Andrew Marr's History Of The World (2012) s01e06 Episode Script

Revolution

In the 18th century, most people in the world, from France to India, from Russia to China, lived in the long shadow of an absolute ruler.
Few would ever see their ruler's face or hear their ruler's voice.
There were no rights to heckle, no talking back.
Then, on January the 21st, 1793, there was a decisive break in human history.
[HE SCREAMS] [CROWD CHEER] The guillotine had ended the life of King Louis XVI of France and the age of absolute power.
A new way of thinking had bubbled up from northern Europe.
We call it the Enlightenment, an age of reason, in which the bright, clear light of science and learning flushed away the shadows of superstition.
An age where people stood up straight and called for freedom and equality.
But for some, the Enlightenment also suggested mankind could simply throw away everything that had gone before and start again.
And that would prove to be a tragic mistake.
During this time, there were two great nations leading the Enlightenment.
Both expected to dominate humanity, and they were bitter enemies - Britain and France.
Their influence around the world would be huge.
Not always for the good, and certainly not quite what they expected.
And so the Age of Reason, so calm, so cool, would become the hot and bloody Age of Revolution.
In the early 17th century, Italy was a land teeming with new money, thinkers, experimenters and inventors.
The land where the Renaissance had begun.
You might have thought that the Enlightenment would shine here first.
And indeed, in 1609, a loud-mouthed mathematician from Pisa launched a scientific revolution.
Galileo Galilei dragged the ruler of Venice, the Doge, to the highest point in the city.
Guardi da questa parte, Sua Eccellenza.
Guardi, guardi.
He was showing off his new invention.
Assolutamente straordinario! Galileo had invented the telescope.
Except that the idea wasn't Galileo's at all.
He'd nicked it from a Dutch inventor who'd just arrived in town.
But within a couple of days, Galileo was making his own lenses and experimenting and hugely improving on the original.
And so, with his magic tube, Galileo was able to double his income and turn himself into a kind of scientific star.
But Galileo's telescope would also bring about his downfall.
What he saw overturned one of man's central beliefs about the Earth and its place in the universe.
The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle had taught that the Earth was the centre of the universe, around which the sun, the moon and the planets rotated.
But 60 years earlier, the Polish astronomer Copernicus had put forward a wild-seeming theory - that the sun was the centre of the universe.
Galileo's telescope allowed him to test this theory with his own eyes.
First, he observed four moons revolving around Jupiter and not the Earth.
Then he calculated that Venus was moving around the sun.
Galileo could now confirm that Copernicus was right.
The sun, not the Earth, was the centre of the universe.
Now, this overturned nearly 2,000 years of belief.
The Church had accepted Aristotle's argument.
The Bible said that the Earth was fixed and cannot be moved, and taught that man was God's greatest creation, so it followed, obviously, that the Earth was at the centre of everything.
Now Galileo was claiming that the obvious wasn't true.
In fact, things were worse than that.
He had proof.
Galileo began writing about his discovery.
His fame spread throughout Europe.
He was compared to Christopher Columbus, as a discoverer of new worlds.
But he knew he was playing a dangerous game.
The problem was that this was the height of the Counter-Reformation, the decades of the fighting popes, determined to crush Protestant dissent and impose absolute orthodoxy.
Pursue a thought too far, and you could be in dead trouble.
In 1600, the friar Giordano Bruno had proposed that the sun was a star and the universe was infinite.
The Church's ultimate loose cannon, Bruno was burned at the stake for various heresies.
Any last words? No.
They rammed a steel spike through his tongue.
In 1633, the Church finally lost patience with Galileo, too.
He was arrested by the Catholic Inquisition.
The case against Galileo was really more about the Church's authority than astronomy.
If the Church could be wrong about the stars, what else might it be wrong about? Dressed in the white robes of a penitent, Galileo knelt to hear his sentence.
Diciamo, prononciamo, sententiamo e dischiaramo… He was judged "vehemently suspect of heresy".
His books were to be destroyed, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Dedotte in processo… But worst of all, he was told to publicly abjure, curse and detest his own opinions, and deny that the Earth moved.
Io Galileo Galilei, con cuor sincere e fede non tinta… His life's work was stuffed back down his throat.
Di me…simil sospittione.
And yet at the end, he spat just a little bit of it back.
Eppur si muove.
"Eppur si muove.
" "And yet it moves.
" Galileo had been silenced in Europe's Catholic south.
His work remained on the Church's list of banned books for 200 years.
But Galileo's ideas spread north to Protestant countries, like Holland and Britain, where freedom of thought allowed scientists such as Isaac Newton to flourish.
An enlightened Age of Reason was never going to blossom under the censorship of the Church.
But even beyond the reach of the Catholic Church, thinkers did have to be concerned about a different kind of authority, because this was the age of royal absolutism, when monarchs claiming complete power ruled from Paris to Prussia, from St Petersburg to Vienna.
The best of them thought of themselves as modern, built magnificent palaces, and drew in Enlightenment thinkers, like Voltaire.
But as even Europeans understood, the greatest of the absolute monarchs weren't in Europe at all.
India was dominated by the all-powerful Muslim Moghul emperors.
Under Shah Jahan, the Moghul empire grew to more than 100 million people.
They called him "king of the world".
When his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died in childbirth, he built her a giant marble tomb.
The Taj Mahal is the world's most extravagant and beautiful monument to love.
But it's also a symbol of absolute power.
Like the absolute monarchs who ruled in Europe, the Moghul emperors used stone to display their power.
But Shah Jahan also ruled a more open-minded court than any in Europe at the time.
Shah Jahan's grandfather, Akbar the Great, began the extraordinary tradition of Moghul liberalism.
He brought together, for instance, people of all faiths - Sunni and Shia Muslim, Hindus and Christians - and got them to argue in front of him so he could see whether there were fundamental truths around which mankind might unite.
He was also a great patron of the arts, and what he reminds us is that absolutism, when it's successful, can create great breakthroughs and not only in stone.
But the weakness of the system is that it depends absolutely on the character of whoever happens to have made it to the top.
And a struggle at the top was about to begin.
It would annihilate any thought of an Indian Age of Reason.
In September, 1657, Shah Jahan fell seriously ill.
His eldest son Dara was his favoured heir.
Dara was another in the line of essentially tolerant and open-minded Moghuls.
But his brother, Aurangzeb, was very different.
He was a harsh military man who wanted to impose his strict version of Islam on all of India.
To do that, he'd have to get rid of his brother.
But this was much more than a struggle between two brothers.
This was a struggle for the future of the empire and everybody living in it.
In May 1658, Aurangzeb marched on Agra, proclaimed himself Emperor… …and imprisoned his father, Shah Jahan.
[DOOR SLAMS] Aurangzeb captured Dara and paraded him and his son through the streets of Delhi.
He accused him of heresy and condemned him to death.
So far, so grisly.
But it's not untypical of the problems faced by absolute dynasties around the world.
Assassination and wars of succession were also routine amongst the ruling families of Europe.
The only thing that really singles out Aurangzeb's case was his taste for takeaways.
Aurangzeb would rule for 50 years, a half-century when he imprinted his harsh and fanatical personality on the country.
Aurangzeb's version of Islam involved the destruction of Hindu temples, setting up a system of censorship and a great deal of banning.
He banned alcohol, of course.
He ended the great tradition of beautiful paintings, but he also banned dancing, he banned writing historical documents.
He even, inside his own court, banned the playing of music.
A MAN SINGS When Aurangzeb saw his musicians carrying their silent instruments and was told that since he'd killed music, they were off to bury it, he replied contemptuously he hoped they buried it deep.
In the end, absolute rulers tend to turn tyrant.
The temptation to shut people up, to ban things, is irresistible.
Aurangzeb plunged India into a 26-year battle to destroy any rivals in the Hindu south.
He built the most extensive empire so far in Indian history.
But it came at a terrible cost.
Aurangzeb brought the Moghul empire to the very edge of bankruptcy, so weakening it, that soon afterwards, the British were able to kick down the door and take over India.
Absolute regimes tend to collapse for the same reason - that eventually somebody is in charge who leads the empire on a disastrous path.
And to give him his credit, perhaps Aurangzeb in the end understood this.
On his deathbed, he said to his son, "I came alone and I go as a stranger.
"I do not know who I am or what I have been doing.
" The British seizure of India would be remarkably fast.
But at just the same time, they'd get a terrible shock of their own.
By now, the idea of a British absolute monarch had long gone.
A civil war, and then a peaceful revolution, had brought in something new - party politics.
Votes and liberties protected by Parliament, which in those days sat on this spot.
The British began to pride themselves on liberty and freedom of speech.
One tiny flaw in the system was that as they colonised the rest of the world, it seemed that this great British invention wasn't for export.
In 1773, what would become the United States of America consisted of 13 British colonies.
People here thought of themselves as British, and they were ruled by courts using British laws, suffused by British Enlightenment ideas of liberty.
But the Americans were governed by a parliament in London in which they had no political representation.
And many were angry about it.
Things came to a head in Boston, Massachusetts, in a row about taxes and tea.
Tea was by far the most popular drink of the day.
And the British imposed a tax on all the tea coming into the 13 colonies.
Now, it wasn't a very big tax, and actually the price of tea was going down.
But for Americans being raised on the new Enlightenment ideas about the freedom of the individual, this was a matter of principle.
Why should the London Parliament, which was six to eight weeks' dangerous sailing time away, where they had no voice and no vote, be able to impose any taxes on the people here? In Boston, this was about something even more important than tea.
Liberty.
Protesting against British taxes had become a major American hobby.
And nobody was more dedicated to it than the local politician, Samuel Adams.
No taxation without representation.
No to British tea taxes! When he heard that 94,000 pounds of tea were en route to Boston, Adams resolved that not an ounce should land.
No taxation without representation! No to British tea taxes! Neither side was prepared to back down.
No to British tea taxes.
No to British tea taxes! On November the 28th, 1773, the first of three British ships, the Dartmouth, sailed into Boston harbour.
She was filled to the brim with tea from China, brought via Britain.
Boston braced itself.
For 20 days, the ship was tied up at the dock, while Adams tried to persuade its captain to turn round and take the tea back to Britain.
But the pro-British governor of Boston refused to allow the ship permission to leave.
Stalemate.
The governor has refused permission for the ships to leave.
[BOOING AND SHOUTING] Rebellion was in the air.
Adams didn't have to say much to incite the crowd.
This meeting can do nothing more to save the country.
[CHANTING] A mob! A mob.
The crowd were crying out for mob action.
[CHANTING:] Mob! Mob! Mob! Across Boston, the rebels poured onto the streets and headed for the harbour.
Many were dressed as Mohawk Indians.
So why were they dressed up as Mohawks? It may simply have been a disguise, but it's also been suggested that this was supposed to symbolise freeborn Americans standing up against tyranny.
If so, this was a bitter irony, because the real Mohawks were the original hunters, whose culture and whose land was being seized and destroyed by colonial America.
So this was a great struggle for liberty - for European immigrants.
For Native Americans, it was disaster.
That night, 342 chests were tipped into the water.
46 tonnes of tea were destroyed, worth more than a million pounds today.
The Boston Tea Party set the stage for the American Revolutionary War.
That war would go on for eight years.
But finally, in 1783, the 13 colonies won their independence from Britain.
The United States of America was now free to create a new kind of society and politics.
The Declaration of Independence said, "We hold these truths to be self-evident - "that all men are created equal, "that they are endowed by their Creator "with certain inalienable rights.
"Among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
" Here, in one document, was everything essential the Enlightenment stood for.
For the first time in history, liberty and equality were claimed as the basis of a political system.
Of course, not everyone would be equal or free.
Not native people, not blacks and not women of any colour.
But still, these are remarkable words and certainly one of the foundation stones of the modern world.
When the United States came to create its own system of government, it chose an essentially parliamentary system of elected representatives.
Powers were beginning to be transferred to the people.
And although there was some chatter about an American monarch, they went for elected presidents.
Some of whom have done perfectly well! Back in Europe, France's Louis XVI, not perhaps the brightest candle in the candelabra, had paid a fortune to help the Americans win their revolution against his old enemy, the British.
The result? The financial collapse of Louis's already tottering regime.
And it seems not to have occurred to him that ideas of liberty might boomerang back from America to Paris.
France was almost bankrupt.
But the people who mostly had the money - the nobility and the Church - mostly didn't pay tax.
And so, in desperation, Louis summoned representatives of the common people of France to help him.
Big mistake.
Because for the first time, the seething and put-upon majority had a voice.
In the summer of 1789, simmering anger and resentment exploded into full-blown class war on the streets of Paris.
Où allez-vous ? À la Bastille ! À la Bastille ! On the 14th of July, hundreds marched on a hated symbol of royal power - a fortress and prison called the Bastille.
The Bastille had just seven prisoners inside, none political.
The crowd really wanted its store of gunpowder.
The besiegers cut off the governor's head with a pocket knife and paraded it through the streets.
This was much more than simply a mob.
The French Revolution would be led by shopkeepers, journalists and lawyers.
And they were armed with something much more dangerous than gunpowder or pikes - the ideas of the Enlightenment.
The leaders of this popular revolt had genuinely revolutionary ideas.
Very quickly, they abolished all the privileges of the aristocracy.
They insisted on fair taxes, and they took on the incredibly wealthy and powerful Catholic Church.
Above all, they declared the rights of man - the equality of all citizens, their right to an elected government, free speech and fair courts.
These were the ideals of the early French Revolution.
Liberté, egalité, fraternité.
Louis XVI was now in full retreat.
But his position wasn't hopeless.
France was surrounded by other absolute rulers with armies who might come to his rescue.
Louis decided to escape with his spectacularly unpopular queen, Marie-Antoinette.
On the night of 21st of June 1791, the royal family sneaked away from Paris, disguised, not very well, as servants, and they fled for the border.
It should have been easy.
This was a world where few faces were recognisable.
Bonsoir.
Vos papiers, monsieur.
Merci.
But just 40 miles from the border, a local postmaster who'd served in the Royal Cavalry recognised the Queen.
Attendez un instant.
Mais… C'est la reine ! C'est la reine ! C'est la reine ! Et regardez, c'est le roi ! He checked his money, and there was the King's face on a banknote.
C'est la reine ! C'est le roi et la reine ! The King and his family were taken back to Paris in disgrace.
The shift from absolute power to absolute irrelevance was complete.
From now on, the King was a pathetic figure.
In September 1792, France declared herself a republic, and that winter, Louis was put on trial for treason.
As to the result, there was never any doubt.
On January 21st, 1793, at nine o'clock in the morning, Louis XVI was driven through the streets of Paris… …to meet his sharpest critic so far.
The guillotine had only been at work here for nine months.
It was itself a product of the ideals of the revolution - humane, efficient and fast.
It was promoted, not invented, by Dr Joseph Guillotin.
"Now, with my machine," he said, "I can cut off your head in the twinkling of an eye, "and you'll never feel it.
" It was also supremely democratic, killing both commoners and nobility in just the same way.
Now this democratic killing machine was about to slice away 1,000 years of French monarchy.
Louis announced his innocence and forgave his enemies.
But he could have saved his breath.
Et je prie Dieu que le sang que vous allez verser ne retombe pas sur la France ! [HE SHOUTS] [CHEERING] The execution of Louis XVI horrified the monarchies of Europe, and soon France was encircled by hostile armies.
At home, food prices soared, the mob rioted, and in the Assembly, the factions fought each other.
The moderates sat on the right-hand side of the chamber and the extremists on the left, which is where today we get our words for left and right from in politics.
Finally, in the summer of 1793, the extreme Jacobin faction seized control.
The revolution descended into terror.
It was driven by a naive idea that mankind could start again… …and slice its way to a better world.
The extremists turned the high ideals of the revolution into a weapon to destroy their enemies.
One lot of revolutionaries denounced the next.
Instead of the reign of reason, it felt like the reign of hysteria and paranoia.
All around Paris, people were waiting for the knock on the door, and the streets of the city ran with blood.
It's thought that 40,000 people died in what became known simply as The Terror.
Finally, in 1799, the army seized control of the country.
The leader was an upstart general called Napoleon Bonaparte.
His ambition, limitless.
In 1804, he invited the Pope to anoint him Emperor of France in an extravagant ceremony in Notre-Dame Cathedral.
Napoleon left the Pope waiting in the cold for several hours… …before crowning himself.
[CHEERING] In history, the arrival of a small man in a big hat is rarely good news.
Absolute power was back.
With the crowning of Napoleon, the revolution was over.
The world's seen many revolutions since then, and they have often followed just the same pattern - idealism, then extremism, the revolution starts to eat its own children, until finally, in exhaustion, power lands in the hands of a military hardman.
And yet, despite that ghastly cycle, the revolutions keep coming, often driven by just the same ideals as that first revolution, made and then killed by the people of Paris.
Across the Channel, Britain's political rulers were horrified by the French Revolution.
The British had very different ideas about liberty, and would fight long wars at sea and on land against Napoleon to defend them.
But the highest ideals of the British Enlightenment would also fail to measure up as they explored the world and encountered new peoples.
The Australian Aborigines were nomadic hunter-gatherers.
In the 18th century, there were up to a million of them, with around 250 different languages.
They'd lived here for perhaps 50,000 years.
The rest of human history wasn't even a rumour.
Then strange white creatures turned up.
In 1770, Captain James Cook had discovered New South Wales and claimed it for Britain.
A brilliant navigator, Cook came from a humble background and he greatly admired the natives for their lack of material greed.
"They have no need of magnificent houses and household stuff," he wrote, and with a wonderful climate, they had no need of clothing.
Noble savages.
But Cook was a servant of the British Crown, and after the loss of her American colonies, Britain desperately needed somewhere else to dump her convicts.
The first European settlement in Australia was a prison camp.
It was named after the British Home Secretary, Viscount Sydney.
But this was also an Enlightenment project.
Britain had some 200 crimes punishable by death.
The hanging of hundreds of people, including women and children, was making an enlightened society queasy.
Sending convicts overseas seemed more humane.
And so there came to Australia people like Elizabeth Powley, who'd stolen a few shillings' worth of bacon and raisins.
And James Grace, who'd taken ten yards of ribbon and a pair of silk stockings.
He was 11-years-old.
Captain Arthur Phillip was the first governor of Australia.
He ran a tough regime for the convicts.
- How are they doing this morning? - Hard at work.
But his attitude towards the Aborigines was more benevolent.
You see that up there? Native peoples were to be respected, studied and understood.
Governor Phillip was an Enlightenment man, who was determined there should be no slavery in this new land and that the natives would be treated with respect.
In fact, he had personal instructions from King George III himself, who wanted "all our subjects "to live in amity and kindness" with the natives.
Unable to persuade the Aborigines to make contact with him, Phillip tried something which wasn't perhaps so kind.
The kidnapped man was a 26-year-old called Bennelong.
Phillip wanted to teach him English so he could communicate directly with the Aborigines.
Bennelong became a go-between, linking two different worlds.
He entertained the British with his sense of humour and his singing and his dancing, and he introduced Governor Phillip to the language and the customs of his people.
And in return, Phillip taught him English and polite manners.
And something perhaps rather unexpected happened between these two very different men.
They became genuine friends.
To the King! To…the…King! Good! Excellent.
Cheers! On Christmas Day, 1789, Bennelong dressed up in the official uniform of the British Navy and enjoyed a Christmas dinner of turtle with Captain Phillip.
Merry Christmas, Bennelong! Chin-chin.
Tuck in before it swims away, what? But after six months, Bennelong went missing.
It took Phillip four months to track him down.
Bennelong? We have come to ask you to come back.
Bennelong agreed to return, but first, Aboriginal custom demanded an act of revenge against his kidnapper.
Quite remarkably, Governor Phillip did not retaliate.
Oh, my goodness.
He understood why he'd been attacked, and his friendship with Bennelong resumed.
Bennelong rejoined him in Sydney.
The British even built Bennelong his own house.
It stood in the same site that Sydney Opera House now occupies.
Bennelong was the first Aboriginal man to voluntarily enter the British settlement.
But he'd be followed by many more.
It's remembered as the Coming In, and to start with, it seemed like a great Enlightenment triumph.
The British colony kept on growing.
Some 165,000 convicts were sent before the system ended in 1850.
But this was disastrous for the Aborigines.
Many became hooked on alcohol and tobacco.
An estimated 20,000 Aborigines were killed in battles over land.
Tens of thousands more were killed by European diseases.
Wherever Enlightenment Europeans came across hunter-gatherers, they moved remarkably quickly from regarding them with curiosity and awe to seeing them as human clutter.
As soon as greed and patriotism kicked in, they were simply to be marginalised, pushed aside, even exterminated.
It's very hard to understand somebody else's culture when you're busy taking away their land.
The British had at least been determined there would be no slavery in Australia.
But what of the great enemies, the French? Their revolutionary version of the Enlightenment, the equality of man, was also spreading beyond Europe.
But these ideas now collided with the dirtiest stain on Europe's conscience.
By the end of the 18th century, the African slave trade was an entrenched part of the world's economic system.
12.
5 million Africans were ripped from their families and transported in appalling conditions across the Atlantic.
The slaves were put to work on the plantations of the Americas and the Caribbean.
[SHOUTS] Vite ! Vite ! Allez ! iVite ! There, the death rate was terrible.
Branding, whipping and unspeakable tortures were routine.
Slavery is almost as old and widespread as civilisation itself.
What made the Atlantic slave trade different was simply its size.
Here in the Americas, you had limitless quantities of cheap land, and in Europe, you had an insatiable desire for sugar, coffee and tobacco.
But to put the two together, you needed very cheap labour.
You needed African slaves.
And the rotting remains of the great slave plantations are still dotted along the Atlantic coast.
Slavery produced an increasing moral problem for European countries which liked to think of themselves as enlightened.
But the system was fabulously profitable, reshaping cities in Europe and building awesome fortunes.
It seemed too powerful to overthrow, too big to fail.
But the news of the French Revolution had an incendiary effect on the slaves of the French colony of Saint-Domingue, now known as Haiti.
Hundreds of thousands of slaves had died here.
Slave leaders used voodoo ceremonies as a cover for plotting a revolution of their own.
[DRUMMING AND SHOUTING] On the night of 14th August, 1791, a group of slaves met with the voodoo high priest, Boukman Dutty.
He was called "Boukman" because he knew how to read.
Now he was mixing French revolutionary thinking with African religion and he urged the slaves, "Listen to the voice of liberty in your hearts.
" [HE SHOUTS] To seal what was a desperate and dangerous plan, Boukman drank the blood of a slaughtered pig.
Haiti's slave rebellion had begun.
Within weeks, 100,000 slaves had risen up in revolt.
4,000 white planters were killed.
Hundreds of plantations were burned to the ground.
The French plantation owners fought back.
In November, Boukman Dutty was captured and killed.
But the revolt only spread.
In France, a ferocious row broke out between those who argued that slavery was a stain on the ideals of the Revolution and those who said, "Hold on, France needs the money.
" Guess whose argument won.
The slave revolution - ever more bitter, ever more complicated - dragged on.
The man who finally won the slaves their freedom was himself a former slave and a military genius.
His name was Toussaint L'Ouverture.
Haiti was still formally a French colony, but Toussaint ran it with his own constitution, which was liberal and optimistic.
"I am too much a believer in the rights of man," he said, "to think that in nature there is one colour superior to another.
"For me, a man is only a man!" Toussaint's Haiti was the glimpse of a better way of living together.
It was only a brief glimpse, because Napoleon then sent the largest army that has ever left France by ship to crush the slave rebellion.
Toussaint was tricked into giving himself up, abducted and died shivering of cold in a French prison.
But in Haiti, the fighting went on until 1804, when the colony finally won independence from France and established the world's first black republic.
The revolt had rubbed European noses in the horrors of slavery.
Three years after Haiti's independence, the British abolished the slave trade.
Most of the world followed soon after.
The end of the Atlantic slave trade was a great victory for enlightened values, but Haiti's fate was rather grimmer.
Great white nations, such as the United States, with its noble new constitution, and republican France, shunned the young black republic.
Her economy collapsed, and appalling tyrannies followed.
Today, Toussaint's noble dream republic is one of the poorest and most miserable places on the planet.
The Enlightenment had taught that all men and women were brothers and sisters - noble ideals.
But they were outpaced by the more immediate demands of money, power and luxury.
Wherever we look, the purest political ideals of the Enlightenment seem to be corrupted, by greed for land and profits or a drive to bloody extremism.
You could conclude that the Age of Reason was so much hypocrisy.
Luckily, there was much more to the Enlightenment than power politics.
In the summer of 1757, in Wotton-under-Edge in Gloucestershire, an eight-year-old boy called Edward Jenner was taken to a place known as a pest house.
He faced a horrific medical ordeal.
For four weeks, he was starved and bled with leeches.
Then the doctor got to work.
He pressed dried smallpox scabs into the wound.
This was a dangerous procedure.
Smallpox caused as many as one in seven deaths worldwide.
Blisters erupted all over the body, including the mouth and throat, making it impossible to swallow.
Huge numbers of people were marked for life.
But the doctor was trying to help Jenner.
Since ancient times, all round the world, doctors had known that by infecting patients with a very small amount of smallpox, they could protect them against the full-blown disease, and it mostly worked.
But there was a problem.
It MOSTLY worked! In some cases, apart from the fact that this was a very unpleasant process, the patient would get full-blown smallpox and all the scars, and go blind or even die.
So, with the best possible intentions, the doctors were gambling with young Jenner's life.
And Edward Jenner was one of the lucky ones.
He grew up to be an Enlightenment man, a country doctor with an inquiring mind.
He was fascinated by all the sciences.
In his own way, as ready as Galileo to challenge received ideas and travel into the unknown.
And it became his obsession to find a cure for smallpox that was reliable and safe.
One day, a local milkmaid told him that because she'd suffered from the harmless disease cowpox, she could now never catch smallpox.
Jenner began to wonder whether this local country legend might hold the key.
And so Jenner started to travel around, trying to find anyone who'd been infected with cowpox, and sure enough, they all confirmed that none of them then got smallpox.
And so he was pretty convinced that there was something in cowpox that would defend you against smallpox.
But how to test this out? He had to find somebody, infect them with cowpox, then infect them with smallpox.
Interesting stuff! Dangerous stuff.
The opportunity to test his theory came in the summer of 1796, when a local milkmaid came down with cowpox.
Jenner took some pus from the blisters on her hand.
He then took his gardener's son, James Phipps… Are you ready? Just like that.
…and infected him with cowpox.
I just need to put some of this in here.
Phipps went down with the mild disease.
There we are.
Jenner allowed him to recover… And then we can bandage you up.
…and then he deliberately infected the boy with smallpox.
Now, these days, there are ferocious arguments about the ethics of using animals for medical experiments.
In Jenner's time, simply snaffling a working-class boy and using him seems to have caused no comment at all.
Luckily, young James recovered.
He had achieved immunity.
And so, in this house, there had taken place the world's first vaccination.
Vaccination comes from the Latin for cow, "vacca".
[MOOING] Unlike Galileo, Edward Jenner lived in a society where ideas were free to whirl around.
His book explaining vaccination was a huge bestseller.
The good news spread everywhere.
Napoleon vaccinated his whole army and gave Jenner a medal.
In America, President Jefferson vaccinated his household.
And Jenner's discovery was soon saving lives all around the world.
Almost 200 years later, in 1980, the World Health Organization announced the complete eradication of smallpox.
It's still the only human disease to have been wiped off the face of the Earth.
During Jenner's lifetime, politicians were declaring the rights of man.
It was a period of extreme political violence, where on the continent, tens of thousands died in the name of liberty.
And yet Edward Jenner, a true child of the Enlightenment, using nothing more than his own powers of observation and the freedom to publish and discuss and test ideas, did more for human happiness than all the politicians put together.
No human being who has ever lived has saved more lives in history than the simple country doctor from Gloucestershire.
In the next programme: The triumph of industry, the scramble for Africa… …and the world stumbles into war.
If you'd like to know a little bit more about how the past is revealed, you can order a free booklet called How Do They Know That? Just call… …or go to the website and follow the links to the Open University.
Sync Red Bee Media Ltd