The Industrial Revolution : The Great Courses: Modern History

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Patrick N. Allitt
  • Series: The Great Courses: Modern History
  • 18 hrs and 11 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

From electric lights to automobiles to the appliances that make our lives easier at work and at home, we owe so much of our world to the Industrial Revolution. In this course, The Great Courses partners with the Smithsonian - one of the world's most storied and exceptional educational institutions - to examine the extraordinary events of this period and uncover the far-reaching impact of this incredible revolution. Over the course of 36 thought-provoking lectures, longtime Great Courses favorite Professor Allitt introduces you to the inventors, businessmen, and workers responsible for transforming virtually every aspect of our lives and fueling one of the greatest periods of innovation in human history.
The technological achievements of this era are nothing short of astonishing. Thanks to inventions such as the steam engine and processes such as large-scale iron smelting, industrial entrepreneurs were able to mechanize labor, which allowed for a host of new efficiencies such as division of labor, mass production, and global distribution.
You'll discover the science behind some of the most astounding inventions in modern history, including the spinning jenny, the incandescent light bulb, and the computer processor. You'll learn how these inventions came about and consider what effects these technologies had on every aspect of human life.
Get an inside look at the history of industrial innovation and explore the lives of engineers, inventors, architects, and designers responsible for changing the world - as well as ordinary workers who lost their livelihoods to new technologies and suffered from unsafe working conditions. The story of the Industrial Revolution is complex, and these lectures will leave you with a new appreciation for the amazing human achievements all around us.


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Incredibly entertaining, balanced, comprehensive

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This was a spectacularly well-researched, comprehensive and entertaining look at what has arguably been most important driving force of modern history. Patrick Allitt beautifully balances this tour of the big picture forces and trends that drove massive societal change with the fascinating personal stories of many, many individuals who played pivotal roles in driving these changes in their respective societies (the focus is appropriately first on Great Britain and then shifts to the people and parallel developments in the U.S. and other parts of the world).

I listened to this course immediately after finishing another of The Great Courses called Big History (also very highly recommended). It was the perfect follow-up, as that title puts the human Industrial Revolution in perspective as the latest era in a 13 billion year trend of increasing complexity in our universe. But that's another course..

I have listened to 4 or 5 of Professor Allitt's courses from The Great Courses series and they are all uniformly excellent. He gifted both as a scholar and as a storyteller. Highly recommended. 5 Stars!

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- Quaker

The story of human progress through technology

In “The Industrial Revolution” lecture series Prof Patrick N. Allitt (professor of American History at Emory University) introduces the listener in 36 half hour lectures packed with information, to those technologies which - according to him - we all take for granted and never think about until it is lacking. Then we react with annoyance.

Ironically enough, while listening to this series, South Africa was forced into load shedding (the switching off of power grids for a certain amount of time) due to a coal silo that collapsed at one of the coal power plantations. This followed an event where Rand Water couldn’t provide water to great areas of the Gauteng Province because of some pump failures. I therefore can say, Prof Allitt’s argument hit home!

He also argues in this course that the early industrialists were seen as people with big fat purses who extorted the working labour class to live in luxury. While this might be the case in some instances the legacy of the Industrial Revolution are the upliftment of the living standard of the peasant population partaking in the project. He makes a striking statement in the beginning of the course that the kings of old were poorer than the peasants of today. The Industrial Revolution came up with the idea of continuous improvement.

If you want to know how and why things have changed so drastically over the last 250 years, this course seems a good place to start. While half of the lectures are focussed on the Industrial Revolution as it began and progress in 18th century Britain, the rest of the lectures are split up in the Industrialisation of the United States of America, Europe, Russia, Japan, India, Taiwan and China. I thought Prof Allitt’s focus on technology and how it impacted on who won the Second World War was very informative and interesting.

I was amazed that he thought of Sub-Saharan Africa as backwards and not yet there (my words). I am not completely convinced that he knows what is happening in Africa. Maybe his statement is too sweeping.

I was intrigued by the idea that different political systems saw the need for industrialisation, though it failed miserably if the state was too authoritarian. Though not mentioned by him, it seems to me that Apartheid in South Africa also had industrialisation as its driving force - another odd marriage partner of the Industrial Revolution.

With his British accent and all, Prof Allitt is an excellent presenter and has compiled a very informative, thought-provoking course. Generally he seems to be neutral in his presentation and comes to an appreciation of the progress of humanity through industrialisation. (One thing that bothered me, was when he talked about the Protestant groupings as sects. I wonder if he is Anglican or Roman Catholic?)

In general this is an excellent well-prepared and researched course that covers a vast array of subjects relating to the Industrial Revolution (as Fredrik Engels dubbed it). Any listener will be challenged by the amount of information that needs to be thought through. I can almost guarantee that it will help you to orientate yourself in terms of your own biases and blind spots towards technology and progress.
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- Jacobus "When I drive, I read... uhm listen. I like SciFi, Fantasy, some Detective and Espionage novels and Religion. Now and then I will also listen to something else."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-26-2014
  • Publisher: The Great Courses