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Liverpool and Manchester have come to typify twentieth-century urban decay and their demise is strongly associated with the perceived decline of local government after 1918. By the 1930s, contemporaries had stereotyped northern cities as places of poverty and deprivation, in comparison to the prosperous south. The divide was reinforced by economic historians who focused on regional variations in unemployment and economic depression. This article challenges stereotypical images of interwar Liverpool and Manchester by illustrating the ambitious programmes of urban redevelopment implemented by their Corporations in response to political and economic instability. Grandiose projects such as the Wythenshawe Estate, Mersey Tunnel and Manchester Central Library aimed to stimulate employment and to boost local economies and morale. Redevelopment was promoted heavily to present new images of Liverpool and Manchester. Crucially, urban transformation was marketed as a way to communicate with the newly enfranchised, classless citizen and suggests similarities with broader strategies employed by the Conservative party to engage with the mass electorate. The level of ambition and innovation demonstrates that local municipal culture thrived and Liverpool (with close American links) is shown to have been at the forefront of innovations in civic design and urban planning.

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School of Arts, Histories, and Cultures, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13
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I would like to thank Max Jones, Bertand Taithe, Hannah Barker, Simon Gunn, Matt Houlbrook, Frank Mort, Christopher Otter, Julie-Marie Strange, and the two anonymous referees for their thoughts and feedback on various drafts of this article.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

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The Historical Journal
  • ISSN: 0018-246X
  • EISSN: 1469-5103
  • URL: /core/journals/historical-journal
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