History KS3 & KS4/GCSE: The transport revolution: Britain's canal network

According to Professor Jeremy Black, canals were the motorways of the 1700s.

As well as supporting turnpike roads, pottery millionaire Josiah Wedgwood also supported the building of canals – they were perfect for transporting his pottery goods.

It took huge amounts of money and some incredible feats of engineering, like the Harecastle Tunnel, but Wedgwood got his canal and it connected his factories to the rest of the country.

In the 1770s canals linked the country, carrying goods cheaply and efficiently. Without them it is hard to see how the Industrial Revolution could have happened.

This short film is from the BBC series, Why the Industrial Revolution Happened Here.

Teacher Notes

This short film could be used as stimulus to prepare your class for a discussion about the significance and importance of the canal system on business and industrial output in Britain during the 19th century.

Ask students to:

(a) Make a list of the advantages and disadvantages of canal transport

(b) Use primary testimony to examine the consequences of technological change on populations

(c) Understand the reasons why freight carrying on the canals declined in the 19th and 20th centuries.

As an extension, ask students to examine the reasons why canal transport may represent a positive option for the carrying of certain types of freight in the 21st century.

Curriculum Notes

This short film is suitable for teaching history at Key Stage 3 and GCSE, Third Level and National 4 & 5, in particular units on the Victorians and the Industrial Revolution.

More from Why the Industrial Revolution Happened Here:

Josiah Wedgwood: Genius of the Industrial Revolution
The brains behind the Industrial Revolution
The growth of industry and factory towns in Britain
The importance of coal in the Industrial Revolution
Why did Britain need a better road network?