The so-called ‘gentrification’ of cities across the globe was initially coined in 1964 by

Ruth Glass who observed an influx of the middle classes into the east end of London.

The term has gained widespread currency since then as the process has proliferated

and the characterisation and explanation of gentrification has provided academics with

a rich and debatable field over the past thirty years. Its distinctiveness as a new social

force in the regeneration of the urban environment and the displacement of indigenous

communities has made it worthy of such attention but often this focus has tended

toward the epistemological and theoretical explanation of gentrification rather than a

more rounded surveying of the theories and processes at work.

 

However, this theoretical work was often produced on the back of criticism which

argued that gentrification research had been overtly empirical in nature (Smith and

Williams, 1986) so that it is possible to see the need for a more balanced approach.

Within this country there has also been a deficiency in the amount of attention given

to the anti-social results of the process in terms of displacement and its impact on

communities. It is easier to understand the biasing of gentrification research in the

context of inadequate data on the subject. This work starts from the premise that some

work is better than none and that such efforts can cumulatively contribute to our

knowledge of such areas.

 

In view of the social harm that gentrification can lead to it can in turn be argued that

there is some moral worth in undertaking research in this area were in not for fear that

such ‘moral’ research agendas can, in themselves, be viewed as a form of bias. On the

other hand, it is possible to see the initial theories that guide research as forms of bias

in their own respect although the highlighting of an area to examine can be considered

desirable in the sense that preconceptions are essential in guiding research to the

fruitful understanding of an area.

 

This work, however, is concerned with both the set of problematics arising over the

explanation of gentrification and the social ill-effects that gentrification may have

given rise to over the years; displacement. The time period covered reflects the use of

the 1981 and 1991 censuses and the updating of that data through the use of other

means of data collection so that a temporal and geographical level of analysis, from

aggregate to grounded levels of enquiry, are considered. Finally, the context for the

research was restricted to Greater London, even though it was understood that this

would mean considering its connections with outside areas.

 

The idea of gentrification, wherein run-down inner city neighbourhoods are

transformed by the middle classes, is rooted in the notion that a neighbourhood

change in a certain direction and at a certain pace constitutes a ‘novel’ urban process.

It will become clear that this process is not, however, simply a neutral process of

social change; certain amounts of social exclusion and hardship and a ‘displacement’

of the indigenous people in gentrifying neighbourhoods can occur as a result and it

was also this that was sought to be explained.