The best books of Liverpool and Merseyside history

Who am I?

I am a Fellow of Liverpool Hope University, and of the Royal Society of Arts, and have a lifetime of experience in leading and teaching in all professional sectors. I have written 18 books on the history of Liverpool and its City Region, and am currently writing two more, for publication in 2022. I have also produced a series of TV documentaries and a set of audio CDs. However, my second qualification is that I am a Liverpudlian born and bred, and I am deeply proud of both of these facts. I love my city and its people (and its unique history and heritage) with genuine passion but no illusions, and I take the greatest pleasure in sharing this with as many people as possible in every medium available to me.


I wrote...

Liverpool: The Rise, Fall and Renaissance of a World Class City

By Ken Pye,

Book cover of Liverpool: The Rise, Fall and Renaissance of a World Class City

What is my book about?

This tells the complete story of Liverpool ‘from the Dinosaurs to Liverpool Waters’. Ken describes how the originally tiny hamlet, on the banks of the ancient Pool, went on to be the home of the world’s first wet dock, canals, railways, and scheduled transatlantic liners ~ as well as much, much more!

It tells how the Medieval town grew to become the social and commercial ‘crossroads of the world’ and how it took its place as the second port and city in the British Empire. The story continues through the centuries to World War Two and finally with the modern rebirth of Liverpool, and the triumphant success as a European Capital of Culture and a World Heritage City and Port. 

The books I picked & why

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Liverpool

By George Chandler,

Book cover of Liverpool

Why this book?

Published originally in 1957, this is a definitive history of the Town and later City of Liverpool. It gives a detailed overview of the many facets of Liverpool’s history, in a well-researched, fully referenced, and eminently readable form. It gives details that cannot be found in other publications, and provides the researcher, historian, or simply interested reader an exciting and informative insight into the place and its people.

I love this book because George Chandler loved and cared for the City, and yet was an unbiased observer. He writes with clarity and detail that is informed and driven by that love, and it is a joy to read. It is also well illustrated with many unique images, maps, and sketches.


The Gangs of Liverpool: From the Cornermen to the High Rip - The Mobs That Terrorised a City

By Michael Macilwee,

Book cover of The Gangs of Liverpool: From the Cornermen to the High Rip - The Mobs That Terrorised a City

Why this book?

Liverpool in the 19th century was actually two cities; one of fabulous wealth (a powerful minority of the population) and the other of grinding poverty and deprivation (the majority of the population). This divide, and the dreadful living and health conditions of the poorer and working classes led to a great deal of crime, often carried out by violent gangs of mostly young men.

This book tells the stories of how this came about, and of the gangs and their members. It pulls no punches, and paints a picture of the dark underbelly of what was then ‘The Second City of The British Empire’ that people often choose to ignore. I love this book for all these reasons!


Liverpool: City of Architecture

By Quentin Hughes,

Book cover of Liverpool: City of Architecture

Why this book?

Liverpool’s Architecture represents all schools, styles, and tastes, and this book captures exactly that using glorious colour plates for each of the 226 buildings in the book. Each image is supported by a readable but detailed write-up on the history of the building, and an analysis of its style and composition. It also talks about the respective architects, and gives dates and other statistical information where appropriate.

I love this book because it is a tour-de-force by a respected historian and architect who loved his work, and who loved his city. This shows in the book.


The Illustrated History of Liverpool's Suburbs

By David Lewis,

Book cover of The Illustrated History of Liverpool's Suburbs

Why this book?

It is easy to look at the history of the City of Liverpool and forget that the original town was comparatively tiny, consisting of only seven streets. The modern city is the sum of many parts ~ each of these originally townships or villages in their own right, surrounding the emerging town. As Liverpool grew in size and population it swallowed up these places, and they became the suburbs of Liverpool. This book tells brief histories of many of these and puts them all in context with their dominating conurbation.

I love this book because it is not only fascinating and informative, but it is fun. Its pictures bring the text to life.


In the Footsteps of Peter Ellis: Architect of Oriel Chambers and 16 Cook Street, Liverpool

By Robert Ainsworth, Graham Jones,

Book cover of In the Footsteps of Peter Ellis: Architect of Oriel Chambers and 16 Cook Street, Liverpool

Why this book?

Beautifully and fully illustrated with photographs, sketches, charts, and maps, this tells the triumphant yet tragic tale of a genuine unsung hero of Liverpool and British architecture. Ellis was a many genuinely ahead of his time who built the first building with a steel frame and skeleton, encased in stone cladding. This enabled the creation of the first ‘skyscrapers. His work inspired this major development in building construction, yet he was scorned, castigated, and drummed out of his profession by fellow architects.

I love this book because it tells Ellis’s story fully, and celebrates his work, skill, craftsmanship, and inspiration.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Liverpool, World War 1, and Europe?

5,810 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Liverpool, World War 1, and Europe.

Liverpool Explore 14 books about Liverpool
World War 1 Explore 497 books about World War 1
Europe Explore 487 books about Europe

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Masterpieces of Murder, Far from the Tree, and Weaveworld if you like this list.