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.
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.