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Pick of the week

The day the world took off is September 15, 1830, which saw the first train journey from Liverpool to Manchester in Stephenson's Rocket.

Channel 4's series works backwards from this point to discover the origins of the Industrial Revolution in Britain, first in the entrepreneurial spirit of the 18th century, then in the traders of the 17th century, the technologies of the Middle Ages in China and Europe, the balance between peace and warfare in the world around the first millennium and finally, around 8000 BC, in the so-called Neolithic Revolution in Europe and Asia.

The series makers try to establish why the Industrial Revolution took place where and when it did, with the help of apanel of experts, dramatic reconstructions, quotations from contemporary documents and quite a bit of arty photography. If you can put up with its sense of its own cleverness, you have to admit that this series casts its net a good deal wider than the standard model answer to the essay question: explain the causes of the Industrial Revolution. It manages, on the whole, to keep its answers clear - if occasionally at the cost of over-simplification.

An ambitious project,it should prove stimulating for older students, whocan pursue the topic further in the accompanying book by Sally andDavid Dugan (C4 Books pound;18.99).

The Day the World Took Off. Channel 4. From May 28, 8-9pm.

SCHOOL SPOTLIGHT. This is a series of five well-made films for eight to 11-year-olds, presented by Shauna Lowry and introducing tpics from science and technology against the background of everyday stories.

The first programme analyses the daily food intake of champion skater Vicky Hutchinson, to show what is meant by a"balanced" diet. Other programmes look at: heat, melting and shaping (illustrated by glassmaking, chocolate moulding and the Giant's Causeway); changes, including those caused by rust and fire; energy sources; and, finally, building materials, natural and manufactured.

Science and Technology in Northern Ireland. Channel 4. Mondays from May 8 to June 12, 10.15-10.30pm.


BBC Knowledge will not be alone this year in commemorating the 60th anniversary of the evacuation from Dunkirk, but its evening of programmes on May 29 seems likely to cover the subject fairly thoroughly.

The coverage starts at 8pm with an hour of archive film and personal testimony, followed by a new documentary in which Colonel John Hughes-Wilson discusses the miscalculation by Hitler and the German army which made the evacuation possible. At 9.30pm, there is a repeat of Brian Walden's programme on Churchill, in which he explains why the British prime minister's deep, personal hatred of Hitler and all his works was crucial to the war effort.

Then, at 10pm, What Did You Do in the War, Auntie? recalls the BBC's own part in Hitler's defeat and reveals the role of the censor behind the scenes. Plus Dunkirk spirit and Vera Lynn.

Dunkirk Night. BBC Knowledge. Monday May 29.

Robin Buss

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