A History of Britain in (some rather surprising) Numbers

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    Words aren't the only tools that you can use to tell a story. Numbers have as much narrative power. A History of Britain In Numbers interrogates data to reveal the changes that have swept through our nation and created the Britain that we live in today.

    From rotten teeth to toilet arrangements to austerity, here are some surprising stats unveiled by the team.

    Homes

    Toilet

    The 1861 census records that in Dundee there were about 90,000 people… and three WCs. Two of them in hotels.   

    Health

    Of every 100 deaths in 1840, nearly half were children.

    Of every 100 today, about 1 is.  

    Andrew Dilnot presents an innovative use of sound to bring numbers home to the senses.

    In a survey in 1968, nearly four in ten of those aged over 16 had NO natural teeth

    Income

    To get an idea of how much lower incomes were just before the first world war, do this simple sum:

    Take your current income, leave prices overall as they are, and then cut your income by 80%.

    So if you are earning £30,000, imagine how you’d get by on £6,000.

    Stuff

    By one estimate, the same amount of artificial lighting in the year 1300, cost about twenty thousand times more than it would today (relative to income).

    At the Redbridge recycling depot in Oxford ten years ago, they used to collect about 100 tonnes a year and it's now about 1,000 tonnes a year.

    Population

    Imagine 10 people in a room, 6 adults and 4 children. This was Britain in 1840.

    Now change it to 8 adults and 2 children. This is Britain today.

    Work

    The number of fatal accidents at work has declined in the past century by about 97% despite a near-doubling of the population.

    Women

    A woman’s chance of going to university in the 1920s was about 1/3 of a man’s.

    Today it is 30% higher than a man’s.

    A woman today has about 100 times the chance of obtaining a degree as her great grandmother.

     Old age

    At the beginning of the 20th century about 1 per cent of households were someone living alone. Today it’s about a third.

    It’s been estimated that about half of those aged 75 or older live alone.

    Listen to A  History of Britain In Numbers

    Download the podcast

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    • Comment number 4. Posted by garethbrown14674091893299973E12

      on 3 Dec 2013 23:32

      A fascinating series & to be honest the piano sequences didn't bother me. Are there transcripts of the programmes anywhere as I'd like to share some of the statistics. I particularly enjoyed the podcasts - made my walks to work fly by. A shame the programmes were tucked away in the schedule as these deserve a bigger audience. Well done & more please!

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    • Comment number 3. Posted by Dianthus

      on 29 Nov 2013 22:10

      The programme is fascinating and I've learned a lot, but I have to agree with sacmet about those awful piano sequences. I've just sat through the omnibus edition because I missed a few episodes and so have had to endure many of them twice! I listened to Feedback earlier tonight (29th November) and was annoyed by the interviewee from the programme airily defending them as "tongue in cheek" and "signalling that a statistic is particularly important". Can't we be trusted to decide for ourselves which statistic is important? I can understand the acoustic representation of the escalating numbers of various determinants such as infant deaths or female education through the centuries, but those four note interludes served no purpose at all and were just irritating.

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    • Comment number 2. Posted by sacmet

      on 28 Nov 2013 14:13

      What on earth possessed the makers of this fascinating series to COMPLETELY WRECK IT with those horibly strident piano sequences'''''''''''''''''' it made me into a COMPLETE NERVOUS WRECK...wondering WHEN the next one was coming and whether it would be an ASCENDING or DESCENDING. Clearly, we are all presumed to be unable to cope with numbers on their own....a somewhat dated view of the target audience, I would suggest

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    • Comment number 1. Posted by Sambista

      on 22 Nov 2013 16:21

      How on earth were soldiers supposed to bite off the bullets during the Boer War? By then they were using Lee-Enfield or Lee-Metfords - even during the Zulu Wars they were using fixed, brass cartridge cases in Martini-Henries - ever seen "Zulu"? That was set in 1879. I expect better of the BBC - particularly Radio 4.

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