Saturday, 28 January 2017

Around Manchester ......... my sort of history book

Now Around Manchester is my sort of history book.*

According to the notes on the back “it begins with the Romans and finishes with graphene, taking in everything in between from religion, politics, cotton, industrial power, railways and canals, to decline and regeneration ........”

And so all the familiar places and people are here but what I like about the book is its concentration on the bits that most historians gloss over.

So here are sections on Harpurhey, Monsall, Newton Heath and Beswick.

And while it is a book on Manchester it does our twin city proud with fascinating insights into Salford's history.

The book is written in an accessible style where the scholarship is detailed but not overpowering.

 What I particularly like is the way Mr Barlow starts with a subject and effortlessly moves around it drawing in related topics and themes.

So chapter 29 starts with Valette the artist and by degree moves on to Albert Square and the Town Hall encompassing Manchester’s bold 1945 plan for the city and takes in “a Spaniard in a Green hat dreaming of Andalusia a New Yorker who hated crowds and a Squadron of Indians each with a blue and white hat, grouped around Mr Gladstone.”

It is a style which reminds me very much of how I first came to know and love the city.
Back in the 1960s with a few hours to spend between lectures at the College of Knowledge on Aytoun Street I would take off on adventures and it is adventures that we get in the book.

One of my favourites is Motorway in the Sky which is the story of the Mancunian Way which when it was built was hailed as exciting and a mark of the new Manchester.

It comes in at just over 400 pages with a mix of colour pictures and is a snip at £14.99.

My only criticism and it is a minor one is that it lacks an index.

But then that will just encourage me to read it all over again.

King Street ...... featured in the book
Now I met Mr Barlow at a recent festival in GMex and decided I wanted the book which I bought today.*

And here is the rub because standing in Chorlton Bookshop I decided that this would be a perfect present for my old friend Gerry who is 70 this week.

But that would mean handing it over before I had fully read it.

On the other hand that would also make public that I had spent the morning reading Gerry’s present.

All of which leaves me no choice but to order a second copy.

Location; Manchester

Picture; cover of Around Manchester, by Wesley Harding

*Around Manchester, Nigel P Barlow, 2016, Manchester Publishing,

**Nigel Barlow,

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