The British (2012) s01e05 Episode Script

Superpower

NARRATOR: Over 2,000 years, they will forge a nation, dominate the globe and invent the modern world.
This is the story of how a small group of islands becomes a superpower.
-(GROANS) -(PEOPLE SHOUTING) The British This is our story.
july 1769, the South Pacific.
Lieutenant james Cook is on a secret mission for the British government.
His orders, to go in search of the fabled southern continent.
It's a challenge Cook has yearned for all his life.
His ambition is to journey.
COOK: Not only farther than any other man has been before me, but as far as it is possible for man to go.
NARRATOR: Britain is already a world power.
Its navy dominates the oceans.
Back home, a new age is dawning, of invention, enterprise and the self-made man.
james Cook left school at 12 and learnt his trade sailing coal ships off the Yorkshire coast.
Self-taught in maths and geometry, he's become an expert navigator.
But now he must sail off the edge of the map.
Any trouble, and there'll be nobody to help.
Our scientific exploration and curiosity, I think, is directly linked to our physical curiosity as voyagers and islanders.
And I think that transcending boundaries is part of the British DNA.
BENEDICT ALLEN: The British love endurance, they love the sense that you maintain your values whatever you're up against, so we've had Sir Walter Raleigh and Francis Drake and Cook, all these amazing characters.
We've wanted to see what's around the next corner and define the world in our terms.
NARRATOR: After 16 months at sea, Cook makes a great discovery.
The eastern edge of a mysterious continent.
Today, we call it Australia.
(SPEAKING NATIVE LANGUAGE) They are the first visitors here for 40,000 years.
He scares off the aboriginal inhabitants with a shot over their heads, and claims the land for Britain, calling it New South Wales.
In this age of imperial expansion, Australia is a huge prize.
It will add three million square miles to the British Empire.
In this small corner of it, the expedition finds treasures that will transform life back in Britain.
For travelling with Cook is a young botanist,joseph Banks.
Fascinated by natural history since childhood and fabulously rich since inheriting his father's estate, Banks has spent 10,000 pounds, a fortune, on a retinue of assistants, scientific equipment and a library of reference books.
MICHAEL PORTILLO: This is an age of enlightenment, and there is an understanding that the individual is there with duties to be what he can, to develop his mind.
And this grips a very large group of people.
They believe that they have a duty to inquire, and fortunately, several have the wealth in order to indulge their passion.
NARRATOR: joseph Banks catalogues hundreds of exotic new birds, animals and plants, like eucalyptus and the banksia nuts that bear his name.
These specimens were so valuable, it was immeasurable.
You couldn't measure the value that they had.
What was brought to Britain has definitely changed the flora and the fauna of Britain a lot.
NARRATOR: Cook writes, ''The great quantity of plants ''collected in this place occasion my giving it the name Botany Bay.
'' The great city of Sydney will grow here.
Setting off for home in uncharted seas, Cook strikes a coral reef.
(LOUD CRASH) -SAILOR: All hands on deck.
-(SAILORS SHOUTING) NARRATOR: It rips open the ship's hull below the waterline.
Banks thinks they are doomed.
BANKS: The grinding noise was dreadful, and the anxiety in every countenance was visible.
I prepared myself for the worst.
Death now stared us in the face.
Take this down, right here.
Send this down.
Keep it moving, men.
NARRATOR: To lighten the ship, they jettisoned casks, cannons, anything weighty.
We have to take advantage of the tide as it comes in.
COOK: She leaked so fast, not even with all our pumps could we free her.
Get everything out of the water.
NARRATOR: But one thing they refused to sacrifice, the precious scientific samples.
Finally, after 23 hours, the ship rises from the rocks We've done it.
-We're free, men.
-and is made seaworthy again.
Back home,joseph Banks' collection is a sensation.
King George III will make him director of the new Kew Gardens.
Amongst the 30,000 specimens he brings home are 1,400 plants never seen before in Britain.
His triumph inspires many imitators.
DIARMUID GAVIN: The British had so many foreign territories and so much money was pouring into this country, you had people who would commission plant hunters to go and find plants, bring them back and show them off, or develop them for commercial gain, or just show.
''Look what I have in my garden.
'' NARRATOR: One new crop is cotton from India.
Raw cotton is cheap, but working it into threads long and strong enough to make clothes is so painstaking that spun cotton is known as white gold.
But if a machine could do the work (DOG BARKING) Lancashire, 1768.
Locals suspect these two men are dabbling in witchcraft.
Richard Arkwright, a barber who makes wigs from the scraps of customers' hair, and john Kay, watchmaker and precision engineer.
Working secretively at night, they're trying to build a machine which will stretch and spin cotton perfectly.
Too fast, and the delicate fibres snap.
Too slow, and they become uneven and lumpy.
-Yeah, there it is.
-No, no, no, don't touch it.
It's not working, john.
NARRATOR: They've been at it for six months, and are running out of money.
-If I increase the number of teeth -It's not strong enough.
-I can get a wider surface.
-The tensile strength is good.
NARRATOR: Eventually, Kay perfects a gearing system that runs like clockwork.
Would you look at that.
Their machines will spin cotton 1 00 times faster than the most skilled hand-spinner.
RICHARD REED: We are the original nation of inventors.
The Industrial Revolution started in this country, and it was that, that exported to the world the idea of entrepreneurship and innovation and huge efficiency.
So, I think we've got it in our blood more than we realise.
We've done it for so long and we do it so naturally, we take it for granted.
NARRATOR: Arkwright amasses a great fortune by creating a completely new type of workplace, a machine-powered factory.
It's the greatest change in working life since humans invented farming.
But its impact on working people brings violent class conflict to the heart of England.
Chowbent, Lancashire, April 24, 1812.
Tonight, teenage sisters Lydia and Mary Molyneux -Come on.
-Let's go.
would risk their lives to destroy a cotton mill.
The sisters are handloom weavers.
So is their 13-year-old neighbour, Abraham Charlson.
It's well-paid work, which they can do at home.
Since Arkwright invented his spinning machine, Britain has been experiencing a seismic shift.
The artisan is being swept aside by the machine.
The livelihood of Britain's 200,000 weavers is under threat.
(PEOPLE SHOUTING) In Chowbent, the protestors, known as Luddites, are set on destruction.
(GLASS SHATTERING) LUDDITE MAN: Mary and Lydia were breaking windows with muck hooks and coal picks, and cursing the souls of those who worked within.
(ALL CLAMOURING) CAITLIN MORAN: I've always worried that I would be one of the people who wants to smash any kind of new technology.
Often change is imposed from above.
And generally, the class above you aren't doing things to help you out, they're doing things to help themselves out.
So chances are, if there's a change coming on, it probably is to screw over the working classes.
(GLASS SHATTERING) LUDDITE MAN: If you don't pull 'em down, we'll pull 'em down for you.
We will, you damned infernal dog.
We'll pull down all the mills.
Weavers see the machines that threaten their livelihoods as infernal machines, as if they were something out of the Old Testament.
The looms aren't the problem and the new technology is not the problem.
The real problem is how that technology is inflicted upon the working class.
The working class are the ones that prop up the rich.
NARRATOR: The rioters wreck all of the mill's 170 looms.
Machine-breaking is a hanging offence, and so is arson.
LUDDITE MAN: A friend came up to me and said, ''The egg is broken, let us burn the shell.
'' (SCREAMS) NARRATOR: The Luddite call to arms is spreading.
Violent riots erupt in a dozen towns and cities.
A secret committee report to the government.
MALE COMMITTEE MEMBER: ''They number up to 500,000 people ''and are meditating not only the destruction of machinery, ''but a general revolution.
'' NARRATOR: The government sends a small army, 1 2,000 troops, to crush the uprising.
(PEOPLE SHOUTING) In Chowbent, Lydia, Mary and Abraham are all arrested.
God save me! They face the death penalty.
The girls are released, due, it was said, to their tender sex.
But 13-year-old Abraham, who had fetched straw to help burn down the mill, is sentenced to hang, along with three others.
One defendant wrote, ''I shall never forget the look of horror on their faces ''as they received their sentences.
-''Some threw themselves on the floor '' -ABRAHAM: No! ''one tore the hair from his head, lamenting ''that he must never more see his family.
'' ABRAHAM: No! No! (CELL DOOR OPENING) (CREAKING) LILY COLE: If you take a stand, it requires bravery.
I honour anybody who stands in the face of, kind of, fear and shows real bravery to stand up for what they believe in.
So, um, from that perspective, it's a very, kind of, compelling story.
And also quite sad.
We hung somebody who was 13-years-old.
NARRATOR: The Luddites are now doomed.
They cannot resist the power of the state or the advance of the machine.
That would probably be something that would be very sad for me to lose, if I was someone that spent hours and hours and hours and hours doing something, and then someone said, ''Oh, I've got a machine that can do that ''in a quarter of the time that you do it.
'' And then, at the same time, it was about business, so I think it's a matter of biting your tongue and having to realise that the world moves forward.
PORTILLO: The Industrial Revolution puts Britain on top of the world.
We can take raw cotton from India, we can make it into manufactured product in Manchester, send it back to India and still undercut the local competition.
But at the same time, Britain's rural idyll has been replaced by the dark satanic mills.
(MACHINES WHIRRING) NARRATOR: Within 20 years, Lancashire's cotton mills will employee 1 20,000 people.
No longer independent weavers, but low-paid workers, many of them children, working 1 2-hour days.
The driving force behind this Industrial Revolution has been in the making for millions of years.
All this was once tropical rainforest.
Gradually, the ancient vegetation has turned into rich seams of coal, Britain's black gold.
Coal is completely transformative.
In terms of industrial potential, it has the same significance in the early 19th century as oil does today.
NARRATOR: By 1830, Britain is producing four-fifths of all the coal sold anywhere in the world.
And from coal, you can make steam.
jEREMY BLACK: What is really important is developments with steam power.
james Watt's great partner, Matthew Boulton, famously remarked, ''What I sell here, sir, is what everybody wants.
''What I sell here, sir, is power.
'' (STEAM WHISTLE BLOWING) NARRATOR: By the 1840s, the Industrial Revolution is at full throttle.
3,500 miles of rail track have been laid in just 25 years.
Even Britain's great natural barriers can't hold back progress.
On a remote hillside in Derbyshire, an army of 1,500 men are toiling day and night to drive a railway tunnel right through the spine of England, the Pennine Hills.
Called ''navvies'" they're itinerant workers who provide the muscle for the Industrial Revolution.
(EEPLOSION) Most are farm labourers made redundant by mechanisation.
A third are Scottish, and a third from Ireland, a country wracked by poverty and hunger, due in part to oppressive British rule.
They would take the boat, leaving their families behind, possibly for years.
But they had to do it, because the families had to be fed back in Ireland, and there was no other source of income for them, except to come here and do the hard work.
The digging of the canals, the building of the roads and the railways.
They were a remarkable people, and they had to work so terribly, terribly hard.
To this day, Irish people are proud when they look to London, when they look to Birmingham.
''Look, we built that.
'' And it's true.
They will have built that.
And their relatives, to this day, are working in those cities.
(EEPLOSION) Wake up.
NARRATOR: Navvies like William jackson and john Webb are working 60 hours a week to get the Pennine tunnel built.
They earn six pounds a month, about 500 pounds today.
It's good money for a labourer, but it comes with many dangers and little concern for health and safety.
I've got such a respect for builders having done quite a bit of it myself, you know, and I do it in nice conditions, fairly, with rules and regulations, and health and safety.
These guys just did it.
-Morning, jimmy.
-Morning.
NARRATOR: Today, February 5, 1844, their job is blasting rock.
They use iron rods to pack the gunpowder into holes in the rock.
One accidental scrape can be lethal.
Ah! Go! Go! Two of the navvies, driving a railway tunnel through the Pennine Hills, have been caught in an explosion.
What about him? -You'll live.
-Him? NARRATOR: The Manchester Guardian deplored the navvies' dreadful working conditions.
''Life is now recklessly sacrificed.
''Innocent women and children are unnecessarily ''rendered widows and orphans.
''Such evils must not be allowed to continue.
'' William jackson is the sixteenth man to die trying to build this, the longest railway tunnel in Britain.
It's the brainchild of engineer Joseph Locke.
If it can be built, the tunnel will slash the journey time across the Pennines and add a vital new link in the national rail network.
(INDISTINCT) -It's not going to happen.
-You can do it.
NARRATOR: It's not just the workers who are sceptical.
The great railway designer George Stephenson believes Locke's project is doomed.
GEORGE STEPHENSON: I will eat the first locomotive to get through that tunnel.
NARRATOR: Working with picks, shovels and gunpowder, the navvies shift half a million tons of rock and earth.
Twenty-six of them are killed, eight die of illness, and 140 are seriously injured in the effort.
A casualty rate more suited to a battlefield than a building project.
Finally, in December 1845, the tunnel is complete.
The railways transform British life.
Suburbs expand as people start commuting to work.
Businessman Thomas Cook organises holidays by train.
Townsfolk now get fresh milk and fruit.
Daily deliveries of fresh fish give birth to the fish and chip shop.
jEREMY BLACK: The steam engine, in many senses, creates the nation.
A reader of a newspaper in Sunderland or Exeter or Liverpool can read the London newspapers.
Burton Ale from Burton-upon-Trent can now be moved around the country.
So what the steam engine does is create national experiences, national products, the national market.
NARRATOR: All this economic growth creates yet more capital to invest in new ventures, and a belief that engineering can overcome any obstacle means no challenge is too great.
At Clifton, beside Bristol, a deep gorge has been thought unbridgeable for centuries.
JEREMY IRONS: It must have been an extraordinarily exciting time.
There was this great mushrooming of ideas and the ability to carry out those ideas.
I mean, I'm sure there must have been a feeling that anything is possible.
And you look at the gap alongside Bristol and Clifton, and you think, ''Yes.
We can do that.
'' NARRATOR: Twenty-four-year-old engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel designs a suspension bridge to span the gorge.
It's unsupported central span will remain Britain's longest for almost a century.
It's a wonder of the age.
It is a sublime example of the beauty of engineering.
It just seems like this great symbol of man's great ability in bridge building to triumph over the challenges of nature and to create something that is as beautiful as nature.
It's wonderful, isn't it? NARRATOR: Experimental science is booming, too.
The expanding empire brings a myriad of new raw materials and new markets, opening up opportunities both to invent new products and to sell them.
All of this inspires a new breed of Britons, the inventor-entrepreneur.
john.
Welcome.
NARRATOR: Thomas Hancock is a coach-maker by trade.
Come inside.
NARRATOR: But he spends his every spare hour experimenting in his attic laboratory.
He's fascinated by a new material, rubber from India.
Raw rubber melts in hot weather, snaps in the cold.
Hancock is searching for a way to make it tough, yet flexible.
He tries every chemical cocktail he can think of.
HANCOCK: I've spent all my time for months with these experiments.
I still fail to success.
(SIGHS) NARRATOR: Finally, he cooks strips of raw rubber in molten sulphur for hours.
HANCOCK: To my great satisfaction, I found that it freely absorbed the sulphur, and it produced that condition of rubber which I can't recall, the change.
NARRATOR: It's a breakthrough that will make him a fortune.
The sulphur makes the rubber strong, elastic and very marketable.
An amateur scientist has just created a brand-new industry.
BLACK: Rubber is a testimony to the way in which Britain is an imperial economic power.
They take a knowledge of rubber and they develop it in Malaya, a British colony, in order to ensure that the empire has its own source of rubber.
So you've got entrepreneurship, and you've also got imperial power.
NARRATOR: A craze for innovation rips the British Isles.
Between 1830 and 1850, more patents are filed for new inventions than in the previous two centuries.
This era produces everyday essentials, like tinned food and the postage stamp, and game-changing discoveries, like the mechanical calculator and electric dynamo.
Britain earns itself a new title, ''the workshop of the world''.
We're not good, we're astonishing.
British inventiveness, considering that we are this small, rocky, cold, grey island, and there aren't that many of us, but our inventiveness has changed the world over and over again.
NARRATOR: Westminster, London.
A blocked chimney flue causes the old Houses of Parliament to burst into flames.
It's the city's greatest inferno since the Great Fire.
The burning down of the old, and the great structure that replaces it, stand as a metaphor for a new age.
Political power is shifting, too.
Electoral reform doubles the number of men eligible to vote, sending a new kind of MP to Parliament.
This is transformatory because now included in power are not only the aristocrats, who've ruled for many centuries, but also the new-made men, the new middle class, the representatives of industry and trade.
NARRATOR: By Westminster Bridge, another new structure is rising, a soaring clock tower.
Within the tower, two beloved symbols of Britain.
First, the great clock.
It's the largest public clock in the world and the most accurate, correct to within a second a day.
Inside this box is another marvel of Victorian engineering.
Steady there.
A bell weighing 13.
5 tonnes, the heaviest in Britain.
It already has a name, taken from the MP overseeing the works, Sir Benjamin Hall.
A large man, known to his friends as ''Big Ben''.
The bell is safely installed, -but its hammer proves too heavy.
-(TOLLING) Two months after its first run, Big Ben cracks.
The crack still remains.
Giving the bell its unique, but imperfect sound.
HOROWITZ: One can't imagine London without it.
With the river, Parliament and the chimes of the clock.
It ticks away like Britain's heart.
FRANK LAMPARD: The sound of Big Ben fills me with pride.
I think it's a symbol of what we are.
Every time you hear it, you get that kind of tingle.
Well, I do.
It's a quintessentially British sound, isn't it? I associate that sound and that bit of London with, um, happy times and feeling I belong.
It's a gorgeous emblem, isn't it? I was looking at it recently, I thought, I wouldn't like it if that got knocked over.
I'd be really pissed off.
It's like a beautiful thing.
Not that I like symbols of imperial power, but Big Ben is beautiful.
(BIG BEN CHIMING) NARRATOR: When it was built, Big Ben certainly projected Victorian power.
Big Ben is a symbol of the reach of Britain, the monument standing at the centre of this global empire.
NARRATOR: By 1850, Britain presides over the world's largest empire, stretching from Canada to South Africa, from Australia to India.
An empire on which the sun never sets.
It has acquired most of its possessions by brute force.
The world's only superpower, Britain is quick to attack anyone who threatens its foreign interests.
Like bombarding the Chinese coast until the Emperor lets British companies sell opium to his people.
We're a bit trouble, a bit of trouble, really, and that's what we're known for, a little bit, around the world.
NARRATOR: And crushing rebellions against British rule in India, New Zealand and Southern Africa.
There's a sort of undercurrent of savagery, that hooligan nature, that savage nature.
That's the element that frightens me, I think, about the British people.
NARRATOR: In the 1 850s, Imperial Russia's push south threatens Britain's trade interests.
To assert its authority, the British government sends an army to the Crimean Peninsula.
It will be the first war of the industrial age.
In September 1854, Britain sends an army to break Russian power in the Black Sea.
On the battlefield, British troops have one great advantage over their enemies.
One of the most innovative products of the new industrial economy, the rifled musket.
It's easier to load, it's more accurate, it's more robust, and you can literally knock the enemy down before they can get close enough to you to fire.
NARRATOR: It extends a single soldier's kill range from a hundred yards to half a mile.
But it's what's inside this new musket that really counts.
A new lead bullet called the ''mini ball''.
It weighs more than an ounce and measures over half an inch across.
On impact, it flattens out, tearing through bone and muscle and inflicting terrible injuries.
The power of this rifle, issued to every foot soldier in the Crimea, creates one of the great legends of British military history.
Normally, when infantry are faced with cavalry, they form a square.
It's the way they defend themselves.
But because they have the rifle, they feel more confident, they can retain their literally thin red line.
NARRATOR: The thin red line of British infantrymen is one product of this, the world's first industrialised war.
The Crimea also sees the first military deployment of ironclad warships, of railways, of exploding mines, and of another weapon of modern warfare, (TAPPING) the telegraph.
DAN CRUICKSHANK: Speed of communication in the mid-19th century transformed the way wars were waged.
The commanders could receive information, instructions, they could send back information to HQ.
In that way, war could be waged more efficiently, more effectively.
(INDISTINCT) NARRATOR: But the generals aren't the only ones who make use of the telegraph.
The Crimean campaign was the first one in which a reporter, William Russell of The Times, was present and followed the campaigning.
NARRATOR: Russell's frank descriptions shock the British at their breakfast tables.
RUSSELL: Their writhing and their gore, wracked with the agony of every imaginable wound, the combatants lay indiscriminately, no attempt being made to relieve their sufferings until the next day.
The battlefields of those times, the casualty rates were extraordinary, compared to Second World War, for example, and he wrote about it vividly.
NARRATOR: Russell even issues a challenge to the women back home.
RUSSELL: Are none of the daughters of England, at this hour of extreme need, able and willing to go forth to minister to the sick and suffering soldiers of the east? NARRATOR: One who heeds the call is a jamaican hotel manager, Mary Seacole.
Mary Seacole had helped the British forces in jamaica.
When she heard that some of the regiments that she'd known in jamaica were being sent to the Crimea, she wanted to go there to look after what she called ''her sons''.
Sit.
Let me look at you.
MARY SEACOLE: The grateful words and smile which rewarded me for binding up a wound, or giving a cooling drink, was a pleasure worth risking life for at any time.
The Mary Seacole Nursery is around the corner from where I used to live, and I used to walk past it with my children every day, and they asked me who she was, and I didn't know.
So uncovering this story of a black British woman who went over there and acted entirely out of principle to help other people, was just an amazing treasure to find.
NARRATOR: The pioneering work of Mary Seacole and Florence Nightingale, both who recognised the importance of cleanliness in treating the sick, will raise the standards of hygiene in hospitals back home.
BLACK: What you're seeing is the growing belief that you need cleanliness, which is very, very significantly linked to nursing.
So nursing is part of the great Victorian cult of improvement.
NARRATOR: Even more important to the nation's health is its diet.
During the 1870s, the rapidly expanding British population is running short of meat.
The Agricultural Gazette reports, ''Britain's meat supply is becoming the most important problem of the day, ''and its satisfactory solution is almost impossible.
'' NARRATOR: 12,000 miles away, in New Zealand, there are 11 million sheep.
Scottish captain John Whitson thinks he can bridge the gap.
He plans to transport 5,000 New Zealand sheep to Britain.
To keep their carcasses fresh on the three-month voyage, he's had his ship, the Dunedin, fitted with the very latest in Victorian technology, the coal-powered freezer.
But after the first 600 sheep are loaded, the freezer breaks down.
Whitson sells off the carcasses and starts again.
This time, all goes well, until they hit the tropics of the West African coast.
In the searing heat, the Dunedin is becalmed.
The freezer starts to fail.
It works by pumping a constant stream of chilled air around the hold to keep all the cargo cold, but not enough air is getting through.
The carcasses are starting to thaw.
More ventilation holes are needed, and someone must drill them from inside the freezer.
Whitson decides to do it himself.
Watch the gauge.
NARRATOR: If he doesn't work fast enough, the meat will be ruined and he could freeze to death.
(GASPING) The temperature's going down now.
NARRATOR: The cargo is saved.
But there's a worrying silence from Whitson himself.
Inside the freezer, he has collapsed.
They tie a rope around his ankles and drag him out.
DOUGRAY SCOTT: It is extraordinary when one thinks about the pioneers who risked their lives to do the things that we take for granted today.
The Scottish captain on the ship Dunedin paved a way for our diet to completely change, so we could have fresh meat from across the world.
NARRATOR: Whitson suffers hypothermia.
But 100 days after leaving New Zealand, his meat is on sale at London's Smithfield Market, where the butchers marvel at its quality.
The Times writes, ''Today we have to record ''such a triumph over physical difficulties ''as would have been incredible, ''even unimaginable, a very few days ago.
'' Refrigeration increases food supply and brings down prices, so more people can eat well.
Refrigeration keeps inherent within the food the natural nutrients that are there.
It's transformed the way that we eat and the way that we can feed ourselves.
BLACK: People actually become taller, and there's a reduction in vitamin deficiency diseases, which had been quite serious.
More people will keep their teeth for longer because their teeth won't drop out.
NARRATOR: The Victorians rule the world.
The coming together of invention, enterprise, discovery and global ambition has created the richest economy and the largest empire ever seen.
The fact of the matter is that we created the modern world, the Industrial Revolution, all these inventors, explorers who set out and defined the world.
It does seem like we've sort of showed the world how it should be.
NARRATOR: The Industrial Revolution has made Britain a superpower, but it also creates immense social upheaval.
Millions live in abject poverty.
Slums abound, where half of all babies die before their first birthday.
Tackling these problems will present the Victorians with their greatest challenge.