Life in a City of Business, Noise and Strangers: Work, Family and Faith in Industrial Revolution Manchester

Professor Hannah Barker
Wednesday, 15 September 2021 - 7:00pm

A visit to Manchester two hundred years ago would have been an assault on the senses.  It was not until the extensive street-widening schemes of the nineteenth century that most central thoroughfares were anything other than narrow and dark.  The buildings were tightly packed together and their upper levels often jutted out over the streets below.  Those wishing to navigate their way around would have often found mud and waste underfoot where pavements had yet to appear.  The streets would have been bustling with a population hurrying about their business.  The air filled with both the shouts of market and itinerant sellers; and the types of odours one might expect to encounter in the days before municipal sanitation schemes and systematic curbs on air pollution.

These sorts of urban experiences drew mixed reactions from visitors and residents alike.  Whilst one commentator described Manchester as 'a dog hole' in 1792, another noted excitedly in 1811 that he thought it 'a busy place' which offered 'a good deal to be seen and learnt'.

This talk will explore what it was like to live and work here during the period of the early industrial revolution (c. 1750-1840) - when Manchester and its population grew at unprecedented speed and it was recognised as England's leading 'shock city'.



About the speaker

Hannah Barker is a historian of industrial revolution England, and the north of England in particular.  Her past research has explored issues of gender and work in towns and has assessed the impact of industrialisation on women’s employment, and specifically the degree to which the advent of modern capitalism marginalised women workers.  Her last book built upon this work and examined the concept of ‘family strategy’ in terms of small family businesses, as well as exploring the emotional life of families and their use of domestic space. She currently leads another research project, Faith in the Town project’ which explores ordinary people’s experiences of religion in urban areas in the North of England, between 1740 and 1830.  She is Professor of British History at the University of Manchester and Director of the John Rylands Research Institute.  She also Chairs Manchester Histories, a charity that works with people and communities across Greater Manchester and is Chair of Chetham’s Library committee.

Event image: View of Market Street, Manchester, 1821: John Ralston, Views of the Ancient Buildings in Manchester (Manchester, 1823-5), plate 4. Reproduced with permission from Chetham's Library.



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