23 January 1967: Milton Keynes founded

The most famous of Britain's garden cities, Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, was founded on this day in 1967.

After World War II there was an urgent need for housing to replace buildings damaged by German bombing, house the growing population, and do away with dense urban slums. This led to the creation of 'garden cities' in rural or semi-rural areas.

Garden cities were built in three waves: in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the early to mid-1960s and the late 1960s to 1970. Milton Keynes is the most well known of these towns. Its location in a sparsely populated part of Buckinghamshire was chosen because it was relatively close to London, Oxford, Birmingham and Leicester. The hope was that this would make it attractive to people who worked in these cities. Contrary to popular myth, the name for the new town was based on a small village in the area, and had nothing to do with the economists Milton Friedman and John Maynard Keynes.

After the town was formally designated in 1967, a team of planners drew up guidelines for a city designed around an American-style grid pattern, rejecting more traditional alternatives. The combination of this layout and modernist architecture has led to Milton Keynes being characterised as soulless and boring. Indeed, many people see it as an example of what can go wrong when governments try to micro-manage urban development without respect for past traditions.

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

Despite this, it has been a modest success, with the population of the town growing from under 50,000 in the 1960s to nearly 250,000 today. With a national shortage of housing space, many people think it should serve as a model for the future.

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

Follow Matthew on Twitter: @DrMatthewPartri