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The Geography and History of Newmarket England

29 Nov 2017Essay Samples

The history of Newmarket is inextricably linked with the history of horse racing. Situated in Suffolk, in the east of England (roughly 50 miles northeast of London), the town of Newmarket was established as a market where local producers, farmers, artisans, and other merchants could meet weekly and sell their wares. Before the 1600s, there was little that distinguished Newmarket from the other market towns and villages that were scattered about the English countryside.

During the reign of King Charles II, however, Newmarket’s stature was raised. Being located near to Cambridge, one of the two centres of the intelligentsia in England, nobles, dons, intellectuals, the gentry, and others of significance frequently passed through Newmarket on their way from London to Cambridge. Charles II, as a horse enthusiast, established racing stables at Newmarket in 1660, which immediately made Newmarket more than a two-horse town. The historical ‘market’ orientation of the town was almost completely lost in the shadows of horse racing and its associated trades. In other words, its function changed from that of a market town selling local produce from the Suffolk, East Anglia, and Cambridgeshire region to one that was almost exclusively oriented towards horse racing. Perhaps it could be said that the orientation of Newmarket’s market quickly changed. But even in that case, people around the country knew little about Newmarket in terms of its uniqueness as a market; but knew plenty about its position as the Royal’s preferred location for horse racing.

Over the centuries, racing strengthened its position as an integral part of Newmarket’s economy. During the later 17th century and early 18th centuries, several principal races were established that kept an ongoing stream of racing enthusiasts closeby to Newmarket for much of the year. Four of these historical races continue to be run: the One Thousand Guineas, the Two Thousand Guineas, the Cambridgeshire, and the Ceasarewitch. Most of these courses are run on the Newmarket Heath, one of which is crossed by the ancient ‘Devil’s Dyke’, which is famous in history. Probably the biggest booster to the town’s development was the establishment of the Jockey Club, which still has complete authority over horse racing in England. This respected institution gave Newmarket a permanent and important place on the map of England, at least in horse racing circles. It also consolidated the town’s economic orientation towards horse racing.

In terms of its geography, it remains somewhat of a mystery why Newmarket was selected over other surrounding areas by Charles II. In the 17th century, Newmarket was widely considered to be a pleasant little town, but there was nothing particularly attractive about it. The land around Newmarket was no more flat or suitable for horse racing than the nearby areas of Duxford, Thetford, Bury, or even Cambridge itself. Perhaps the logic behind the decision was that Newmarket was on the main road between Cambridge and London and was a popular stopping, or resting, place on the journey. Being slightly outside of Cambridge (6 miles) also gave the area proximity to a significant town but enough privacy to keep away undesirables. The gentry could race their horses in peace, and retire to the comfort of Cambridge for the evening.

In any case, the town has managed to keep true to its racing roots. It remains a small town with a population of only some 16,000. Despite its small size, however, it is well known both in England and abroad for its position as home of the jockey club, and in more recent years, for its horse racing museum.

The differences between Wales and England (specifically the physical and human geography of each and how Wales is different from England economically and politically based on its geographic diversity.

Understanding the differences between Wales and England requires at least a brief understanding of English history. While it is impossible to do it any justice here, it must at least be mentioned that the roots of the difference between modern Wales and England go back to at least the time of the Celtic invasions between 6 and 1 BC. In more modern history, the existence of the feudal system has also left its mark. In any case, the primary historical differences between Wales and England is that, though they have been under a common throne since 1536, they are separate countries. The United Kingdom is the tie that binds, but with nationalist political parties increasing their popularity in Wales, it is unlikely that the strength of the bond will last.

Putting history aside for the moment, a vastly different geography is one thing that distinguishes Wales and England. With the exception of the far northwest, England generally consists of lowlands and plains that are well suited to grazing livestock and agricultural production. Wales, in contrast, is mountainous, rugged, and only the southern portion, which is not coincidentally also the most populated, is well suited for agricultural or industrial development.

In England, the main industrial and commercial areas are the great conurbations. London, as both the capital and largest city, is by far the most important financial, commercial, and manufacturing city in the country. However, the vestiges of the industrial revolution have not been lost altogether. England’s industrial heartland remains at least loosely intact. Metal goods, vehicles, aircraft, synthetic fibers, and electronic equipment are made in the West Midlands conurbation, and the cities of Coventry, Leicester, and Birmingham are the largest centres in the area. Farther north, the Greater Manchester area is well known for its cotton and synthetic textiles, coal, and chemical industries, and is also a major transportation and warehousing center. Liverpool, Britain’s second port, along with Southport and Saint Helens are in Merseyside county, also in the north of the country, are important primarily for their port access and warehousing facilities. West Yorkshire, including the cities of major cities of Leeds and Bradford are still England’s textile capitals, well known for woolen, worsted, and other textile production. To the northeast, Tyne and Wear county, has Newcastle upon Tyne as its center and Durham as the main cities. This area is rich in coal, and is oriented towards the heavier industries of steel, electrical engineering, chemical, and shipbuilding and repair industries. The location of industry in Britain has not changed all that much since the industrial revolution period, though regions have made concerted efforts to diversify themselves to create more dynamic economies.

This array of geographic diversity has helped promote England to be one of the world’s leading industrial nations. This could not have come about, however, without strong trading ties to the rest of the world. England lacks many of the raw materials needed for its industrial production. It has abundant supplies of coal, oil, and natural gas. Production of oil from offshore wells in the North Sea began in 1975, and by the end of the 1970s the country was self-sufficient in petroleum. Other important resources are iron ore, tin, limestone, salt, china clay, oil shale, gypsum, and lead. However, the expanse of its industries makes it a net importer of many industrial inputs. Given its population of roughly 50 million in contrast to its relatively small size (94,000 sq. miles), England is also a net importer of foodstuffs. It is virtually selfsufficient in dairy goods and poultry, but otherwise must import roughly 40% of its foodstuffs. Balancing the trade account is therefore very important, and also difficult, for Britain.

In sum, manufacturing industries account for about a quarter of its gross domestic product, followed by financial industries, trade, transportation and communications, services, construction, mining and public utilities, and agriculture. Service industries employ about 60% of the workforce, while manufacturing accounts for just over 25%. As in most other advanced economies, there is a strong and growing trend towards more service orientation. This has had a significant effect on the industrial heartland of the country, especially in the West Midlands and Tyne and Wear areas. Nevertheless, there are still several manufacturers that are growing. Solid industries include machine tools; electric power, automation, and railroad equipment; ships; motor vehicles and parts; aircraft; electronic and communications equipment; metals; chemicals; petroleum; coal; food processing; paper and printing; textile; and clothing. Since the United Kingdom joined the European Union in 1973, its exports have been directed towards the European Union, specifically towards France, Germany, and the Netherlands. However, it still maintains good trading links and a ‘special relationship’ with North America as one of its former colonies. Its European proximity, therefore, has affected its trading and political relationships.

Looking to Wales, it is immediately clear to see that there are major differences. First of all, the population of Wales is roughly 3 million in contrast to England’s 50 million. Secondly, the landscape of Wales is not very well suited for extensive settlement. The Welsh are proud to admit that their geography puts them off of the so-called beaten track. To use very crude terms, it is rough, wild, mountainous, and watery. Even a quick glance at any topographical map will clearly show that England and Wales have little in common in terms of their geography. A quick visit to Wales will also provide undeniable proof that the aggressiveness of the landscape has rubbed off on its populace. Cymru, Welsh for Wales, is proudly boasted as unique to England. In fact, sharing money and a border with England is more than most Welsh are willing to accept. There is a very distinct animosity, and a growing push towards Welsh nationalism. The ancient tensions of Celts vs. Romans remains strong to this day.

In terms of industrial location, the Welsh conurbation is highly concentrated in the southern counties of West Glamorgan, South Glamorgan, and Gwent. The major urban areas, Swansea, Cardiff, and Newport, are the major urban areas, and all of them have traditionally been centres for coal mining and steel manufacturing. Many of these primary industries were hit very hard in the 1970s because of economic shocks and unemployment levels have increased sharply as a result. In more recent years, the Welsh economy has, like England, become more service oriented. However, oil refining, metals production (lead, zinc, nickel, and aluminum), and synthetic fibre production are all growing industries. Particularly interesting to note is Wales’ growing high technology sector. Wales has developed a strong information technology and electronics bias, mostly as an effort to diversify its industrial base against the vagaries of the international market. It also demonstrates that, although it is relatively small, Wales retains a forward looking outlook towards its economy. If it is to increase its nationalist tendencies, building a viable independent economy is of the utmost importance. It has made significant steps towards this end.

In sum, it is not outright overstatement to say that the geographies of England and Wales are diametrically opposed. Wales runs along the northwestern flank of England like a spine on an otherwise smooth back. Not surprisingly, this diversity has created differences between the English and the Welsh that are not easy to overcome. Though peaceful cohabitation has been possible since 1536, and could probably continue well into the future, it is being realized that the rewards are not worth the pains. Socially, politically, geographically, and economically, England and Wales are distinct. Since the resolve to overlook these distinctions is diminishing, regional autonomy seems to be all but a foregone conclusion.

Explain how demand for regional autonomy is a growing force in politics in the United Kingdom despite the increasing economic cultural and political convergence throughout Europe.

Devolution has been a prominent theme in UK politics for the past several years. While conflicts between Welsh and Scottish nationalists and the English parliamentary system have been tense for far longer, things have finally come to a head. Scotland and Wales are getting their own parliaments. The British government is devolving its authority to the countries regions.

The question that many ask is, why in an era of increasing convergence throughout Europe is Britain coming apart at its seams? The answer, it seems, is that Britain is not coming apart at the seams, but simply becoming more manageable. From a European perspective, in fact, devolution is actually a positive thing that is very compatible with increasing integration. Separate parliaments for Scotland, Wales, and England mean that democracy will be closer to the people. This is in line with the subsidiarity principle that underlies the governance of the EU. Much of the polity in Scotland and Wales have long felt underrepresented under English representation, and now with a chance to represent themselves, there is an opportunity for the democratic deficit to be reduced. Devolution, in other words, is quite in line with the trend towards economic, cultural, and political convergence throughout Europe. The EU is, after all, based on the concept of a Europe of regions.

As a consequence of devolution, 8 regional economic development agencies are now operating to even out the sharp economic disparities and social inequalities in England. This is in addition to the separately elected parliaments of Scotland and Wales and their own unique development agencies. Many are now optimistic about the future. The Greater London area is among the richest regions in Europe, while areas like Wales, South Yorkshire and Cornwall are vying for the poorest regions of Europe along with rural Spain and Greece. Many argue that dysfunctional government has been responsible for these disparities. A move towards devolution can give each region a better chance at getting its voice heard. Many regions are quick to point out the success of Wales in guiding its own economic development in recent years. No doubt, if they can accomplish the same or better, devolution will turn out to be a positive sum game.

Having said that, however, there is also an argument that comparative advantage has come into play. This is something that no government is fully able to control. The decline in the north of England, for example, has largely been a result of decreased international demand for the wares of traditional mining and manufacturing industries. The same is true for the output of Wales. The success of London, and the aspiring success of Wales, are based on trends that show the dominance of international finance and high technology. Global economic forces have affected the commercial, industrial, and political landscape more than bad governance. While strong leadership and close business/government relations are required to forge ahead with prevailing trends, countless examples highlight the unpredictability of the global economy.

In short, devolution should not be seen as a divisive force that is breaking Britain apart. It was already broken a long time ago. Rather, it should be seen as an attempt to cooperate, pool resources, and bring decision making down to the most functional level. Beneath the surface, therefore, devolution is actually a clever strategy to promote increased cooperation. This is very much in line with the European trend towards cultural, economic, and political integration. 

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