In August 1919, the centenary of the Peterloo massacre focussed thoughts on the defence of principles and on how the lot of the average Mancunian had changed over the past 100 years. Its commemoration was also a high-profile event, providing a platform on which current grievances could be voiced. And, in 1919, many returned ex-servicemen had good reason to feel aggrieved.
The golden age of “Cottonopolis” had been coming to an end in 1914; changes were already then making Manchester’s confidence creak. The First World War would exaggerate and speed up both the internal and external forces of change – so that the Manchester demobbed soldiers returned to was not the city of their childhood.
Over the course of the war, factories and warehouses had been turned over to munitions production. By 1917 Manchester was producing 2,000 4.5-inch shells per week. Engineering works shifted to manufacturing aircraft parts and dye…
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