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BOOK

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REVIEW

Liverpool 800: Culture, Character and History Edited by John Belchem.Liverpool University Press, 2006

The last time Liverpool had the chance to publish a centenary book such as Liverpool 800:

Culture, Character and History, the city was entering the early stages of its decline. In 1907 the Empire was beginning to crack and Liverpool's major moneymaker, slavery, had long been abolished. Fast-forward 100 years and the city is on the up.

Thanks to landing the cashrich prize of Europe's Capital of Culture 2008, vast swathes of development are once again in prospect.

A perfect opportunity, then, for Liverpool 800 to highlight the city's built heritage that helped it get the nod ahead of its rivals. A chance to show it was more than deprivation and the Beatles that forced the judges' hands. But although Belchem avoids boiling Liverpool down to simply football, the Fab Four and a couple of cathedrals, he fails to capture Liverpool's impressive built landscape.

The city boasts one of the highest numbers of listed buildings outside of London, but you wouldn't know it from this book. This is not to say that it is poorly illustrated - but there's a distinct lack of images of what Liverpool offers architecturally. Admittedly it's a history rather than an architectural study, but if Bath, Glasgow or Edinburgh produced similar books would their architecture be similarly overlooked? Liverpool 800 had a rare chance to showcase the buildings that symbolised and shaped Liverpool as it is today, but sadly it's a missed opportunity.

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