Season 1: Episode 4
America becomes a nation at the moment a revolution in commerce and industry sweeps across the western world. The construction of the Erie Canal – an audacious feat of engineering achieved against the odds with black-powder and hard work – results in hundreds of workmen being killed, but the pay-off is immense. This vast new country, rich in resources, experiences rapid change in trade, transport and manufacturing, quickly turning America into one of the wealthiest nations on Earth. New York booms, the factory town of Lowell becomes the cradle of the American industrial revolution, and in the South, with the invention of the cotton gin, cotton is king. Now two different Americas, united in prosperity but divided by culture, face each other across a growing gulf. The issue is slavery. It underpins the prosperity of the South, but the North, though complicit, shows growing unease. There are violent clashes in Kansas. Abolitionist John Brown carries out a suicidal mission to try to end slavery in Virginia. He fails. With the election of Abraham Lincoln the stage is set for war.

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