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Rivals: Liverpool v Manchester

A Tale of Two Rival Cities is on BBC One, 1930BST, Monday, 17 May

They may be just over 30 miles apart but the rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester has always meant a huge gap between the two.

A special BBC One programme A Tale of Two Rival Cities looked at the historical roots of the cities opposition to each other.

It may now be personified by sport and music but the cities rivalry began with hard headed financial calculations.

It was a fight for supremacy in the cotton trade that started the problems.

The history of the cities rivalry is told through objects in the region's museums as part of the BBC's 'A History of the World' project.

Stuart Maconie explores the issues that led to tensions between the two cities at a crucial stage in their development, and the legacy that left for the present day.

Watch: A Tale of Two Rival Cities on iPlayer

Liverpool, thanks to its creation of the first wet dock, had become one of the world's leading ports.

Meanwhile, sparked by the Industrial Revolution, Manchester mills were capturing the trade in cotton.

Raw cotton imported to the UK was spun in the mills of Manchester, it was said that Manchester clothed a quarter of the world.

The invention of the spinning jenny and Arkwright's water frame were just two of the innovations that turned Manchester into a world leading production centre, but the material all had to come from over 30 miles away through Liverpool.

The Port of Liverpool set high charges on the importation of the raw materials destined for Manchester's cotton mills, and this provoked Manchester into action.

The city decided to simply bypass Liverpool and in building the Manchester Ship Canal was able to bring goods in direct to Salford at a stroke avoiding the import charges of the Port of Liverpool.

When the Manchester Ship Canal opened in 1894 the rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester was sealed.

Liverpool gentleman, Manchester men

Manchester developed as an industrial city with a large workforce in it's factories and mills, Liverpool by contrast while employing thousands on the docks, was a city with a significant white-collar workforce, the clerks, insurance agents and administrators all involved in the running of a large port.

Manchester had grown in to Cottonopolis, an industrial heartland where manufacturing reigned supreme.

It was said that Liverpool gentlemen imported cotton, Manchester men made it in to cloth. The phrase is still occasionally heard in Liverpool, though not in Manchester.

Liverpool's wealth was partly built on the profits of the slave trade

The building of the landmark railway between Liverpool and Manchester was a sign of the cities interdependence. Goods had previously been transferred between the two cites by canal, a slow and often expensive process.

The George Stephenson designed railway was created to change all of that, now goods and people could be moved at a much faster pace. From the Liverpool and Manchester's desire for a practical solution to a trade problem, the railway age was born.

The modern day rivalry is centred mainly around football, the peaks and troughs of success for Manchester United, then Liverpool, and then United again have led to some of the bitterest encounters between rival fans.

Manchester United, led by Sir Matt Busby, the first English team to win the European Cup with George Best, Bobby Charlton and Denis Law in their ranks would later be eclipsed by Bob Paisley's Liverpool, and their domination of the domestic and European scene. Then almost as soon as the flow of trophies into Anfield ceased in the early 1990s, United, under Sir Alex Ferguson began a long run of Premier League success.

Added into this is a perception amongst Liverpool fans of a national media bias towards United, it still rankles with many that Bob Paisley received an OBE for his three European Cups while Sir Alex Ferguson was knighted after his first triumph with Manchester United.

A Tale of Two Rival Cities
12 May 10 |  History
A History of the World
10 Nov 09 |  History


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