Manchester History

Manchester is a lively, bustling city that is defined by its place in history as the hub of Britain's cotton industry during the Industrial Revolution. It is this period that forms the basis of many of its great attractions, exhibitions and museums such as the new People's History Museum.

Though there has been a settlement in Manchester since Roman times, records show a cotton industry taking shape from 1600. Mechanisation helped it boom and the town became the world’s largest cotton trading centre. Rapid, unplanned urbanisation followed and the development of other manufacturing industries helped it become one of the world's great industrial cities by the turn of the 19th century. This encouraged infrastructure improvements – canals were developed and extended, enabling access for ocean-going ships and rail links were established with Liverpool, another vital trading hub.

The city's achievements were so great that in 1844 England's former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli declared Manchester to be 'as great a human exploit as Athens'. Nine years later, it was granted city status and many of Manchester’s great public buildings sprang up in the following 50 years, including the grand town hall.

Fast forward to the 20th century - and Manchester endured mixed fortunes. The cotton trade declined as a result of increased competition from other northern towns, worsened by the onset of WWI. The Great Depressions of the 1930s dealt a serious blow to the city, whilst WWII had devastating consequences after the Germans pummelled Manchester with bombs, wrecking huge parts of its historic centre. Manchester Cathedral was one of the targets and it took 20 years to restore.

Boom was followed by bust during the 1960s and 1970s. But depression did have one silver lining: the Smiths, whose gloomy tunes encapsulated the late 1980s like no other.

Then, in the 1990s Manchester became Madchester, birthplace of bands like the Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays. Economic recovery began, but Manchester suffered a terrible setback when the IRA detonated its devastating bomb that ripped through the heart of the city centre in 1996. It was the largest bomb to explode on British soil, injuring over 200 people and ripping apart buildings. The insurance bill was over £400 million and many businesses were never able to recover.

Following this devastation, a wave of urban regeneration projects started, sowing the seeds for Manchester's contemporary landscape today. The Printworks and The Triangle were developed as shopping and entertainment hubs; old buildings were torn down and replaced with modern, glass and steel edifices, old mills were converted into luxury flats and the 169m-high (554ft) residential Beetham Tower was completed in 2006, the tallest building outside London.

Meanwhile, sport continues to be an intrinsic part of the city’s cultural identity. Home to two Premier League Football teams, Manchester United and Manchester City, the city also hosted the 2002 Commonwealth Games which led to the construction of world-class sporting facilities. In 2013, it will host The Ashes and the Rugby League World Cup, followed by the Rugby World Cup in 2015.

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