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Liverpool literature

6390 Views 85 Replies 19 Participants Last post by  Paul D
Dave posting up those chapters from 'Portrait of Liverpool' reminded me that there are a huge number of books about Liverpool that are fantstic, some quite new and still available, but also other, older ones which no longer see the light of day. Use this thread to let us know your favourites, especially some of the older and extremely rare and/or out of print.

A few that immediately spring to mind are

'Seaport' by Quentin Hughes
'Liverpool, City of Architecture' by QH too

'Sailortown' by Stan Hugill

'MyLiverpool' by Frank Shaw

There is also a book called 'Liverpool 1907' ... can't remember the author right now and it not the greatest read in truth, what makes it fascinating is the description of a global metropolis at it's peak... and the assumption that this would continue, and grow... and that Liverpool would crack its own problems! (Actually, writing this reminds me of another one from the late 60s that ended in a similar vein... i.e. that Liverpool had sorted it's huge historic problems of housing provision and regular blue collar (those branch plants) "and as we move into the exciting 1970s', everything about the next 50 years would surely see the city back on it's international pedistal"... no chrystal ball there then? I will try to dig out the details on that one too.)

There are some great books about Liverpool, Dave has some of them on his site... so check it out!
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Great thread Tony :cheers:
Funny you should mention QH. Bought his Seaport (Hardback) book on Ebay last night. I think you know this already Tony, but your mate Mike Kelly (another top man!) was aquainted with Quentin Hughes. We had a good chat about Quentin's WW2 escapades in the Athenaeum library last year :cheers:
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Dave Williams is the most voracious purchaser of Liverpool books on Ebay. Everytime I do a search for a book, the bugger has bought it already! :bash:

Where are you Mr Williams????
Share your knowledge Mr Williams!

Nice one Dave. Mike is a great fellow and we will have to be sure to put up some of his books. Two that come to mind (though I can't remember the titles right now) are the one on Kitty Wilkinson and one on the Irish in-migrations.

He has also done a lot about Dandy Pat.. an excellent example of Liverpool's fascinating and bizarre (though totally local) political story!

We should also explore this idea we batte about the other month about some on here doing a book on 'Lost Liverpool'... we could add it to this thread then!
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scouserdave said:
Great thread Tony :cheers:
Funny you should mention QH. Bought his Seaport (Hardback) book on Ebay last night. I think you know this already Tony, but your mate Mike Kelly (another top man!) was aquainted with Quentin Hughes. We had a good chat about Quentin's WW2 escapades in the Athenaeum library last year :cheers:
Dave,Tony or anyone else out there.

On page 60 of this fascinating book it says that 'Brunswick Buildings' was the first known Modern Office Block,designed solely to house the offices of a buisiness firm and devoid of warehousing or factory space.
It doesn't say if this was in the world or just the U.K.

However on page 42 it says that this was one of the earliest English buildings to be designed exclusively for this purpose.

No source is given in the book for any of this information and a search of google has so far been unfruitfull.

Anyone have any further info on this as it has puzzled me for some time.
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Only that it has been demolished. I am talking to Peter Elson today about his walk, he should know something!

Will post anything I discover

There is also a great book published by the council in the 60s' called

'Liverpool Builds' (LCC)

about all the great developments that where going to turn the city into an urban nirvana.. the flats in netherley and the piggeriers, the walkways in the sky.. all the original plans for Albert Dock and the area now being developed by Grosvenor etc. Martin may know more about this and other planning publications... we'll find out when he reads this thread.

There was also a chapter on the history or corporation housing and stuff... interesting.
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Thanks for that Tony.
I must admit I didn't realise it had been demolished.
Kung, it's mentioned on this "Did you know?" page. That's all I can find.
Searching for this book for ages. Finally tracked one down from a US bookseller a couple of years ago. I think we discussed James Carling last year. Never heard of the guy until I read Mike Kelly's page

A few pics from the book:

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scouserdave said:
Where are you Mr Williams????
Where am I? Banned that's where!

There is a great book called
'Passage to America' by Terry Coleman

Though not actually about Liverpool as such (it is about emigration from England and Ireland), it may as well be!

Actually, you don't see
'It all came tumbling down' by er, thingy!

in the local shops any more.. that was a good book as it was the first of its type.
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I like reading the three books by Andie Clerk about his time as a street Arab during the early 1900's.


My uncle's an author,he mainly writes about animal law and ethics and lectures around all the top universities in Britain,but he has written a novel called "the gods that were" it's about Drumintee South Armagh where some of my Irish family live to this day. :)

Here's a synopsis of one of his books.
"Ethics, Animals and Science" provides an introduction to ethics, aimed especially at those who work with animals in a scientific setting. Following an introduction to ethics in general, the book goes on to concentrate on the ethical issues which are closely associated with the most commonly occurring topics in debates on the use of animals in research. An attempt is made to find common premises for discussions which in the past have often proved to be mere dialogues of the deaf.
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Here's three books which really opened my eyes to the culture and history of Liverpool. I would recommend them all.

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Waterfront said:
Here's three books which really opened my eyes to the culture and history of Liverpool. I would recommend them all.

The slummy one is good. The Irish music one? Never heard Irish music in Liverpool at all. The odd folk music in the odd pub that was about it. Folk music is not an integrated part of modern Liverpool culture despite myths that it was - Spinners and all that.

The sectarian and the Slummy book are more to do with working class culture. Liverpool was more than just Orange Lodge and Dockers.
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YOu could have taken the price tag off the Liverpool slummy before you scanned it waterfront!

They are all excellent books. Another one, a rather strange one, is Merseyprise. It is strange as it is dry as **** and a slow read but at the same time contains utterly fascinating stuff.. well worth buying and wading through. Can't remember the author right now either....!

'Liverpool' by Paul Dunoyer (?) too!
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Never heard of Merseyprise Tony. Liverpool Wondrous Place is a fantastic book. It's not just about music, it's about the life and soul of Liverpool and it's people. Sorry, a bit cliched :)

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^^Merseypride: Essays in Liverpool Exceptionalism, by John Belchem, professor of history at Liverpool University. It's a collection of essays on Liverpool's (mostly C19th) history and, I expect, these essays were journal papers originally.

It's worth a read and can be bought at it's publisher's (L'pool Uni Press) website. As Tony says, its essays are dense and academic treatment of Liverpool's history. Not easy reading.

Edit: a quick scope of the Liverpool uni press website indicates that a second edition of this book has just been released (

With a new introduction that takes account of the extraordinary renaissance that Liverpool is currently enjoying, the second edition of this collection by one of the leading scholars of the city’s history offers a timely and perceptive examination of the origins and persistence of Liverpool’s exceptionalism.​

Professor Belchem is the editor of the upcoming Liverpool 800: Culture, Character & History, a new collection of chapters written by Liverpool University historians on the city's history and culture. The book will be out in September this year. The book is scheduled coincide with the 800th anniversary of Liverpool's charter from King John and the idea of a book to mark this was inspired by another Liverpool University professor, Ramsay Muir's "History of Liverpool", which was commissioned to mark Liverpool's 700th birthday.

I'm a little bit disappointed that Belchem didn't attempt a single-authored history of the city, in the manner of Muir or the earlier Picton, as this is what I thought this project was to be about when I first heard of it. Multi-authored books can sometimes fail to hand together. Still no one person could perhaps cover all this book tries to and Belchem should do a good job in editing the work together.

And Liverpool: Wondrous Place by Paul Du Noyer is the other book Tony has mentioned - a history of Liverpool's pop music scene from the end of the 50s onwards. Not a bad book either.

A more accessible and succinct distillation of Liverpool's history and what makes the place unique can be found in Liverpool: City of the Sea (also Liv Uni Press) by Tony Lane, a former sociology lecturer (and merchant seaman before that!) at Liverpool JMU. Lane's take on the "Liverpool character" is interesting. The typically Liverpudlian (at the risk of stereotyping) character - egalitarian, disliking of snobbism, heirarchies and pretension, a spendthrift attitude to money and hedonistic attitude to life - a collection of characteristics often described as being owed to Liverpool's Irish heritage is explained by Lane as being typical of seamen. A massive proportion of Liverpool's working class were or had been at some part of their lives sailors and this affected the character of the time.

Lane's description of Liverpool is very partial - he is clearly in love with the city, and (as a south Walian protestant, perhaps?) he seems to be at pains to downplay the Irish Catholic aspects to Liverpool's history - but its a decent enough and informative read.

I've mentioned this book before, but Liverpool 8, by John Cornelius (another LUP book!) is worth an afternoon of anyone's time - it's a slim volume of recollections of living an impoverished and bohemian life in Toxteth during the 70s. Very funny in parts.

Last one, I've just finished the Independent journalist, Charles Nevin's "Lancashire: where women die of Love", a humorous but knowedgable Bill Bryson-ish book on what makes the old county Palantine (including Liverpool and Manchester) unique and different from the rest of the country. The chapter on Liverpool is perfectly acceptable. Nevin, who was born in StHelens and spent some time working for the LDP&E seems to "get" the city and his description of it is affectionate and, I expect, eye opening for those with a prejudice against the city, as he admits himself.

Cilla Black in panto at the Empire: "How shall be kill the big, nasty giant, children?"

Audience: "Sing to 'im, Cilla!"

Also in Nevin's book is a whole chapter on Southport, and, in particular, the late Quentin Hughes' mischievious theory that Hausmann's grand plan for Paris and the French capital's grand boulevards were inspired by Southport. The later Emperor Louis Napolean, who commissioned the great reworking of central Paris, may (may!) have stayed in Southport as a young man. Therefore, although Souey has been described for many years as the "Paris of the North", actually Paris would be more accurately be described as "the Southport of the South"! There's a funny section in the book where Nevin stops Parisians in the street and informs them of this eye-opening revelation, expecting to be met with snorts of derision, but is pleasantly surprised by the Frenchies' agreeable reactions of "Well, why not?"
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Bloody hell... fancy forgetting City of the Sea!

That is a brilliant point. One nice brag of mine I could have nearly had was that I spoke to Tony Lane a few years ago. I mentioned that the only criticism of the book I could make was its title (then called Liverpool, Gateway to Empire) and that as Liverpool was the gateway to the whole world he shold consider changing it....

After laughing his head off, he said he had already beaten me to that idea and the secon edition was called we all now know!

I think Paul Du Noyer runs out of steam as he gets to the more current scene... only to be expected of a now 'older person' purely observing, rather than living or having direct reference to... previous movements in the city... great book none the less!

As Awayo says, the merseypride book is well worth getting hold of and wading through.

There where millions of exceptional books about Liverpool in the 19thC(I mean actually written in 19thC... current to the times they where experiencing and writing about.. the main impression being that there was no thoght other than Liverpool would continue to rival London and NYC i the commerce stakes)... any bookworms out there who could remind us of a few?
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