New book Northerners reveals the history you never knew about

Debut author Brian Groom is putting the north back on the nation’s map with a new book entitled Northerners A History.

In fact he is putting our often overlooked region centre stage at epoch making points in previous centuries.

The journalist and former Manchester Grammar School boy who chose to return north with his Liverpudlian wife after finishing work at the Financial Times wanted to fill what he perceived was a gap in understanding and knowledge of the north.

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His 414 page book published this week ranges from the ice age to the present day and reveals it’s certainly some gap.

Brian Groom, author of 'Northerners A History'Brian Groom, author of 'Northerners A History'
Brian Groom, author of 'Northerners A History'

Brian, 66, first had the idea of writing such a book some 10 years ago and stepped up work on it during lockdown. Of his experience investigating the broad sweep of history and how the north’s role and influence has changed repeatedly over time, he said: “It was great fun. I was absolutely history mad when I was a kid...I read English at university but I’ve come back to it as I got older. A journalist is really looking at history in real time. It’s a continuum.”

Brought up in Stretford, near Manchester, which was then part of Lancashire, he graduated from Oxford University and went into journalism, working on the Goole Times before joining the Financial Times. At one point he was editor of Scotland on Sunday.

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He said: "My wife and I had talked for years about coming back north – when I finished the time just seemed right. It was a delight to be back. I’ve never been entirely away from it really.”

Part of the front cover of Northerners A HistoryPart of the front cover of Northerners A History
Part of the front cover of Northerners A History

The book was a decade from idea to completion and gave Brian much opportunity to reflect on what it is to be northern.

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He said: “I’ve a whole chapter on rivalries between different parts of the north. People experience northerness differently in different places.”

He concludes that people identify with sub-regions and being northern “is a slightly secondary identity” to being, for example, from Merseyside or Tyneside.

He said: "Lancashire is not as in your face as Yorkshire or even Liverpool. It’s a quieter kind of identity in Lancashire but it’s certainly there. I like to think it’s quite an inclusive form of identity. Lancastrians don’t like to exclude other people from their idea of what a northerner is.”

Brian notes that in earlier centuries county area was fairly sparsely populated and a backwater. But the industrial revolution changed that. In more recent times there have been city revivals, but less prosperity for the former mill towns, mining areas and seaside towns.

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The book’s broad sweep goes from the Ice Age to the present day, reminding readers that at least six Roman emperiors ruled from York ,the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria was Europe’s leading cultural and intellectual centre and how Cartimandua, Queen of the Brigantes deserves more recognition. He illuminates the role northerners have played in music, religion, art, literature, humour, industry, sport and culture – and the role of Lancastrians in key turning points in history.

Brian will be in Chorley on October 11 for a meeting of Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society at 7.30pm at Ebb and Flo bookshop.

Northerners A History is published by HarperNorth in hardback,e-book and audio on April 14 and costs £20.

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