20 SEPTEMBER 1940, Page 18

History of a Great City

THE third volume of Dr. Redford's book—prepared to com- memorate the centenary of Manchester's incorporation as a borough in 1838—completes a considerable achievement of historical scholarship. It largely removes the reproach that Manchester, almost alone among the great cities, has lacked a full-length local history. In this third volume, which covers the last half century, the emphasis is more concentrated than in the earlier volumes on local government proper and (a defect) on the doings of the City Council. Probably the weight of material was becoming unmanageable, but the meagre attention given to other local organs such as the School Board and the Boards of Guardians makes the picture less complete than it should have been. The method of treatment is also rather narrow; almost the only authorities quoted are the Council Proceedings and the Epitome of Committee Minutes. We hear little of the outside currents of opinion by which local affairs were influenced and virtually nothing of conflicts of party within the Council. This is not to say, however, that because it is an official history it is an essay in whitewash. Its objectivity is greatly to be commended ; municipal scandals, of which Manchester had a good number in the 'eighties and 'nineties, and administrative blunders are not glossed over. This careful and candid analysis of the operations of a great municipality over the last fifty years, though often dull reading, has value and authority as a case-book in the history of public administration. We see, for example, the slow progress towards the building up of a municipal civil service, the fumbling efforts towards regional organs of government (in which Man- chester, though the natural head of a metropolitan area, has been extremely backward), the belated introduction of "planning,' and central control of municipal expenditure and projects ; whik. on the credit side, we see an exhibition of real foresight and imagination in the creation of the satellite town of Wythenshaue —Manchester's most distinct contribution to social betterment in the whole of its century as an incorporated borough.

A. P. WADswonit.