Glasgow grew up around the cathedral founded by St Mungo in the 6th century, and in 1451 the city became the site of the University of Glasgow, the second university to be founded in Scotland after St Andrews.
In the 18th century much of the tobacco trade between Europe and the USA was routed through Glasgow and provided a great source of wealth. Even after the tobacco trade declined in the 19th century, the city continued to prosper as a centre of textile manufacturing, shipbuilding, and the coal and steel industries.
The industries created a huge demand for labour, and peasants poured in from Ireland and the Highlands to crowd the tenements. The outward appearance of prosperity, however, was tempered by dire working conditions in the factories, particularly for women and children. In the second half of the 19th century, life expectancy was only 30 years.
While the workers suffered, the textile barons and shipping magnates prospered, and Glasgow could justifiably call itself the second city of the empire. In the first half of the 20th century, Glasgow was the centre of Britain’s munitions industry, supplying arms and ships for the two world wars. After those boom years, however, the port and heavy industries began to decline, and by the early 1970s the city looked doomed. Glasgow has always been proud of its predominantly working-class nature but, unlike middle-class Edinburgh with its varied service industries, it had few alternatives when recession hit and unemployment spiralled.
In the late 20th and early 21st centuries there has been increasing confidence in the city as it determinedly sets about an enormous campaign of regeneration. Glasgow won the 1990 European City of Culture award, and followed this up by serving as the UK’s City of Architecture & Design in 1999. But, behind all the optimism, the general standard of living remains relatively low, and life is tough for those affected by the comparatively high unemployment and inadequate housing