Liverpool, 1886: Selling the ‘City of Ships’

  • Murray Steele Independent Scholar
  • Mike Benbough-Jackson School of Humanities and Social Science, Liverpool John Moores University, UK


Purpose – This paper examines the efforts of a city to stage an international exhibition and boost its standing, while at the same time paying attention to how these efforts were received in the local, national and the international press.

Design/methodology/approach – Drawing on Lindqvist’s schematic picture of the dimensions of
exhibitions, the paper looks at the management of the exhibition, its content and responses to the event. Contemporary evidence, particularly newspapers and minutes, is used to gauge the motivations behind the occasion and the extent to which it could be deemed a success.

Findings – The paper reveals that this event, the first provincial international exhibition to be held in
England, faced particular problems related to the way in which the occasion was conceived and
marketed. Despite cross-party and regional support, the exhibition illustrates some of the often overlooked risks inherent in place promotion.

Research limitation/implications – Only one, English, exhibition is examined. Further work is needed to see whether other provincial international exhibitions were judged in a similar way.

Originality/value – Through an investigation of contemporary opinion about an international
exhibition, this paper goes some way to redress the scholarly neglect of provincial international exhibitions and the ways in which efforts at place promotion were received by contemporaries.


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