The Great British Story

6.00-1.00am on BBC TWO

The Great British Story – A People’s History: Modern Britain

In this final episode Michael Wood takes an overview of the momentous history of the last century between the Jubilees of 1897 and 2012.

During this period the people of Britain went through two World Wars and saw their industries and their empire shrink, transforming the country from the greatest power on earth to the world’s first post industrial society.

From the Govan shipyards in Glasgow to Belfast, the Black Country, the Potteries, Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool, Michael meets the people whose lives have been changed, but whose histories have not been forgotten.

The Accrington Pals are movingly remembered on Armistice Day in Lancashire, while in Suffolk both the British and the Americans honour those who died in Worls War II.

Post-1945 brought the shock of new housing, education and healthcare, while the last 50 years witnessed the arrival of ‘new Britons’ to a post-colonial, multicultural country.

In Leeds, Michael looks at the UK’s first Caribbean carnival, spends Prince William’s wedding day at a Hindu temple outside Birmingham and chats with residents from Moss Side in Manchester at Peace Radio.

And as old identities break down and new ones form, Michael asks whether the Union itself will survive.

In the nearly 2,000 years covered by the series, the people of Britain have gone through feudalism, civil wars, capitalism and Industrial Revolution. So what lies ahead? And what lessons does our common history as Britons have to teach us?

Ep 8/8

9:00pm Friday 3 August on BBC TWO

Michael Wood uncovers the extraordinary tale of the Industrial Revolution, which turned Britain into the world’s first industrial society.

Exploring the deep roots of British industry, Michael visits the Free Miners of the Forest of Dean, the Flax mills of Northern Ireland, the Cornish tin mines, the Potteries and the world’s first centre of copper production in South Wales.

In Liverpool he shows how slavery underpinned British wealth and trade, which was now expanding to India. As urban society grew and the countryside was depopulated by enclosures and clearances, Michael shows how the rural workforce resonded, visiting Skye at Tolpuddle in Dorset and Downton in Wiltshire.

Enlightenment ideals were transforming society: from Armagh, with its great library and observatory to Birmingham, home to the Lunar Society and James Watt’s steam engine. In Manchester – the ‘shock city’ of the age – Michael joins an excavation in the Angel Meadow slum and meets the descendants of poor families who lived there.

With British society transformed into an urban proletariat Michael looks finally at the social progress of the late Victorian Age and the migrations which took vast numbers of ordinary people from all over the British Isles to the farthest corners of the globe.

Ep 7/8

9:00pm Friday 15 June on BBC TWO

This next chapter of the story covers the catastrophic 14th century, the Black Death and the Peasants Revolt. Delving into local records Michael Wood tracks the plague across Britain from Little Cornard in Suffolk to Abergavenny in the Welsh borders and from St Andrews in Scotland to Dublin.

In the aftermath of the Black Death, with over half the population dead, British work patterns change and Michael finds women in the workforce as brewsters and shopkeepers, and discovers a new class of cloth workers through clues from the Big Dig at Long Melford.

The Peasants Revolt led by Wat Tyler is defeated, but the next century sees the rise of the new middle class. Michael visits the oldest primary school in Britain (from 1437) to see how education played a big part in the changing fortunes of the ordinary people; while unique letters from a Norfolk village give us a medieval woman’s take on love, marriage, and men.

Finally in 15th century Lavenham, Michael crawls down a Tudor sewer for some really hands-on history and sees how the Big Society was launched at the beginning of our modern world.

Ep 4/8

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