The three big moments that have made Manchester what it is today

"Manchester’s story is one of birth, growth into Victorian grandeur, catastrophic decline by the 1980s and recent recovery. The eyes of the world are upon it once more as it has become a test case for how post-industrial cities can reinvent themselves."

In his new book, Brian Groom, an author who grew up in and around Manchester and now lives in Saddleworth, attempts to provide a definitive history of a city whose recent economic growth and gleaming skyscrapers attract envious glances from many other parts of the country.

Read more: "This is a historic gem": Manchester's oldest building is up for sale

The former Financial Times journalist hit the best-seller list two years ago with his book 'Northerners' charting the history of the entire North of England.

He's now narrowed his focus to writing a history of Britain's second city through the people who have made it, from campaigners like Emmeline Pankhurst, industrialists and Tony Wilson, the founder of Factory Records.

Speaking on The Northern Agenda podcast about 'Made In Manchester: A People’s History of the City that Shaped the Modern World', Mr Groom picks out three periods of Manchester's history that made it what it is today.

Listen to Brian Groom talk about his book at the link below:

'The prototype of an industrial city'

"Firstly the obvious one is the end of the 18th century, beginning of the 19th century. It's the period when the great Lancashire industrialist Richard Arkwright gave the city its first cotton spinning mill in 1781.

"And that was a source of wonder and crowds gathered every day to watch its huge chimney being erected. And by 1800, there were dozens of them. And by the 1840s, it had become the prototype of the industrial city, particularly in terms of the growth of factories.

"Nobody had seen anything quite like that. And nobody knew what its implications were going to be.

"People were coming to see what's going on here: 'Is our world going to be like this? Is there money to be made out of it? Are we all going to starve, what's going to happen?' We didn't know. It was a really, really exciting period."

'Who let them do that?'

After the city's rapid ascent during the industrial revolution, the period between the 1960s and 1990s saw a painful decline for Manchester, says Mr Groom.

"During that time, I think Manchester is not the only place to have had this problem but Manchester's resurrection was hampered by having a rather disastrous 20-year experiment with modernist architecture, particularly in public housing, notably the infamous crescents at Hulme that were poorly designed, poorly manufactured and poorly constructed.

"The magazine 'Architects Journal' described them as Europe's worst housing stock, and they were eventually demolished in the early 1990s. There were similar problems on a smaller scale among other inner city developments.

"And then there's the Arndale shopping centre, still there, but in its original form when it's built in the 1970s, replacing a medieval pattern of streets. The developers demanded that the building be closed with little natural light and no external window displays.

"The result was an exterior of concrete panels faced with the yellow tiles, which Mancunians immediately started deriding as the biggest toilet block in the world.

"There's one lovely story that a journalist met an elderly LS Lowry at that time standing outside and he was looking and shaking his head and saying, 'who let them do that?'

"But the city got over it, the people proved resilient, and the city has learned some lessons from the mistakes of that period."

21st century regeneration

The period of Manchester's recovery began in the mid-1990s, says Mr Groom, with some dating it back to the IRA bomb in 1996.

"But efforts at regeneration began a bit earlier than that with a couple of bids for the Olympic Games and some regeneration of the Castlefield area around the old Roman fort.

"But when you move into the 21st century, then we've had a strong growth in jobs, economic output and population despite a recession, a pandemic and a European war.

"And that revival has involved a lot of projects focused on leisure, culture and lifestyle, not the only city doing that, cities like Barcelona and Bilbao have turned themselves around by that method, but a key aim early on was to try to win government funding competitions and European grants - particularly important in the early days of Manchester's turnaround."

Made In Manchester: A People’s History of the City that Shaped the Modern World by Brian Groom is out now