial roots. History might even provide a justification for splitting the region.” A public lecture and book launch, organised by The North-East England History Institute (NEEHI) will be held tomorrow, Tuesday June 3 2008, in Newcastle.