A Brief History of Manchester

Mar 14, 2018

Manchester’s history is one of trials and tribulations, of industry, science, football and music. The self-professed capital of the North is an eclectic mixing pot of cultures and influences; one that has been the birthplace of many of the nation’s most impressive creative and scientific endeavours.

Mancunians have a lot to be proud of. The first atom was split here in 1917 by Ernest Rutherford, the father of nuclear physics. The Suffragette movement for women’s voting rights began on the streets of this city, and the first steam engine coughed into life at a Mancunian warehouse. As a result, Manchester’s museums scene is unrivalled in the UK.

Steam Engine in Manchester, where it was invented.

Even now, the city is a leading light in the British music scene and is (arguably) home to the UK’s largest football teams.

Yet Manchester has not always been such an important corner of the United Kingdom. It was only with the coming of the Industrial Revolution that this former market town rapidly expanded into one of our most important and leading cities.

Human occupancy of the area can be traced back to Roman times when the Roman General Agricola ordered the building of a fort close to the populous cities of Deva Victrix (Chester) and Eboracum (York).

Mamucium, as it would be known, was completed in the year 79, the first line of defence against the roving tribes of Celts north of the border.

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Mamucium remained a relatively small settlement as the nation changed hands from Romans to Saxons, and then to the invading Normans. Ransacked during the Harrying of the North, it wasn’t until the late 13th century that Manchester in its current guide began to appear.

A market town at first, the area benefitted from its location along the northern river system, becoming an important centre for textiles and linen production.

Already an important centre for the manufacturing of cotton and woollens, the coming of the Industrial Revolution turned humble Manchester into a bustling, roaring, mechanized giant.

The town expanded at a huge rate, became one of the largest industrialised cities on Earth by the mid-19th century.

Manchester continued to grow. The intercity Liverpool and Manchester Railway became a world first; the Manchester Ship Canal one of the largest industrial canals in the country.


The economic school of Manchester capitalism – the promotion of free trade – began on the city’s industrious streets. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wandered the smoggy alleyways, coming up with the political ideas that would eventually become Communism.

Engels, a leading figure in Marxism, in Manchester.

Manchester’s prominent industrialism continued until after the Great Depression, as the heartlands of the cotton and textile industries shifted to other nations with cheaper labour and production costs.

In the late 20th century, a huge regeneration project began to revitalise the city, especially in the wake of the 1996 IRA bombing, in which 200 people were injured after an explosion at the popular Arndale Centre.

The city hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2002, and the construction of a state-of-the-art inner city tram system and multiple skyscrapers turned the city centre into a hub of entertainment and creative facilities.

Drawn by reinvestment in the city, many of the nation’s leading media and tech companies flocked to newly developed areas around the former industrial ports of Salford Quays.

The boom years of the Industrial Revolution are here once again, albeit under a 21st century guise, and Manchester is a city on the up once more.

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