Is it absurd to compare the Mersey with the Nile, or Stockport Viaduct with the Pyramids of Giza? Perhaps it is. Yet the pyramids are the remains of a dead civilisation which became a historical backwater. The industrial civilisation which started on the Mersey’s banks changed the world physically, culturally and musically – and in India and China it is still doing so today. Mersey: The river that changed the world, published by Liverpool’s Bluecoat Press to mark Capital of Culture 2008, was a richly illustrated book that explored these connections through a series of specially commissioned essays from writers, journalists and experts in fields as diverse as archaeology, history, music, wildlife and architecture. In this chapter Ian Wray introduces the book, and highlights some of the key themes.