About North and South

Forced to up sticks from her home in the country, Margaret Hale moves up north with her parents. Here she clashes with John Thornton, a self-made man and mill owner and his treatment of his workforce. Find out more about the novel...

Richard Armitage as John Thornton

Richard Armitage as John Thornton

The write stuff

North and South was written by Margaret Gaskell and was her fourth novel, following Mary Barton, Wives and Daughters and Cranford. Margaret lived in Manchester, the wife of Unitarian Pastor and saw first-hand the effect the cotton trade on the poor and women.

The Industrial novel

North and South is described as an example of The Industrial novel, in that it deals with the industrial revolution and the relationship between worker and employer.

From Cottonopolis to Milton

Gaskell drew her inspiration for the fictional town of Milton from Manchester, where she lived. It was nicknamed Cottonopolis during the 19th Century as it was the international centre for the cotton and the textile trade.

Hard Times

The novel was published in twenty parts in Household Words (September 1854 to January 1855). Household Words was edited by a certain Charles Dickens. His Hard Times was published in the same journal at roughly the same time, which hampered Gaskell’s writing process. It too was set in Industrial Manchester so she had to ascertain that the two novels didn’t overlap.

What the Dickens

The book was first published as a novel in 1855 with chapters added and passages deleted. This, Gaskell claimed, was to overcome the shortcomings of the serialised format, but many see this as a response to her not being happy with Dicken’s editorship, which saw her work cut from 22 to 20 chapters.