North & South (2004)
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User Supergran wrote this on the board for North & South:
"I've just watched a re-run of an episode of "How We Built Britain" about life in 19th century Northern England. Working on the principle that a knowledge of the historical background deepens one's appreciation and enjoyment of a film or book, I thought N&S lovers might be interested in a few facts. Manchester (the fictional Milton) grew from 50,000 in the 1780's to over 300,000 by the 1840's as people flocked to the cities to find work in the new factories and mills. They found unpaved streets, without drains or sewers, so covered with refuse and excrement (sorry!) as to be almost impassable. In 1841, the average life expectancy in Manchester was 26 and a half years, which was the lowest in Britain since the Plague in the Middle Ages. In the mills, children ran back and forwards under the machines to retie the cotton or to get rid of rubbish. One mill owner said he never knowingly employed children under the age of 9! People's living conditions were appalling. The programme showed an old cellar, windowless and airless, in which it is believed 16 families lived together. So when Margaret came to Milton from the rural South, she wasn't being "soft" or a wimp. She was truly shocked, and rightly so.
Gradually, things began to improve. In the 1850's, a textile manufacturer and millionaire by the name of Titus Salt decided to create a model village which he called Saltaire. He opened a factory employing 3000 people. Then he built neat little houses for them (a far cry from the Manchester slums). He also built a church, a school, a hospital, even retirement homes for the elderly! Salt took more care over his worker's environment than any other mill owner at the time and it worked. I like to think that John Thornton, armed now with the means to reopen his mill AND with his newfound humanity (learned from his friendship with Higgins) will do something similar with Margaret at his side." Edit (Coming Soon)