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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.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2014 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2014 The Great Courses
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Quaker on 12-03-14

Incredibly entertaining, balanced, comprehensive

Any additional comments?

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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15 of 15 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Jacobus on 11-05-14

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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20 of 21 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Olly Buxton on 12-11-16

really enjoyed this, though I want expecting to!

this course covers a far greater period than I had realised was part of the Industrial Revolution. professorAlitt has a jaunty tone (though sounds a tad like Alan partridge!) and kept me interested for the whole course. there are some fascinating insights, especially as to path dependency: many seemingly insignificant inventions and developments were completely game changing.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Chris on 07-04-16

Fascinating and detailed account

This course covers nearly two hundred years of development in technology, society and living standards. With such a huge topic I was expecting to either get not enough detail, or too much concentration on minor topics. I was wrong on both accounts.

The lecturer manages to find the perfect balance between the technical achievements themselves and their impact on people's lives. Starting with agriculture, the prof. discusses how small improvements in farming techniques and tools led to huge increases in productivity.

These ideas of tool making soon were turned on other areas, such as textile manufacturing. The course really takes off when the discussion turns to transport. The impact of first the canals and soon after the railways on life in Britain is astounding. The lecturer paints the picture vividly of how different life became in the wake of these achievements.

The course also covers industrial progress in the USA which I knew nothing about and was very interested about. Automobiles and planes both get their own lectures, and are extremely interesting topics.

My favourite parts of the course were when the lecturer discussed worker's rights and the impacts on the environment of the revolution. It is an amazing history that everyone should know about as it is so relevant to us. From working hours to weekends, everything was forged by a long battle against some pretty horrible bosses in factories. The lecturer really manages to bring this alive.

Overall I would say this course is fantastic and definitely worth a listen. What could have been a dry topic is covered in a very interesting and enthralling way.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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