Why the U.K. Can’t ‘Level Up’

Weak Cities Are the Real Story Behind the British Crisis

What makes a country great?

Great cities.

That is a lesson the United Kingdom once knew well. Britain reached its imperial heights in the late 19th century in part because its municipalities were growing into some of the world’s most productive cities.

None better symbolized British greatness than Birmingham, a manufacturing powerhouse in the West Midlands. In 1890, Harper’s Magazine called it the “best-governed city in the world,” and with good reason. Birmingham provided novel services for its people, including free libraries and museums, free education for all children, modern sanitation and affordable …