How does Hobsbawm's description of Manchester in the following passage illuminate Gaskell's Milton (a stand-in for Manchester) in North and South?

Whoever says Industrial Revolution says cotton. When we think of it, we see, like the contemporary foreign visitors to England, the new and revolutionary city of Manchester, which multiplied tenfold in size between 1760 and 1830 (from 17,000 to 180,000 inhabitants), where "we observe hundreds of five- and six-storied factories, each with a towering chimney by its side, which exhales black coal vapour"; which proverbially thought today what England would think tomorrow, and gave its name to the school of liberal economics that dominated the world. And there can be no doubt that this perspective is right. The British Industrial Revolution was by no means only cotton, or Lancashire, or even textiles, and cotton lost its primacy within it after a couple of generations. Yet cotton was the pacemaker of industrial change, and the basis of the first regions which could bot have existed but for industrialization, and which expressed a new firm of society, industrial capitalism, based on a new form of production, the "factory." Other towns were smoky and filled with steam-engines in 1830, though not to anything like the same extent as the cotton towns — in 1838 Manchester and Salford possessed almost three times as much steampower as Birmingham — but they were not towns dominated by factories until the second half of the century, if then. [34].

After reading this historian's claim that Manchester was the revolutionary city of early Victorian England, what can you conclude about Gaskell's decision to move the Hale's from Southern England to Milton/Manchester?


Hobsbawm, Eric. Industry and Empire: The Birth of the Industrial Revolution. rev. ed. New York: New Press, 1999.

Last modified 27 March 2001