Skip to main content


Aldermen and the City - Research from the Coventry History Centre

Barbara Russell recently came into the Herbert to search for materials related to her PhD research.

Dr Russell earned her PhD with a project studying the nature of power in Councils, and her research explored how late-19th century Aldermen acquired funds and developed their power base in Northamptonshire.

Her conclusions found that links between businesses, Councils and men of power were often fostered through marriages and family connections. Therefore, Aldermen conducted Council affairs just as much within their families as through professional networks, which were often intimately linked.

Dr Russell has now moved on and is exploring how Aldermen in Coventry City Council conducted business in the same time period. She is also looking at Council to Council business connections, and how webs of power were developed between areas and how these powers were obtained through marriage, family ties and professional networks.

Her insights so far show that as the 19th century came to a close, Aldermen began building ties with water and gas companies, assuring that not only would their Councils be given good business deals but that they, themselves were given access to large sums of money. Moreover, as the twentieth century dawned parents took on more protective stance on power, keeping it within families and allowing little outside influence to interfere. Dr Russell will be putting together a monograph based on her research sometime in the near future.

Sara Johnstone
PhD, University of Warwick