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There are few sociology texts that acquire truly seminal status. This brief paper, however, reflects on one of the most celebrated and often cited works in British urban sociology. It seeks to explain: (1) the book's initial impact on debates and research in the field of ‘race and ethnic relations’; (2) the key controversies sparked by its theoretical positioning; and (3) why, and in what ways, it remains of relevance almost half a century after it was written. It concludes that there are two reasons for its continued appeal and significance. First, it placed housing firmly at the centre of debates about the position of Britain's migrant communities; second, it illustrates the potential of sociological research. At a time when controversies rage about ‘impact’, here is a work that not only contributed to our theoretical understanding of contemporary society, but also illustrated the value of ‘public sociology’ by engaging with the polity to bring about social change.

Original publication




Journal article


Ethnic and Racial Studies

Publication Date





405 - 411