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The world's first industrial city

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.

Global threads

Twenty-four specimens of prepared staples of cottons

Through research, partnerships and consultation, we are working to reveal the links between Manchester and slavery in the museum.

Global Threads is a public history collaboration between the museum, UCL’s Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery and a team of talented young researchers. The project draws out new and previously under-represented stories related to Manchester’s cotton industry, particularly those connected to colonialism, enslavement and global movements of people and goods.

Explore the project on the Global Threads website.

Stories from our collection

Part of the Science Museum Group