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Stuff

Duration:
15 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 21 November 2013

Andrew Dilnot, chair of the UK Statistics Authority, tells the story of a transformation in personal life in Britain, through the numbers that capture change on the grand scale.

He delves into the data for the big patterns and trends in history, finding new ways of thinking about the whole shape of the population - the balance between adults and children, for example, or the shifting shape of what we do with our lives, from infancy to retirement and death. He seeks answers in history to some of the problems that perplex us now, such as how badly austerity has bitten or the paradox of why no-one seems able to afford a house but so many people own one. And he tells these stories not just with data, but through people and the real experiences that bring the numbers to life.

In the search for data to measure how we've changed, the programme counts rotten teeth and adds up what people ate, what they own and throw away. What did we earn through the centuries, how do we know, and what could we do with it? What was our health like, or our homes, our jobs or education? What was the status and experience of women? And how has it all changed?

This is all presented with innovative radio techniques to capture data in sound - for example, new ways of creating graphs for the senses so that we can not just know, but feel, the changes.

Each of these ten programmes takes one theme, to explore how far we have made progress, and why it might continue, or falter.

4. Stuff
Andrew Dilnot's history of the big trends in history in numbers continues with the story of stuff - the things we consume, from light to concrete - packed with revealing statistics and stories of the way stuff changed our lives.

Producer: Michael Blastland
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Broadcasts

Podcast

  1. Image for A History of Britain in Numbers

    A History of Britain in Numbers

    British history in numbers, the big trends and changes in our lives, brought to life with interviews…

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