Skip to navigation | Skip to main content | Skip to footer
Menu Share this content
Menu Search the University of Manchester siteSearch
Search type

Alternatively, use our A–Z index

Manchester history

Manchester history

Manchester’s pioneering history accounts for its unique character – this is the place where the industrial revolution really took hold. The canals that course through the city are a reminder of its history of textiles and trade.

In the 19th century Manchester grew dramatically on the wealth created by cotton. The city’s amazing Victorian civic buildings, mills and factories shout ‘This is Manchester. We’ve arrived’.

Alongside innovation in industry has been an intellectual vigour. From the Manchester School to the radical politics of the suffragettes, Manchester has been the birthplace of new ideas.

Friedrich Engels wrote his The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 while living in Manchester. Fittingly, archaeologists discovered the remains of a club frequented by Engels when laying the foundations for the University’s national institute for graphene – the wonder material that won our researchers Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov a Nobel Prize.

The city has undergone extensive rejuvenation since the late 1990s and in 2002 it hosted the Commonwealth Games. Sport is part of Manchester’s cultural fabric, with its football teams among the most famous in the world and the National Football Museum welcoming visitors to the city as they disembark at Victoria Station.

Notable Mancunians

Manchester’s history is littered with names that are recognised around the world, such as:

  • Anthony Burgess, author, critic and composer;
  • Emmeline Pankhurst, suffragette;
  • John Charles Polanyi, Nobel Prize-winning chemist;
  • Thomas de Quincy, author;
  • JJ Thompson, Nobel Prize-winning physicist;
  • John Thaw, actor;
  • Michael Wood, historian, broadcaster and Professor of Public History at The University of Manchester