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37. Liverpool At Work

How did Liverpool earn its living as a village, then as a town and, ultimately, as one of the greatest cities and ports in the world?

Liverpool did not come into ‘official’ existence until 1207 ~ it does not even appear in William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book of 1086.

It was King John who founded the Town, Port and Borough of Leverpul, but originally only as a point of embarkation for his fleets of warships bound for the invasions of Ireland, Wales, Scotland and the Isle of Man.

Nevertheless the Town grew; slowly at first, until after the English Civil Wars of 1642-1651. Its economy was originally built on market trade and fishing, with some shipbuilding also. But soon the value and strategic position of its safe, large, natural harbour was recognised (the ‘Pool’ after which the town was named). Now Liverpool became a cargo handling port for the coastal trade around the shores of Britain, with Ireland, and then with certain ports in Spain and France ~ when Britain was not at war with these countries of course!

By the closing decades of the 17th century, and with the discovery of the Americas and the beginnings of The British Empire, Liverpool was now itself trading around the world, and handling cargo and commodities from countries across the Seven Seas.

The handling and processing of Tobacco, Sugar and Cotton became the core of Liverpool’s economy. As did, to the Town’s shame, the Slave Trade. Liverpool became very wealthy on the backs of these trades, as well as on the movements of immigrants into Britain as well as through the country to the New World and the Empire.

Cargo handling remained the Town’s core business, whilst Liverpool also became the recognised hub for international trade. Indeed, from around 1715 and for 250 years, Liverpool was the second city of the British Empire after London.
This is the remarkable story of how Liverpool and its people made their living across the centuries, right up to the present day.


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