“Perhaps no part of England, not even London, presents such remarkable and attractive features as Manchester, the workshop of the world” (Doc 9). This glowing report for Manchester came as the end product of much effort and pain. Though it was a great city produced by the innovative ideas of the Industrial Revolution, Manchester’s rapid growth led to severe hardships for the working class and immigrants, including over crowding, dangerous working conditions, and poor sanitation; these unwanted effects were eventually ameliorated, but only after important labor reforms were passed and Manchester was eventually granted a public charter, and thus became deserving of this praise. Much of the debate over the great city of Manchester depended on where one stood, politically and aesthetically, but the process of debate led ultimately to a healthier Manchester.
The industrial revolution pushed Manchester into full swing, with the development of new machines and the factory system. Great Britain was the first European country to experience the Industrial Revolution, and it took full advantage of its opportunity, eventually being able to develop many cities, which in turn produced a multitude of raw and refined materials, especially cotton. Manchester took the lead in cotton manufacturing when a mechanical cotton mill was built in 1780. Because of the booming textile industry in Manchester, many immigrants came to the city to work in the factories, and the population increased rapidly. But with the good came the bad, and Manchester became a disease-ridden slum full of underpaid workers cursed with disease and depravation.
Of course, much of what people thought of Manchester depended on whether they were ‘country mice’ or ‘city mice,’ so to speak. For those who loved material success, Manchester was the best thing since sliced bread. Despite its ugly interior, Manchester really came into full swing and demonstrated extreme success as a developed city, complete with factories, workers, and national and global influence. An engraving by Charles Roberts shows a scene depicting the smoky but powerful city of Manchester, complete with fully operational buildings producing steam and smoke (Doc 11). Manchester was a vast expanse of factory buildings, all pointing up toward the skies, toward heaven, the only direction anyone in England was willing to go. For those who celebrated the industrial revolution, up was where to go! Manchester gained its influence, increased population, and increase of factories from its rapid development between 1750 and 1850. A map of Manchester’s development between these years illustrates the growth of the city with increased canals, railroads, and use of the River Irwell, where much of Manchester developed. As Document 9 explains, Manchester was “the Workshop of the World.” Wheelan and Co. write, “There is scarcely a country on the face of the habitable globe into which the fruits of its industry have not penetrated.”