Cockroft and Rutherford: the atom-splitters. The popular story that the atom
was split in Manchester is not quite true – but it is true that much
research leading to its possibility was made here. ‘Rutherford’s room’ in
Manchester University was investigated as it was found that radioactivity
stemming from it was having harmful effects. The chapter explores the
mythical power of the word ‘atom’ in terms of Manchester’s inarguable
contributions to a new scientific Enlightenment, but does so dialectically,
using the word ‘atomised’ to refer to the ways in which the new science,
once instrumentalised, turned people and communities into particles.
Homeless gives the lie to the Manchester bee myth – a myth about solidarity
and warmth, of togetherness, of a city of benevolent left-wing radicals.
Here is Manchester, both old and new, as a radical right city: buy yourself
a new shirt, get yourself into the game, or die in a doorway.
Manchester mythology posits a city of warm, gritty, authentic and rooted
subjects. It projects an image of itself as tough but ‘homely’. Yet the
speed at which the city tears down and rebuilds presents an opposite view.
Many buildings are entirely destroyed, but the façade – the frontage – is
often left standing. These ‘fronts’ are the second Janus face of Manchester
myth. They are also ‘fronts’ as in the frontiers of revanchism, as
capitalism finds yet another space to cream surplus from – either directly
off or to the detriment of – its citizens. Here is the tragic face, the
counterpart to the garrulous myth of the swaggering, cheeky Mancunian on the
make. Here is the evidence of Manchester as a radical right city.
Exchange is a process, and it is two buildings in Manchester. These are the
Cotton Exchange building, now the Royal Exchange Theatre, and the Corn
Exchange. As well as being monuments to capitalism, the Cotton Exchange was
tied up with overseas slavery, particularly in the American South. The Corn
Exchange is associated with more localised struggles for living standards.
‘Exchange’ was a general term before Manchester capitalism, but it emerges
from the other side of nineteenth-century industrialism – which Manchester
drove – as a markedly different thing. Global, globalising and highly
divisive, this entry explores the tensions within the term ‘exchange’ in the
city of Manchester.