Course Summary

The Great Transformation

Unit 1

A previous U3A Online course looked at everyday life in the early eighteenth century. This course continues the story with a look at the dramatic developments in agriculture and industry from the middle of that century. It followed from the Tudor, Stuart and early Georgian periods, from the end of the 15th century to the mid 18th century, around 250 years.

Unit 2

In this unit we explore the social consequences of fundamental changes in British agriculture which left no family untouched. These changes could be seen as early as the 16th century but they accelerated dramatically in the 18th century and coincided with the equally important transformation of industry which we will explore in later units.

Unit 3

We will now begin to look at the industrialisation of Britain in the 18th century. How and why did it spread? Good transport links were essential as were attitudes and values that promoted it. Moreover, a group of remarkable individuals played key roles. We will look at a few of them.

Unit 4

Large scale industrial development needed raw materials, new materials, skilled workers, innovative inventors, the ability to manage large scale projects, and enterprising businessmen. In this unit we look at some of the earlier industries that laid the foundations for later expansion. Industry also needed to go beyond human and animal muscle power to water and steam power which we will explore in later units.

Unit 5

Robert Owen and Sir Robert Peel were both very successful businessmen in the textile industry. Yet they drew very different conclusions from their experiences. Owen was idealistic, socialist, and founder of trade unions. Peel was the humane and pragmatic founder of the modern British Conservative Party. Examining their lives raises important questions which we still confront today.

Unit 6

This unit begins by looking at the development of steam power which was to make possible large scale factory production, a transport revolution, and a range of new industries. The 19th century was to be the age of steam power and even though the twentieth century is sometimes seen as the age of petroleum, and the 21st century has seen the rise of renewable energy; steam power is still with us in our power stations. Even renewable energy will make use of steam to drive power station turbines. As a contrast we also look at growth the labour intensive Pottery industry which was also a great industrial innovator and transformer of lives.

Unit 7

At the heart of England in Birmingham, the Soho manufactory was created by Matthew Boulton. Here he pioneered new methods of manufacture and went on to work with James Watt. Yet he was also a scientist and social reformer. Together with his friends in the Lunar Society, he was at the vanguard of the new age. They were at the forefront of transforming ideas, and hugely expanded human knowledge. Yet they were practical men who led by example to develop technology and industry.

Unit 8

This final unit looks at how the development of waterways revolutionised transport in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Yet towards the end of our period a new challenger appears, the railways. Applying steam power to transport put into place a crucial element in our story of the Great Transformation of Britain into an industrialised, urbanised society. This, of course, was a model that much of the rest of the world was to copy. The steam powered railways spreading across the world were a powerful demonstration of its transformative power.