Mancunians will tell the story of the people who built what Asa Briggs called the ‘shock city’ of the Industrial Revolution and the impact they have had on the world. Like Brian Groom’s first book, the bestselling Northerners: A History, from the Ice Age to the Present Day, it will combine historical narrative with social and cultural themes and colourful portraits of personalities, famous or not. It will examine Manchester’s past and present and the role it can play in Britain’s future.
Manchester captured the world’s attention as its population soared from 10,000 in 1700 to an astounding 303,000 in 1851. ‘From this foul drain the greatest stream of human industry flows out to fertilise the whole world. From this filthy sewer pure gold flows,’ wrote French social commentator Alexis de Tocqueville. Visitors arrived from myriad countries, who saw in it a foretaste of the world’s future. No one knew whether the upheaval would lead to prosperity or starvation.
Manchester experienced protests such as the Peterloo Massacre in 1819. It was a centre for radical movements such as Chartism, yet also spawned the employer-led Anti-Corn Law League under Richard Cobden and John Bright, which made free trade Britain’s economic orthodoxy. It became the centre of the global cotton industry and a centre of engineering and machine tool manufacture. Mancunians will tell the story from the earliest times, including the Roman era when its fort was manned by soldiers from across the empire, prefiguring the cosmopolitanism of the 19th century and the present day.
The book will portray figures from the city and its surrounding region: scientists from John Dalton to the team that produced Baby, the world’s first stored-program computer; industrialists such as Joseph Whitworth, whose standard screw threads laid the foundation of modern mass production; women’s suffrage campaigners including Lydia Becker and Emmeline Pankhurst; writers such as Elizabeth Gaskell, Anthony Burgess and Shelagh Delaney; composers such as William Walton and Peter Maxwell Davies; and artists such as L.S. Lowry and Annie Swynnerton. It will examine the growth of professional sport, most notably Manchester City and United, and popular entertainers such as Gracie Fields, Victoria Wood and Peter Kay. Manchester’s pop music scene produced bands including Joy Division, New Order, the Smiths, Stone Roses and Oasis.
Mancunians will tackle the city’s sometimes spiky relations with its neighbours and its reputation for arrogance: ‘On the seventh day God created Manchester’, read the 1980s teeshirts. It will ask whether Manchester, through economic decline and recent recovery, has lived up to its early promise as a leading city – and what contribution it can make to the world in the 21st century.
Brian Groom is a journalist and one of the foremost experts on British regional and national affairs. His career was spent mainly at the Financial Times, where he did many of the top writing and editing jobs. He is also a former editor of Scotland on Sunday, which he launched as deputy editor and which won many awards. Originally from Stretford, Lancashire (now part of Greater Manchester), he returned to live in the north – in Saddleworth, south Pennines – in 2015.
Brian went to Manchester Grammar School and Balliol College, Oxford, where he got a first-class BA in English Lang...
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