Studies in Lancashire and the North West of England, 1880s to 1930s
Chapter Ten: Howard Jacobson’s The Mighty Walzer and Manchester
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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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