THE LIVERPOOL 800 PROJECT
A review of our March talk by Mary Champion
On 30th March Dr Jon Murden from the School of History at Liverpool University came with Professor John Belchem to talk to us about 'Liverpool 800'. This project, celebrating the 800th anniversary of Liverpool's first 'charter' from King John, will culminate in the publication in 2007 of a new work outlining the history and development of Liverpool.
Jon Murden, who is leading the project team, told us that they hope that people will come forward with ideas, and will feel a part of the finished history. The book - the first commissioned history of Liverpool since Professor Ramsay Muir's in 1907 - will highlight Liverpool's cultural and economic diversity, and will aim to get rid of misconceptions about the city.
Although 800 years old, Liverpool was hardly mentioned prior to the 17th century. But in the 18th and 19th centuries it developed an international reputation. Where did the people come from? (Liverpool has always been cosmopolitan). Where and how did they work? (Not all Liverpudlians were dockers or seamen). What were the social implications for a city dominated by mercantile rather than industrial capital?
Dr Murden said he hopes that the book will successfully grapple with the legacy of the slave trade and the troubled race relations of the 20th century. It will also discuss the complex nature of working class political activity and 'militancy' within the city.
Post-war Liverpool became a 'city of change and challenge', with declining employment in the docks and in firms processing imported raw materials. New outlying industrial communities were created, and urban renewal took place. The book will examine the over-dependence on satellite manufacturing plants in the 70s and 80s, and the public response to the rise of Militant.
Today, despite problems on some of the housing estates, the impact of prosperity is once again visible in Liverpool - in music, retailing, pubs, clubs, cinema, theatre, comedy, art and sport. All fuelled by affluence. Dr Murden said that the aim of the Liverpool 800 Project is not just to produce a definitive history, but also an accurate picture of where the city is today.