History of Liverpool as a Shipping Center
Liverpool, on the east bank of the Mersey River estuary, at the point where it merges with the Irish Sea, developed from the 17th century through the slave trade. It became Britain's leading port for ferrying Africans to North America and for handling sugar, tobacco, rum, and cotton, which began to dominate the local economy after the abolition of the slave trade in 1807.
Because of its proximity to Ireland, the city was also the first port of call for those fleeing famine, poverty, and persecution in that country. Similarly, Liverpool was often the last British port of call for thousands of mostly Jewish refugees fleeing Eastern Europe.
Many of the best-known liner companies were based in Liverpool, including Cunard and White Star, whose most famous vessel, the Titanic, was registered in Liverpool. The city was dealt an economic blow in 1894 with the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal, which allowed traders to bypass Liverpool and head to Manchester, 35 miles east. Britain's entry into the European Common Market saw more trade move from the west coast to the east, and the postwar growth of air travel diverted passengers from the sea. But as a sign of the city's revival, oceangoing liners returned to the city in 2008 after the building of a new cruise liner terminal at the Pier Head.
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