The Industrial Revolution started in Britain in the eighteenth century. A number of factors converged to create the conditions for developments in industry and science. Agricultural improvements created a cadre of wealthy landowners with money to invest. Improved educational opportunities, particularly in Scotland, created a broader set of young people with ideas and ambition. Greater religious freedom allowed individuals of talent to develop businesses. Interest in science and technology blossomed and the birth of the coffee house culture brought people with ideas into the orbit of those with money.
But it was not all rosy. The new culture of ideas and experimentation was almost entirely limited to men. A woman’s place was seen to be in the home. At the same time the slave trade flourished providing much of the wealth for investment and, shamefully, Britain was a key facilitator in this odious business – and there were few voices of dissent at the time.
And the poor lived short and brutish lives of hard physical work in grim conditions with an inadequate diet and very little healthcare.
In this course I am going to take you through the key milestones of the early industrial revolution – in the textile industry, in coal mining and iron production, in civil engineering; in the development of steam power and the birth of the railways.