Manchester was the world's first industrial city. From its towering mills, bustling warehouses and crowded streets came new ways to live, work and think, which transformed lives in Manchester and across the world.
In the early 19th century, the extraordinary growth of Manchester's cotton industry drove the town's expansion and put it at the heart of a global network of manufacturing and trade. Innovation and profits went hand in hand with inequality and exploitation, locally and globally, in Manchester’s textile mills and on plantations where millions of enslaved people were forced to grow the cotton that supplied them.
With textiles the driving force, Manchester emerged as a complex industrial city, producing goods of every description.
Explore objects and stories from our collection to discover how Manchester's industrial transformation helped shape life as we know it.