Why the Industrial Revolution Happened Here


Why the Industrial Revolution Happened Here

Professor Jeremy Black explains the unique economic, social and political factors that helped Britain transform itself almost entirely by the 19th century.


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In the 150 years from the beginning of the 18th Century,

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a revolution transformed the way we think...

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..work...

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..and play, forever.

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This was the Industrial Revolution.

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And it started here, in Britain.

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Until then, most people lived as they had done for generations,

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an agricultural existence - defined by the harvests

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and the seasons, and ruled by a small political and social elite.

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But as the 18th Century progressed, an unprecedented explosion

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of new ideas and new technological inventions transformed our use

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of energy, creating an increasingly industrial and urbanised country.

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Hundreds of thousands of miles of roads,

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railways and canals were built.

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The tunnel is four times longer than the longest tunnel

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built anywhere in the world.

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Great cities appeared, and scores of factories and mills sprang up.

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Our landscape would never be the same again.

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Soho was one of the very, very first factories in the world.

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It certainly was the making of the modern world.

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Together, they made Britain the wealthiest and most powerful

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nation on Earth, ruler of the largest empire in history.

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The 18th Century was absolutely crucial to the history

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of Britain and the history of the entire world.

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The transformation set in motion there

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helped to make the world in which we all live today.

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And I want to ask two fascinating questions.

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Why did the Industrial Revolution happen?

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And why did it happen in 18th-Century Britain?

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I've spent 30 years studying the Industrial Revolution

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and its impact on the world around us,

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and I think, remarkably, that the key that helps explain

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this extraordinary period is to be found on these windswept shores.

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Look at this, this is a really impressive piece,

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massive piece of sea coal

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from the beach at Seaton Carew, in the North East of England.

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And that comes from the North Sea out there,

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from the seams at the bottom.

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Britain is very, very fortunate - much of it is on top of this stuff,

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and the seams of it are very close

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to the surface and easily worked.

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Thanks to that, coal kick-started a revolution in 18th-Century Britain,

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a revolution that transformed not only the country,

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but the world itself.

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Until then, wood had been the main source of energy in Britain.

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It supplied the fuel for homes and small industries.

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But as the population grew, so did the demand for timber.

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As forests were cut down,

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wood had to be carried further to reach the towns.

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It was bulky, difficult to transport, and therefore expensive.

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Britain needed a new source of fuel - coal.

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It increasingly became clear that coal was a much more potent

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form of power, providing up to three times more energy than wood.

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For the first time in human history, we began to harness

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the planet's mineral wealth for fuel and power on a massive scale.

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In Britain, coal was abundant and easily mined.

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It was expensive for other European countries

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to transport their supplies of coal to market -

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carrying it ten miles overland from the pithead doubled the cost.

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Whereas here, the mines were near the sea, so ships could carry

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coal cheaply to the most important market - London.

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The demand for coal led to deeper and deeper mines being dug,

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but the problem was that the deeper you went,

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the more likely it was that the mines would flood.

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As a result, in order to exploit this wonder fuel, it was necessary

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to find a way to pump water out of the mines.

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Now, initially, people used horse-driven pumps, like this one,

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and it's pretty good for getting water out

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to a depth of about 90 feet.

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But that still left a lot of coal lower down.

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Whoever could produce an effective way to extract this coal

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was going to make a lot of money.

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The profit motive drove the Industrial Revolution.

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It motivated practical men, like Devon ironmonger Thomas Newcomen,

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to try to solve the problem of flooding mines.

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In 1712, he designed an engine which could harness

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the power of coal, to make steam and drive a water pump.

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And this is it -

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the world's first commercially successful steam engine.

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It did the work of 20 horses

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and pumped water from hundreds of feet below the ground,

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making it both possible and economically viable

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to mine from greater depths.

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But his machine burnt tonnes of coal,

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so its location was limited to pitheads, where coal was virtually free.

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The machine itself was highly inefficient.

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But it made it possible to unlock the great potential of coal.

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The consequences of this were extraordinary.

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Britain now had seemly inexhaustible quantities of cheap energy.

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But Britain's industrial growth didn't just depend on its geology.

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Coal, after all, had been around for millions of years

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without sparking the Industrial Revolution.

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What else accounts for Britain's great transformation?

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Part of the reason that Newcomen was able to develop his invention

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was because of the intellectual climate in Britain in this period.

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There was a prolific exchange of scientific and technological ideas

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that contrasted markedly with the situation across most of Europe.

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In Britain, scientific ideas didn't suffer censorship

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by Church or State, as happened in many European countries.

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Over the previous 100 years, a cascade of scientific breakthroughs

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had swept across the country.

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Sir Isaac Newton was able to explain the force of gravity

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for the first time.

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While Robert Boyle showed that air and gas had physical properties.

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The established Christian view of a world ordained by God

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was now challenged by one which conformed

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to scientifically proven principles of nature.

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An explanation of the world which prized evidence above dogma.

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This was known as the Age of Reason.

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Travelling lecturers fed

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a thirst for scientific knowledge.

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You can see that in this painting,

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one of my favourites. It's by Joseph Wright,

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of Derby, it's 1766,

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and what it shows is a small group,

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including these children,

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with this wonderful lighting of these wrapt faces,

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looking at an orrery - this device,

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which shows you how the solar system works,

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and it's really quite wonderful.

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You've got innocence,

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you've got enthusiasm,

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and you've got

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a society that is confident

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in its understanding of the world.

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And indeed, 15 years later,

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William Herschel, a British-based astronomer,

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discovered Uranus,

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the first planet to be discovered

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since classical antiquity.

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And this helped to make the British feel that they

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were at the cutting edge of knowledge.

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Now there emerged a growing movement of people trying to find

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a practical application for these new discoveries.

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Running in parallel with this extraordinary increase

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in the understanding of the world around us

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came a new development - the idea of practical knowledge.

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In this, men of action and men of ideas came together

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in what was to be called the Industrial Enlightenment.

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Across the country, from the prestigious

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Royal Society in London, and in countless provincial coffee houses,

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industrialists and scientists, often from very different backgrounds,

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met to share their ideas and observations.

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They unleashed a wave of free thinking and creativity.

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In the West Midlands,

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the Lunar Society was set up in the 1760s,

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so named because its members met at full moon,

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which lit their way home, in an era before street lamps.

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One member, Erasmus Darwin,

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a doctor from Lichfield,

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and the grandfather of Charles Darwin,

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was amazingly prolific in his intellectual explorations.

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In this letter, he suggests a way to measure the volume of air

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a person could breathe, using an animal's bladder.

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He also drew up plans for an advanced multi-mirrored telescope,

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and even a flushing lavatory.

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Most importantly, Erasmus Darwin was aware of the Newcomen steam engine.

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And he was fascinated with the transformative potential

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of steam power. Here in his sketch book,

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he outlined machinery that could be created with steam.

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And the one that really fascinates me is this one,

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the steam chariot, which was the precursor of

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the steam-powered road vehicles of the 19th Century.

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And on the other page, we have a steam-powered rotary wheel,

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designed to drive pieces of machinery.

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Groups such as the Lunar Society allowed these creative men

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the intellectual freedom to think the unthinkable

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and to come up with astonishing new ideas and inventions.

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A leading member was Matthew Boulton,

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the son of a small-time buckle maker.

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Marriage into the local gentry brought money

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and that enabled him to invest in building up his industrial holding,

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and also into ownership of a fine house, Soho House.

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It was here that he met James Watt, a self-taught scientist

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from the west of Scotland. And the exchange of finance

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and ideas between the two men was to help transform

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the Industrial Revolution.

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Behind the house in Birmingham, Boulton had set up a workshop,

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called the Soho Manufactury, to make small metal goods.

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Initially, he powered it with water from nearby Hockley Brook.

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But in 1766, a drought stopped the water wheel

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and production ground to a halt.

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Boulton realised that if a source of cheap,

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reliable energy could be harnessed, it would free production

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from the vagaries of the climate, and his profits would increase.

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So he decided to investigate switching to steam.

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As a result, his friendship with James Watt became crucial.

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Watt wasn't just interested in the science,

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he was also concerned with the practical application of knowledge.

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And you can see this in his drawing here of his so-called kettle tests.

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In these, he set out to try and understand

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the mechanics of steam power.

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And the reason for his interest is that Watt was determined

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to make the most efficient steam engine yet produced.

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Five years before he met Boulton, Watt had been given

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a model of the Newcomen steam engine to repair.

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He soon realised that if the engine could be made more efficient,

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then its use would no longer be restricted to the coal mines,

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with their huge reserves of cheap fuel.

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After much experimentation, Watt came up with a new design

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which he thought would revolutionise the supply of power to industry.

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But he had neither the money nor the engineering expertise to build it.

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However, in 1767, he visited Birmingham, home to several

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small metal workshops like Boulton's, and therefore,

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with a highly-skilled workforce capable of realising his designs.

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'Jim Andrew has spent his career studying

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'the engineering genius of James Watt.'

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Was Birmingham good for him, good for the steam engine?

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Very good. Because they got a lot of oomph, they got up

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and got on with things. That was the first point.

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Secondly, they had skilled men, who were used to being

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fairly flexible in what they would tackle,

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So in this case, right from the start, they were producing

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small, accurate components

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and that had to be made accurately, otherwise,

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the great advantage that James Watt was looking for wouldn't happen.

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And he felt that if he came to Birmingham, Mr Boulton

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would push him on with the engine to get it into production.

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As a result, within a few years, the Soho Manufactory

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built Watt's expansive steam engine.

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It produced the same amount of power as the Newcomen engine,

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but on a quarter of the fuel.

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The Watt-Boulton team didn't stop there,

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they continued to make incremental improvements to their engine.

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Within three years, they had designed the Smethwick canal pump.

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The great improvement with this engine was the steam emission valve.

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They introduced that to reduce the waste of steam

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by running steam into the engine for too long in the stroke.

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You only wanted enough steam to make the complete stroke

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and not to have steam left over at the end.

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Initially, it produced an 18% improvement in efficiency

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and proved what could be achieved.

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From then on, manufacturing was released from the constraints

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of natural power.

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Soho became the first steam-powered manufacturing plant in the world.

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It was a new kind of work place.

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No longer were men, women and children

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producing goods piecemeal in their homes.

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From now on, they toiled on production lines

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in great cathedrals of labour.

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The lives of workers were transformed for generations to come.

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'Sally Hoban is a historian of the City of Birmingham.'

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I've got here a painting

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of the manufactory works at Soho. Would you describe this

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-as one of the first factories?

-Absolutely. It's a large building,

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it would have been a hive of enterprise,

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thousands of workers, men, women and children, working in all those

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different rooms in the factory. And if you can imagine

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the noise and the industry, very much like you can hear

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in the background here, it must have been a fantastic place.

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This was world famous, and when visiting dignitaries in the late-18th Century

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came to England, they would stop off in Birmingham

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to see Mathew Boulton's marvellous manufactory. It was that famous.

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I would definitely say that Soho was

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one of the very, very first factories in the world.

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We take the factory for granted, but it actually starts

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-in a specific place and a specific period.

-It does.

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-Making of the modern world.

-The making of the modern world.

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Now the great and the good made enlightenment tours.

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Not just to London, Paris and Rome,

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but also to Birmingham.

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They came to see and learn how the town's entrepreneurs

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were producing a wider range of goods,

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more cheaply than ever before.

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Mr Harvey sold the finest swords.

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Mr Harris boasted of telescopal, or portable toasting forks.

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And Mr Betts offered saws of every description.

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Also on offer were coach harnesses.

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And weighing machines.

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"Manufactured in the first style, in the best materials,

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"on the most approved principle."

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The famous Mr Taylor

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was using the latest steam-powered machinery to manufacture

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tortoiseshell and mother-of-pearl buttons for the leaders of society.

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The production of countless thousands of these small items,

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hammered out in the workshops of the Midlands,

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was at the heart of the Industrial Revolution.

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Of all the treasures manufactured here, it's these delicate

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little objects which really capture my imagination.

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In the late-18th Century,

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Birmingham was most noted for objects such as this,

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that we call Birmingham toys. By that, we don't mean

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the cuddly variety, we mean articles, usually made of metal,

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used for personal adornment, so to be carried about the person.

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So here, we have a snuff box, a Birmingham snuff box.

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And how it works - you would open it up

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and then you would offer the snuff to somebody to take.

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However, this is a clever one,

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because it also has a secret compartment.

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So if you really liked the person you were talking to,

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you could give them a lot more of your snuff.

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So these are called misers' snuff boxes.

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I'll show you this next, this is very exciting.

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This is absolutely exquisite, this little fish here.

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See his reticulated tail? It's really rather wonderful.

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So what this is, it's called a vinaigrette.

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And how it works, if you were an 18th-Century gentleman

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like Matthew Boulton, and you were at a business dinner,

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or doing some business outside the home, and you were sitting next to

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somebody that perhaps didn't smell very nice...

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Oh, right, didn't clean their teeth.

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Didn't really clean in the 18th Century.

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..you'd pull this out of your pocket and, when they weren't looking,

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open up the top. Can you see there's a perforated

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-layer in there?

-Oh, yes.

-Inside there would have been

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some sponge soaked in orange oil, so you could very carefully...

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have a little sniff and then quickly put the top back on

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and back in your pocket before they noticed.

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And literally, thousands and thousands of those were made.

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In the century from 1700,

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Birmingham went from being a small metal-working town of 7,000 people

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to a city nine times the size,

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the third largest in the kingdom, after London and Bristol.

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And all this was down to the exchange of ideas,

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revolutionary new technology, and the successful harnessing

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of energy epitomised by the story of James Watt and Matthew Boulton.

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Watt and his team in the West Midlands didn't just

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improve the efficiency of the steam engine and pat themselves on the back.

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Instead, they continued to search for design improvements.

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This quest for improvement was

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a characteristic of the British Industrial Revolution, leading,

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in the 19th Century, to railways, steam ships and the world of factories.

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The Industrial Revolution was well under way in Britain.

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It's remarkable to consider that just over 100 years

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before Watt's great invention, Britain was devastated

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by civil wars, as men fought to free themselves from an absolute monarch.

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The execution of Charles I, and the later regime change

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known as the Glorious Revolution, created a liberal economic

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and political climate.

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By the 18th Century, the British Parliament had won much greater

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independence from its monarch than in any other European great power.

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And this political liberty paved the way for the Industrial Revolution.

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Britain was a parliamentary monarchy.

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That meant that it was Parliament that passed the laws

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and Parliament that controlled expenditure.

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This helped to ensure political stability,

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political stability in which the rule of law was fundamental.

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And that encouraged the pursuit of scientific breakthroughs,

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as people set up businesses and sought profit.

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To appreciate the significance of Britain's political system,

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you only have to look at

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the situation in its great rival France,

0:23:270:23:30

a country twice the size of Britain, with mineral wealth,

0:23:300:23:33

and home to some of the finest scientist minds.

0:23:330:23:36

But it had an absolute monarchy, founded by Louis XIV,

0:23:390:23:43

which wielded great control over economic and political life.

0:23:430:23:47

The story of how the French attempted to develop steam power

0:23:490:23:53

reveals the fundamental weakness of their political system.

0:23:530:23:57

The authorities in Paris wanted to use steam to help solve

0:23:590:24:02

one of its most pressing problems,

0:24:020:24:04

how to pump water to the rapidly expanding city.

0:24:040:24:08

Many French engineers responded to the challenge, amongst them

0:24:090:24:13

the Perier brothers.

0:24:130:24:15

Initially, they tried and failed to steal Watt's latest designs.

0:24:150:24:19

As a result, in 1779, they ordered two of the very latest

0:24:190:24:23

Watt and Boulton steam engines from Birmingham to be built

0:24:230:24:27

here on the banks of the River Seine at Chaillot.

0:24:270:24:31

And next door, they had constructed an engineering works

0:24:310:24:34

in order to build the large steel components that were required for steam engines.

0:24:340:24:39

The Perier brothers didn't just want to copy the design

0:24:430:24:46

of the Watt-Boulton steam engine, they wanted to improve on it.

0:24:460:24:50

But despite a decade of trying, they failed, because in France,

0:24:520:24:55

there wasn't the free exchange of ideas

0:24:550:24:58

needed for innovation to flourish.

0:24:580:25:01

The absolute monarchy had centralised scientific innovation

0:25:030:25:07

on the Academie des Sciences.

0:25:070:25:09

Here, the leading scientists were assembled to investigate

0:25:140:25:17

thoroughly, and finally, to grant approval to the latest ideas.

0:25:170:25:22

Sounds a good idea, but in practice, is was a bureaucratic nightmare.

0:25:220:25:26

Professor Eric Brian is an historian of French science.

0:25:290:25:32

In the French system, you are not only an inventor,

0:25:340:25:37

but you are working for the kingdom.

0:25:370:25:39

And the monarchy had organised an academy of science,

0:25:390:25:44

the mission of it was collecting scientific

0:25:440:25:47

and technological innovation.

0:25:470:25:49

Checking everything, and then publishing

0:25:490:25:53

a description of it, in order to make this information public.

0:25:530:25:56

But this process was very long,

0:25:580:25:59

it took more than one century for some of those publications.

0:25:590:26:03

The French state's attempt to regulate scientific progress

0:26:050:26:09

slowed innovation and stifled the advance of industrial progress.

0:26:090:26:13

In contrast to Britain, individuals were not free to come up with

0:26:140:26:18

an idea, find a financial backer, and build a machine.

0:26:180:26:22

Would James Watt have found it harder to have taken

0:26:230:26:26

forward his innovations with the steam engine, had he been French?

0:26:260:26:30

Certainly, he would have spent time to have approval,

0:26:300:26:33

to show that the machinery was OK in all details

0:26:330:26:38

and fitting, to get the official recognition.

0:26:380:26:42

As a result, French businessmen

0:26:420:26:44

found it hard to exploit the latest inventions

0:26:440:26:48

and to harness them for profit.

0:26:480:26:50

Furthermore, they had little incentive to do so.

0:26:500:26:54

Behind this industrial inertia was a French court

0:26:540:26:58

stuck in an increasingly obsolete world view.

0:26:580:27:01

Put it like this. Imagine that all the wealth in the world

0:27:010:27:06

is represented by this pie.

0:27:060:27:08

The French government in the 18th Century believed that this pie was finite.

0:27:080:27:14

They had a share, but if they wanted a larger share,

0:27:140:27:18

then what they had to do through conquest

0:27:180:27:21

is grab it from other countries.

0:27:210:27:25

But what if you believed that the amount of wealth in the world

0:27:250:27:28

is not finite, that in fact, you can create all sorts of numbers of pies?

0:27:280:27:34

Thank you.

0:27:340:27:36

Gosh, thank you again!

0:27:360:27:38

In Britain, this idea developed in the late-18th Century.

0:27:400:27:44

People believed that through new industrial production,

0:27:440:27:47

they could create untold wealth,

0:27:470:27:49

that there would be more pies.

0:27:490:27:51

And the British government believed it was its responsibility

0:27:510:27:56

to ensure that this occurred.

0:27:560:27:57

Mmm, that is excellent.

0:28:010:28:03

London, the capital city and greatest port of the age,

0:28:110:28:14

was at the heart of this radical idea

0:28:140:28:16

that new wealth could actually be created.

0:28:160:28:20

The new businesses of the Industrial Revolution needed money,

0:28:230:28:26

and lots of it, if they were to expand successfully.

0:28:260:28:30

And the British government saw its role as being to encourage

0:28:310:28:35

the accumulation of the required capital.

0:28:350:28:38

Here on the Thames, the centre of trade, of politics, and of government,

0:28:410:28:45

British political and commercial elites were closely entwined.

0:28:450:28:50

Whereas in France, the aristocracy gave very little support

0:28:500:28:53

to mercantile interests, in Britain, in contrast,

0:28:530:28:57

the more pragmatic aristocracy was willing to adapt to the often

0:28:570:29:01

self-made men who made up the mercantile leadership.

0:29:010:29:05

And, in particular, they supported the control of the oceans

0:29:050:29:09

and the protection of Britain's lucrative trade routes.

0:29:090:29:12

Britain's foreign and defence policy was different from that of France and Spain.

0:29:130:29:18

Whereas our continental rivals concentrated on building huge armies

0:29:210:29:25

to fight and seize land on mainland Europe,

0:29:250:29:28

Britain spent much of its government revenue on building up

0:29:280:29:32

the Royal Navy, to protect and encourage private traders.

0:29:320:29:36

As a result, from the start of the 18th Century, Britain was

0:29:360:29:40

the naval superpower, with the largest fleet in the world.

0:29:400:29:43

A situation that lasted until the Second World War.

0:29:430:29:46

This maritime power enabled the British trading empire

0:29:530:29:56

to expand and flourish throughout the 18th Century.

0:29:560:30:00

There was one place, above all others,

0:30:130:30:15

able to generate the wealth needed for the huge capital investment

0:30:150:30:19

required for the Industrial Revolution.

0:30:190:30:21

This was the West Indies.

0:30:260:30:28

And central to their defence was the island of Antigua.

0:30:300:30:34

Strong forts, bristling with cannon,

0:30:370:30:40

protected the coastline of this strategic outpost.

0:30:400:30:43

The most important position was over here - English Harbour -

0:30:430:30:47

the Royal Naval base.

0:30:470:30:50

This impregnable position guarded the unimaginable wealth

0:30:500:30:53

that Britain got through trade with the eastern Caribbean,

0:30:530:30:57

and denied it to anyone else.

0:30:570:31:00

Dr Reg Murphy is the head of

0:31:070:31:09

Antigua's Royal Dockyards National Park.

0:31:090:31:12

English Harbour is a natural, beautifully protected harbour.

0:31:130:31:17

Deep water, very narrow entrance, high land all around,

0:31:170:31:20

easy to protect a fleet in here. So you can bring the fleet in here

0:31:200:31:24

during the hurricane season and they are totally safe.

0:31:240:31:27

Very few islands have a harbour like this. At any given time,

0:31:270:31:31

you had between eight to 15 ships in here and while they were here,

0:31:310:31:34

they could take the opportunity to do repairs.

0:31:340:31:37

When you think about it, a wooden ship in tropical waters,

0:31:370:31:40

you get sea worms, you get rot, you get dry rot,

0:31:400:31:43

you hit coral reefs, you're in battle half the time with privateers and pirates and enemy people.

0:31:430:31:48

You need to repair your ships, especially if

0:31:480:31:50

you're going to make it back across the Atlantic with no support.

0:31:500:31:52

Once the British had a naval base at English Harbour,

0:31:520:31:56

how effective was it at keeping the French at bay?

0:31:560:31:59

In the big picture, I think it was very effective

0:31:590:32:01

because you have a standing fleet all the time.

0:32:010:32:03

There is no harbour like this in any of the French islands,

0:32:030:32:06

so the French fleet mostly went back to France every year, which gave an advantage to the British.

0:32:060:32:10

The Royal Navy played a vital role in expanding

0:32:130:32:17

the trade of the Empire -

0:32:170:32:18

the source of the funding for the British Industrial Revolution.

0:32:180:32:22

In the mid-18th Century, old colonial rivals France and Spain

0:32:260:32:30

were vanquished in the great naval victories of the Seven Years' War.

0:32:300:32:34

Britain now benefited from the greatest trading empire

0:32:340:32:38

the world had ever seen, bringing goods not only from the West Indies,

0:32:380:32:43

but tobacco from North America,

0:32:430:32:47

spices from India...

0:32:470:32:49

..and tea from China.

0:32:510:32:53

A commitment to free trade had been a principle of

0:32:560:32:59

British government policy since 1688.

0:32:590:33:02

In Britain, the Glorious Revolution led to an economic liberalisation

0:33:080:33:12

in which most commercial monopolies were abolished.

0:33:120:33:15

As a result, merchants could invest money

0:33:150:33:18

and take profit as they wanted, with very little government intervention.

0:33:180:33:22

Now, in France, in contrast,

0:33:220:33:24

the government fiercely held onto its monopolies.

0:33:240:33:27

As a result, entrepreneurship was suffocated.

0:33:270:33:30

And entrepreneurship was at the heart of

0:33:380:33:40

the British economic success in its colonies.

0:33:400:33:43

In the West Indies, business was centred on plantations.

0:33:440:33:48

Today, the empty mills remain.

0:33:520:33:55

As do some of the great houses in which their owners lived.

0:33:590:34:03

This is Herbert's plantation,

0:34:070:34:10

once home to Admiral Lord Nelson's wife, Kitty.

0:34:100:34:13

Here, in its elegant first-floor drawing room,

0:34:180:34:21

the rich British owners

0:34:210:34:23

were cooled by the breezes from the Atlantic.

0:34:230:34:26

Testament to the life of luxury and elegance enjoyed by

0:34:260:34:30

a small white elite.

0:34:300:34:31

But all this wealth was created at terrible human cost,

0:34:390:34:43

with the exploitation and suffering of millions of slaves.

0:34:430:34:47

The British government's support for free trade enabled slave traders

0:34:510:34:56

to buy huge numbers of slaves, from some African rulers who were

0:34:560:35:00

all too willing to sell them, for transportation across the Atlantic.

0:35:000:35:05

Once in the Caribbean, the slaves were treated as a natural resource

0:35:100:35:14

to be used and exhausted in the quest for maximum profit.

0:35:140:35:18

The Tranquil Vale plantation is home to a grim reminder of those days.

0:35:220:35:27

Conditions for the slaves were absolutely unbearable.

0:35:370:35:41

Indeed, many of them lasted no more than three years.

0:35:410:35:46

This is a dungeon, carved out of the rock for recalcitrant slaves,

0:35:460:35:51

and there were tiny slits for light and ventilation.

0:35:510:35:57

Even today, when the door is off and we have more light coming in,

0:35:570:36:01

it seems absolutely vile.

0:36:010:36:04

What it must have been like at the time, a kind of living tomb.

0:36:040:36:08

Well, I have to say,

0:36:080:36:12

as a historian, I have written on the slave trade,

0:36:120:36:15

and this quite takes my breath away.

0:36:150:36:18

There are things that documents cannot really prepare you for.

0:36:180:36:23

During the 18th Century,

0:36:300:36:33

it's estimated that just under 2.5 million slaves

0:36:330:36:37

were transported by the British across the Atlantic.

0:36:370:36:41

And this is where many of them ended up.

0:36:440:36:47

Sugar cane - this was the crop that slaves were forced to work

0:36:480:36:51

and it was a very difficult crop to work.

0:36:510:36:54

But it was also crucial to

0:36:540:36:55

the prosperity of Britain's West Indies colonies

0:36:550:36:58

and played a major role in the economy of the Empire as a whole.

0:36:580:37:02

Indeed, by the 1790s, sugar was Britain's leading import.

0:37:020:37:07

From the West Indies, and across the Empire,

0:37:130:37:15

valuable commodities - including tobacco from Virginia,

0:37:150:37:19

and rice from Georgia - poured into London.

0:37:190:37:21

Some was destined for British consumption,

0:37:220:37:25

but the rest was bound for the markets of Europe.

0:37:250:37:29

This huge trade generated

0:37:290:37:32

billions of pounds for the country, at today's rates.

0:37:320:37:35

So what happened to the wealth that went into Britain's coffers?

0:37:460:37:50

Well, much of the profit from sugar

0:37:500:37:52

and the other fruits of empire became capital that was

0:37:520:37:55

invested in the development of Britain's industries.

0:37:550:37:59

And the products of these industries, some of them

0:37:590:38:01

came back to the plantations of the West Indies.

0:38:010:38:05

Here, we have the remains of a sugar mill

0:38:050:38:07

and the steam engine from Glasgow that powered it.

0:38:070:38:10

By the end of the 18th Century, British industry

0:38:150:38:18

was exporting manufactured goods worth over £2.5 billion today

0:38:180:38:24

across the world.

0:38:240:38:25

This was a small cog in the great circle of growth that made up

0:38:300:38:35

the British Industrial Revolution.

0:38:350:38:37

This explosion of wealth flooding into London created

0:38:420:38:45

its own financial revolution.

0:38:450:38:47

New institutions, like banks and the Stock Exchange,

0:38:470:38:50

were established, which allowed people to invest in and profit from

0:38:500:38:54

newly emerging businesses.

0:38:540:38:57

All this new wealth dramatically improved

0:39:040:39:07

the lifestyles of much of the population.

0:39:070:39:10

Gross domestic product more than doubled during the 18th Century,

0:39:170:39:22

and for the first time, many people had extra money to spend.

0:39:220:39:27

As the wealth of the country increased,

0:39:310:39:33

so did that of the rapidly expanding middle class.

0:39:330:39:36

And the middle class needed something to spend its money on.

0:39:360:39:39

This provided entrepreneurs up and down the country with

0:39:390:39:43

opportunities to make money by selling them things.

0:39:430:39:46

The appetites of this growing section of the population

0:39:510:39:55

were whetted by the arrival of a completely new range

0:39:550:39:58

of luxuries from across the great trading empire.

0:39:580:40:01

Tea came from China,

0:40:060:40:08

and it was sweetened by sugar from the West Indies.

0:40:080:40:11

Thank you.

0:40:110:40:13

And their consumption introduced a new and more opulent

0:40:130:40:17

lifestyle into polite society.

0:40:170:40:19

It required a whole new range of household equipment.

0:40:210:40:25

I've got here a painting of 1567

0:40:300:40:32

of the Brooke family having dinner,

0:40:320:40:34

and we can see here that there are

0:40:340:40:36

very few implements on their table.

0:40:360:40:40

In fact, it's largely a case of pewter plates.

0:40:410:40:44

Now, the contrast is very clear with this painting

0:40:440:40:48

by Richard Collins two centuries later

0:40:480:40:51

of a family having tea.

0:40:510:40:53

You can notice there is an absolute

0:40:530:40:55

cornucopia of tea-making equipment.

0:40:550:40:57

There's a tea pot with its burner,

0:40:580:41:02

there's a tea caddy,

0:41:020:41:04

there's a sugar bowl open to show the sugar.

0:41:040:41:07

There's a plate with teaspoons on,

0:41:080:41:11

there's a hot water jug,

0:41:110:41:14

and we have a slop bowl,

0:41:140:41:17

in order to put tea leaves in.

0:41:170:41:19

All of these goods had to be designed and produced,

0:41:190:41:23

and they were designed and produced in Britain.

0:41:230:41:25

And this consumer revolution helps to drive industrialisation.

0:41:250:41:31

For me, there's one entrepreneur, above all others,

0:41:340:41:37

who understood the opportunities presented by this growing

0:41:370:41:41

consumer market - Josiah Wedgwood.

0:41:410:41:45

He was brought up in a family of potters in North Staffordshire,

0:41:500:41:54

and inherited only £20 from his father.

0:41:540:41:57

But his genius for creating - and then satisfying -

0:41:570:42:01

consumer demand made him one of the richest men in the country.

0:42:010:42:06

Wedgwood appreciated that the middle classes could not be

0:42:060:42:09

relied upon to understand that they actually necessarily wanted

0:42:090:42:13

these new-fangled goods being manufactured across Britain.

0:42:130:42:17

Therefore, he had to persuade them to buy them,

0:42:170:42:20

indeed, to desire them, in their households.

0:42:200:42:22

And to that end, he became one of the fathers of

0:42:220:42:25

what we today call advertising and marketing.

0:42:250:42:28

For centuries, most families' household goods

0:42:320:42:34

were made by local artisans and bought at local markets.

0:42:340:42:39

By the start of the 18th Century,

0:42:410:42:43

shops were beginning to be opened

0:42:430:42:45

in London and other large cities.

0:42:450:42:47

But Wedgwood, working with his marketing guru, Thomas Bentley,

0:42:470:42:51

unveiled a new concept.

0:42:510:42:53

They opened the first purpose-built showroom in London's

0:42:560:43:00

fashionable West End in 1774.

0:43:000:43:02

Wedgwood and Bentley understood that women would be the prime purchasers

0:43:020:43:07

for their ceramic wares.

0:43:070:43:09

To that end, in their showroom in Greek Street in London,

0:43:090:43:12

they had a grand parlour in which the customers would be greeted

0:43:120:43:16

and would meet and chat. And then they would be taken

0:43:160:43:19

round the showroom, to see the great new products

0:43:190:43:22

that were coming through from the factories.

0:43:220:43:25

Wedgwood led the way in the shopping revolution.

0:43:250:43:29

Within a decade, Oxford Street alone boasted 153 shops.

0:43:290:43:35

Foreigners who came to London

0:43:350:43:37

marvelled at the range of goods on offer.

0:43:370:43:40

But for true success, Wedgwood realised his pottery needed to be of

0:43:420:43:47

a consistently high standard, and to be known beyond his London showroom.

0:43:470:43:51

His break occurred in 1765,

0:44:020:44:04

when Deborah Chetwynd, lady in waiting to Queen Charlotte,

0:44:040:44:07

and a member of the Staffordshire aristocracy, asked among

0:44:070:44:11

the local potters who could make a tea service for the Queen.

0:44:110:44:14

It involved a new technique, re-binding gold gilt to glaze.

0:44:140:44:19

Wedgwood's genius was to understand the power of marketing.

0:44:210:44:26

Many of the practices we see around us today

0:44:260:44:29

were introduced by this remarkable man.

0:44:290:44:31

He believed if he could win the Queen's patronage for his wares,

0:44:320:44:36

then all society would follow.

0:44:360:44:39

So he spent months experimenting with different

0:44:390:44:42

methods of gilding until he was satisfied.

0:44:420:44:45

The Queen ordered a set and it became known as Queen's Ware,

0:44:450:44:49

one of Wedgwood's most successful products.

0:44:490:44:52

I've got a cup of it here, it's absolutely exquisite.

0:44:520:44:55

But the gilt was applied with honey,

0:44:550:44:58

in order to make the gold more pliable.

0:44:580:45:00

And when the honey came off, so did the gilt,

0:45:000:45:02

but it's still a lovely cup.

0:45:020:45:05

Wedgwood understood how to appeal to the social aspirations

0:45:140:45:18

of the middle classes.

0:45:180:45:20

Now they too could drink tea from the same china as the Queen.

0:45:200:45:24

Wedgwood knew that status sells pots.

0:45:310:45:34

So on all his invoices, he put, "Potter to Her Majesty".

0:45:340:45:38

And as more Royals bought his pots, so he added them to his invoices.

0:45:380:45:44

In this one, we also learn that

0:45:440:45:45

he's potter to their Royal Highnesses the Duke of York -

0:45:450:45:49

the Grand Old Duke of York, who marched his men up and down the hill -

0:45:490:45:53

and also to the Duke of Clarence - that's the future William IV.

0:45:530:45:57

With such patronage, there was no problem about selling his pots.

0:45:570:46:01

The consumer revolution created both a huge opportunity

0:46:050:46:09

and a problem for manufacturers.

0:46:090:46:12

The potential to increase trade was there, but at the beginning of

0:46:120:46:16

the 18th Century, the difficulty of getting raw materials

0:46:160:46:19

to their workshops and the finished products to the market was obvious.

0:46:190:46:24

In the 16th and 17th Century, the road system was very bad.

0:46:240:46:29

Parishes were responsible for maintaining the highway within their boundaries.

0:46:290:46:33

But the problem was that if you lived in one parish,

0:46:330:46:36

say the parish of Stoke over here, and you knew that your neighbours

0:46:360:46:40

in the next-door parish, the parish of Leek over here, just weren't

0:46:400:46:43

maintaining their roads, in fact, that they were a potholed nightmare,

0:46:430:46:47

why should you maintain your road on your side of the boundary?

0:46:470:46:51

All it was going to do was lead to the terrible road on the other side.

0:46:510:46:54

The result was an absolute nightmare for travellers.

0:46:540:46:58

Once again, Parliament was willing to legislate to support trade.

0:47:000:47:04

In 1706, it passed an act which allowed local businessmen

0:47:040:47:09

to build and run permanent turnpike roads.

0:47:090:47:13

In return, they could charge travellers a toll for using

0:47:140:47:18

their road, and some of the money would then be spent on maintaining it.

0:47:180:47:22

Other Turnpike Acts soon followed.

0:47:220:47:24

Nowhere was the need more pressing than in North Staffordshire.

0:47:290:47:33

Here, the Potteries would become one of Britain's

0:47:330:47:36

greatest industrial centres.

0:47:360:47:38

But when Wedgwood and his fellow businessmen

0:47:380:47:40

first set up their factories,

0:47:400:47:42

there were no reliable roads to bring in raw materials.

0:47:420:47:45

And mules had to carry fragile ceramics to market in panniers.

0:47:480:47:53

Unsurprisingly, a third of the wares were broken along the way,

0:47:530:47:57

pushing up the price of the surviving pieces.

0:47:570:48:00

In 1763, Josiah Wedgwood brought

0:48:020:48:05

a transport revolution to Staffordshire.

0:48:050:48:09

Thwarted by the problems of getting his goods

0:48:090:48:12

to market, he petitioned Parliament to build a turnpike road from

0:48:120:48:17

his potteries at Burslem over there to the Red Bull on the London Road.

0:48:170:48:21

This map shows the route that was proposed, a route that was

0:48:210:48:26

to join the Potteries to the national road network.

0:48:260:48:29

From 1706, the length of turnpike roads

0:48:310:48:35

increased from a mere 300 miles to an incredible 15,000 miles

0:48:350:48:41

just 70 years later.

0:48:410:48:42

And they didn't only connect big cities.

0:48:440:48:46

They also created an extraordinarily comprehensive trading network

0:48:460:48:51

between small towns, like Stoke and nearby Uttoxeter,

0:48:510:48:55

increasing the movement of goods and ideas around the country.

0:48:550:48:58

In France, in contrast,

0:49:020:49:03

the government, and not local businessmen,

0:49:030:49:06

decided where to build the roads.

0:49:060:49:09

As a result, they connected military,

0:49:090:49:11

rather than industrial centres.

0:49:110:49:13

As the roads improved in Britain, so journey times decreased,

0:49:160:49:21

further stimulating the economy.

0:49:210:49:23

But it was the next great advance in transport technology that

0:49:240:49:28

truly enabled Wedgwood and his ilk to expand.

0:49:280:49:32

The impact is still in the landscape to this day.

0:49:320:49:35

These were the canals, the motorways of the 18th Century.

0:49:350:49:39

Once again, private entrepreneurs led the way.

0:49:410:49:44

Wedgwood had noted that the canal,

0:49:440:49:47

built by James Brindley to bring coal from the Manchester coalfields

0:49:470:49:50

to the River Mersey, reduced its cost by half.

0:49:500:49:54

He thought a canal connecting his potteries in Stoke-on-Trent could

0:50:000:50:04

bring clay from the Mersey and flint for glazes from the River Trent.

0:50:040:50:09

Andrew Watts is a canal historian.

0:50:140:50:16

To bring in the sort of materials that one canal barge

0:50:200:50:24

would bring in with one horse and one man

0:50:240:50:26

would have taken at least 100 pack horses and mules,

0:50:260:50:29

in the 18th Century. If you can imagine the train of thousands,

0:50:290:50:33

literally thousands of mules trudging into Stoke-on-Trent

0:50:330:50:37

every day of every year, and also on crates on the backs of people,

0:50:370:50:42

being carried like a rucksack.

0:50:420:50:43

It was all about improvement of trade,

0:50:430:50:46

that was what the country wanted, and that's what Parliament wanted.

0:50:460:50:49

Wedgwood used his great powers of persuasion

0:50:530:50:56

to garner the support of the North Staffordshire MPs and peers

0:50:560:51:00

and sent a petition to Parliament to set up a company to build

0:51:000:51:05

the Trent and Mersey Canal.

0:51:050:51:07

So enticing was the prospect of this new

0:51:100:51:13

and efficient mode of transport that Wedgwood moved his main factory

0:51:130:51:18

to land alongside the proposed route of the canal.

0:51:180:51:22

But there was a problem.

0:51:280:51:30

The route of the waterway took it through the rolling hills

0:51:300:51:33

of Staffordshire.

0:51:330:51:35

This difficult terrain demanded that Brindley undertake

0:51:360:51:39

one of the greatest engineering feats of the time.

0:51:390:51:43

The digging of the Harecastle Tunnel, north of Stoke-on-Trent.

0:51:440:51:48

ENGINE CHUGS

0:51:510:51:53

The tunnel is 2,880 yards, from one end to the other,

0:51:560:52:00

that's well over a mile-and-a-half, getting on for two miles.

0:52:000:52:04

Four times longer than the longest tunnel built

0:52:040:52:07

anywhere in the world up to that point.

0:52:070:52:09

And how did they build it?

0:52:090:52:10

They built it by hand, picks, shovels, and blasting powder.

0:52:100:52:13

Using very basic surveying equipment, they built it straight.

0:52:130:52:18

-That's very impressive, isn't it?

-Really impressive.

0:52:180:52:20

I can see down here, it's absolutely straight, these tunnels.

0:52:200:52:24

It took them seven years. When they built the tunnel,

0:52:240:52:27

they mined the hill, they mined coal

0:52:270:52:30

and iron stone from the hill, to help pay for the tunnel.

0:52:300:52:33

-How did they get through it?

-They didn't have an engine, of course,

0:52:330:52:37

they had to leg through the tunnel. Two men would lie on their backs

0:52:370:52:41

on boards on the boats with their feet

0:52:410:52:43

on the tunnel wall, and they would walk the boat through.

0:52:430:52:47

-Roughly how long would that have taken?

-About two hours.

0:52:470:52:50

-Very hard work.

-Yeah.

0:52:500:52:52

The Trent and Mersey Canal opened in 1777, five years late.

0:52:590:53:04

But within a few decades, narrow boats were carrying

0:53:050:53:09

over a quarter of a million tonnes of goods annually through the tunnel.

0:53:090:53:13

By greatly reducing the cost of transporting goods

0:53:160:53:19

to and from Stoke-on-Trent, the canal helped the Potteries become

0:53:190:53:24

one of the great ceramic centres of the world, and in the process,

0:53:240:53:29

made its shareholders, including Josiah Wedgwood, very rich.

0:53:290:53:33

Look at that orange water. I can't help wondering if I went into

0:53:330:53:37

there, whether I'd have any more hair left or any more hair growing!

0:53:370:53:41

You'd get a free tan!

0:53:410:53:42

-That was absolutely tremendous.

-How about that?

0:53:420:53:45

Thank you, that was tremendous.

0:53:450:53:47

-Right.

-Oh, look at that.

-Yes...

0:53:470:53:51

These canals were built across Britain,

0:53:540:53:57

linking coasts and navigable rivers

0:53:570:53:59

and transforming the profitability of British industry.

0:53:590:54:03

If I had to pick a symbol for the early Industrial Revolution,

0:54:070:54:11

it would be the canal, which dramatically cut the cost of taking

0:54:110:54:15

raw materials to factories and the finished goods on to market.

0:54:150:54:20

The very existence of canals reflected the way in which

0:54:200:54:23

the industrial enlightenment brought a whole range of technical skills

0:54:230:54:28

to fruition, and also, the capacity of Parliament

0:54:280:54:30

to legislate for their very existence.

0:54:300:54:34

By the time of the Great Exhibition,

0:54:360:54:39

in 1851, the seismic impact

0:54:390:54:41

of the previous 150 years was clear.

0:54:410:54:45

In the great halls of the Crystal Palace, 100,000 exhibits glorified

0:54:480:54:54

the might of British industry and the ingenuity of British technology.

0:54:540:54:58

In six months, over six million people came to see

0:54:580:55:04

the great turbines which powered factories,

0:55:040:55:08

looms which mass produced textiles...

0:55:080:55:11

..and locomotive engines

0:55:120:55:13

which sped across the expanding railway network.

0:55:130:55:17

Even a lighthouse, whose powerful lens could direct

0:55:190:55:22

beams of light further than ever before.

0:55:220:55:25

The exhibition was conclusive proof that Britain was now

0:55:260:55:30

the mightiest industrial power in the world.

0:55:300:55:34

It produced two thirds of the world's coal

0:55:340:55:36

and half its iron.

0:55:360:55:38

For me, the Industrial Revolution encapsulates the reasons why

0:55:420:55:46

Britain counts in world history.

0:55:460:55:48

In the 18th Century, there was a commitment to,

0:55:500:55:52

and engagement with, the potential of the new.

0:55:520:55:56

New ideas, new devices, new machines, new processes,

0:55:560:55:59

which unlocked the resources of society, unlocked the resources

0:55:590:56:03

of the country, and took Britain

0:56:030:56:05

into a new world of activity and energy.

0:56:050:56:08

The special combination of geological good fortune,

0:56:120:56:16

the ascendancy of political liberalism and enlightened thinking,

0:56:160:56:20

plus imperial power, meant change

0:56:200:56:24

was more likely to begin in Britain than elsewhere.

0:56:240:56:27

The Industrial Revolution happened because the economic conditions

0:56:270:56:32

were right to ensure its sustained success.

0:56:320:56:35

And finally, there was one important change that's still with us today -

0:56:360:56:41

the conviction that the future will never again be the same as the past.

0:56:410:56:47

For most of the past,

0:56:470:56:49

people were essentially defined by their history,

0:56:490:56:52

they looked back for their values.

0:56:520:56:54

Most people did what their parents had done.

0:56:540:56:57

This situation changed radically from the 18th Century.

0:56:570:57:01

New ideas and new machines made it possible to create the wealth,

0:57:010:57:05

thanks to which, people could conceive of

0:57:050:57:08

a new environment, a world in which people lived in cities.

0:57:080:57:12

It's no wonder that we call this transformation

0:57:120:57:15

the Industrial Revolution.

0:57:150:57:17

It set the world in which we now live.

0:57:170:57:20

We are in the shadow of the achievements of those people.

0:57:200:57:24

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:57:490:57:52

Professor Jeremy Black examines one of the most extraordinary periods in British history: the Industrial Revolution. He explains the unique economic, social and political conditions that by the 19th century, led to Britain becoming the richest, most powerful nation on Earth. It was a time that transformed the way people think, work and play forever.

He traces the unprecedented explosion of new ideas and technological inventions that transformed Britain's agricultural society into an increasingly industrial and urbanised one. The documentary explores two fascinating questions - why did the industrial revolution happen when it did, and why did it happen in Britain?

Professor Black discusses the reasons behind this transformation - from Britain's coal reserves, which gave it a seemingly inexhaustible source of power, to the ascendency of political liberalism, with engineers and industrialists able to meet and share ideas and inventions. He explains the influence that geniuses like Josiah Wedgewood had on the consumer revolution and travels to Antigua to examine the impact Britain's empire had on this extraordinary period of growth.