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Popular Politics and Popular Culture in the Age of the Masses

Studies in Lancashire and the North West of England, 1880s to 1930s


Jeffrey Hill

The book is a selection of essays from the author’s work since the early 1980s. It presents an analysis of political and cultural trends based upon a series of case studies drawn from the North West of England, covering mainly the years between the Third Reform Act (1884) and the outbreak of the Second World War. The region was a heavily industrialized one, seen by many as in the vanguard of changes that gave rise to what is often referred to as ‘modern’ society. In politics the emergence in North West England of a new labour consciousness is plainly evident, but so too is the survival and adaptation of older political allegiances, notably popular Toryism. The region is also renowned in cultural terms for the emergence of modern sport, examined here in relation to both association football and cricket. Keenly aware of the general political, social and cultural developments in Britain and elsewhere during these years, the author is also alert to their impact in particular localities. The theme of locality has been a recurring one in the author’s research, and the composition of this book reflects his changing approaches to it and to other, related issues of identity.
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Chapter Ten: Howard Jacobson’s The Mighty Walzer and Manchester


← 240 | 241 → CHAPTER TEN

Manchester could scarcely be called a neglected city. On the contrary, it has been much-observed. Since its emergence in the nineteenth century as the place synonymous with industrialism it has been attended with close scrutiny by historians, sociologists, urban commentators and creative writers. Asa Briggs’s comment has been frequently invoked: ‘[…] all roads led to Manchester in the 1840s […] it was the shock city of the age’.1 It is perhaps not surprising that, being so much in the forefront of ‘history’, Manchester became the focus, one might say the ‘embodiment’, of a discourse on modernity, and its citizens and their publicists quickly developed from this a sense that their city was unique. ‘What Manchester does today, the rest of the world does tomorrow’ was a popular maxim that summed up very well Manchester’s idea of itself. The historian A.J.P. Taylor, in a memorable essay, noted that in its heyday the city’s renowned newspaper the Manchester Guardian led with local news on its first page, before moving on to other domestic and international issues inside.2 As if to underline its special position Manchester was one of only two provincial British cities (the other was Warrington) to erect a statue in honour of Oliver Cromwell.3

Manchester, an old Lancashire town, became an industrial city in the early-nineteenth century. Then, as its mill economy declined in the third quarter of the century, it re-developed as a business centre dealing in the buying and selling of cotton...

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