Last April I wrote here about teapots, and the trade in silver between Manchester and Fes (Mancunian Silver). Since writing that piece I have learned a lot more (and already blush slightly at some of the over-simplifications and errors I made there!). I have done this partly through my own research in British sources; but largely through the contacts that people in Morocco have made with me as a result of the blog-post. I am very grateful to all those who have been in touch to say that their grandparents or great-grandparents were born or lived in Manchester; and who have supplied memories, stories, even the occasional document.
I am increasingly sure that this story is an important Anglo-Moroccan story that needs to be well told, and I plan to write and publish a book on the subject. It is a complicated sort of historical research, blending records-based work in Britain with oral history in Morocco – and I believe that the two can be used to build a full and very illuminating picture of this element of Anglo-Moroccan relations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is a beguiling mixture of family history, commercial history, design history and even at times diplomatic history.
It has already brought me into contact with many Moroccans and made me new friends here; and I am sure it will do more. This note is an appeal to Moroccans with family memories of Manchester to get in touch with me and to tell me what they know. In the absence of written records (though of course I’d love to find some of those!) it is the stories and the relationships that will make this history come alive. (How did the Manchester business pass from father to son and uncle to nephew? What were the commercial links at home in Fes and Rabat? Who married who in these great expatriate commercial dynasties?)
So if anyone reading this could pass it on to relatives and friends who have these precious Manchester memories, I would be very grateful indeed. My work as director of the British Council in Morocco is in cultural relations, and this story, hardly known and all too quickly being forgotten, is a wonderful tale of cultural relations – of shared history.