Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City
Location: Liverpool, United Kingdom, Europe
Theme: Cities & Towns
The historic docks and buildings of the port city of Liverpool testify to the city’s legacy as one of the world’s most important trading centers of the 18th and 19th centuries.
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Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City
The city and port of Liverpool are exceptional testimony to the development of maritime mercantile culture in the 18th and 19th centuries, and played an important role in the growth of the British Empire. Liverpool is an outstanding example of a world mercantile port city, which represents the early development of global trading and cultural connections throughout the British Empire. The city was also a major centre generating innovative technologies and methods in dock construction and port management in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Six areas in the historic centre and docklands of Liverpool bear witness to the development of one of the world's major trading centres in the 18th and 19th centuries, based on its harbour. The first ocean steamship left from Liverpool in 1840; from that date onwards the town became a fundamental link connecting Europe to America. It also became the major port for the mass movement of people: it was a centre for the slave trade until its abolition in 1807, and for emigration from northern Europe to America. Thousands of people from all over Europe gathered here to migrate to the New World.
Liverpool was a pioneer in the development of modern dock technology, transport systems and port management. The listed sites feature a great number of significant commercial, civic and public buildings, including St George's Plateau.
The view of Liverpool's waterfront was once very different from that of today. Where the world-famous riverside now stands was the tidal reach of the Mersey, merging with the Pool from which the town drew its name. The River Mersey is a tidal basin that flows into the Irish Sea and this geographical relationship was the foundation of its emergent overseas trade starting in the days of King John, who granted Liverpool its charter in 1207. The Pool was the safest mooring place for boats, and the borough council petitioned parliament to introduce legislation to build the first commercial wet dock in the world in 1715.
This development of the sea trade led inevitably to the expansion of associated trades such as sail-makers, blacksmiths, riggers and basket-makers. The growth of Liverpool continued dramatically in the 19th century: the population grew from 78,000 in 1801 to 685,000 by 1901. The borough council petitioned for Liverpool to be given city status, which it achieved in 1888, and by the early 20th century it was proclaimed the 'Second City of the Empire'.
After the First World War, Liverpool experienced economic downturn, yet the city council continued to make improvements with the construction of the East Lancashire Road and the Mersey Queensway Tunnel, which in its time was the longest underwater tunnel in the world. Liverpool was bombed more heavily in the Second World War than any other provincial city in Europe and was almost completely devastated. During the war 1,000 convoys entered Liverpool and the city was the headquarters of the battle of the Atlantic from 1941.
Post-war rebuilding took place and by the 1950s Liverpool was once again the second most important port in the empire in terms of the value of its imports and exports and the most important in terms of its passenger figures. In the late 20th century, after a prolonged period of unemployment and decline, the revival of the fortunes of the city lay in the redevelopment of its dock system. The Albert and Wapping Docks were restored as visitor attractions and a retail centre, and the installation of new dock gates at Canning facilitated the Tall Ships and Mersey River Festival in the 1980s and 1990s. It should not be forgotten also that Liverpool was the heart of a musical revolution during the 1960s.