For years, thousands of paintings owned by the British public have been hidden away and inaccessible, until now. Thanks to the work of the Your Paintings project, over 200,000 works in our national collections have been painstakingly uncovered, photographed and put online, some for the very first time, allowing art experts and amateur sleuths alike to make connections and discoveries that wouldn’t have been possible before. Alastair Sooke teams up with art detective Dr. Bendor Grosvenor to unearth some hidden gems and find out what the paintings say about British society.
Ten thought – provoking episodes bring a fresh perspective to Scotland’s past and challenges many of the perceived notions of Scottish history. Using the very latest in historical research A History of Scotland is a sweeping and insightful chronicle of an often turbulent, but continuingly fascinating nation.
Battlefield Britain is about famous battles in the history of Great Britain. From Boudicca’s destructive rebellion against the Romans to the incredible feats of The Few who saw off the Luftwaffe, these battles all had wide reaching consequences and implications for the future of the British isles. Presented by father and son team Peter and Dan Snow. Peter explains the battleplans, Dan the perspective of the common soldier, sailors and airmen. The episodes also featured interviews with soldiers from both sides, re-enactments of the battles and computer generated scenes with bird eye views and blocks to show troop movement. Episode 2 The Battle of Hastings – Heralding the beginning of the Norman Conquest, the Battle of Hastings in 1066, when William the Conqueror faced King Harold on the south coast, was one of the bloodiest and most important battles ever fought on British soil.
The Disaster Specials look at how and why major disasters happen, and what can be learned from them. They are specifically intended to focus and inform on issues relating to health and safety issues, crisis management and post-disaster supervision. Episode 1 King’s Cross – Over thirty people died in the Kings Cross underground fire, which broke out as commuters headed home on November 18, 1987. At around 19.30 a passenger on an escalator lit a cigarette and dropped the match. The results of this seemingly tiny action were disastrous. The miniscule fire fed on grease on the moving stairway and in 10 minutes had engulfed the wooden treads on the steps. Fifteen minutes later the flames had reached the Kings Cross ticket hall, then erupted in a fireball, filling the crowded station with poisonous black smoke. Many of those who died were killed instantly. Almost 15 years on this programme examines one of the UK’s worst ever disasters.
Discover the science of the frozen past. Archaeologiests use the latest technology to discover the lives of our human ancestors through their frozen remains. These people were no differrent than you and I biologically. They had the same level of intelligence, and were capable of the same emotions, but they lived in a different time and place. Their values, ideas and technology is explored through the frozen remains of their dead. Episode 3 Frozen in Heaven – When the Spanish Conquistadors first conquered the Inca empire five hundred years ago, they wrote of the mysterious ceremony of capa cocha. Parents, they claimed, would voluntarily offer their children to their Inca priests, sending them to the top of the highest peaks for sacrifice to mountain gods. In the past, historians have dismissed this as fanciful European exaggeration. But then archaeologists began to find the children’s bodies.
Documentary series which unearths lost civilizations and reveals the wonder of some of the world’s greatest lost cities The Dark Lords of Hattusha – Profile of the ancient Hittite civilization, looking at what archaeologists found when they uncovered the lost capital of Hattusha, including temples, palaces and a pyramid like structure facing Egypt. The historians also discovered a library, charting the rise and fall of the empire, which vanished 3,000 years ago. Last in series The story of the formidable Hittites and the rediscovery of their capital, Hattusha.
The period of over 125 years from the beginning of the 19th century saw the creation of some of the world’s most remarkable feats of engineering. Seven of the most notable are described here, each one proving that human creativity is as much alive in the modern world as it was in ancient times. Episode 4 The Sewer King – In the summer of 1858 London was in the grip of a crisis known as the Great Stink. The population had grown rapidly during the first half of the 19th century, yet there had been no provision for sanitation. Three epidemics of cholera had swept through the city, leaving over 30,000 people dead. And sewage was everywhere.
The definitive story of the blue section of our planet, the oceans, which run from the shores to the open depths of the sea. An epic, eight part series that took five years to complete, The Blue Planet firmly re-establishes the BBC as the world’s pre-eminent producer of top quality nature documentaries. Exploring every aspect of marine ecosystems, from coastal marshes to deep-sea trenches and from polar waters to tropical reefs, The Blue Planet is thorough and informative, yet never less than thrilling. Episode 8 Deep Trouble – Scientists believe many species that are eaten every day are now seriously threatened. Most people have no idea where the fish they buy come from let alone how endangered they might be. As fish stocks dry up, supermarkets are now offering new and strange species from the deep sea. Bizarre looking creatures are being dragged up in vast fishing nets from depths of 1,000 metres or more. The methods used to catch them are horrifying. As the nets drag along the sea bed they rip up 100 year old corals and sponges, destroying the habitat. So even these new species may not be available for long.
First broadcast in 1964, The Great War was the definitive film account of the world shattering events of World War I (1914 – 1918) a landmark history series widely regarded as a documentary masterpiece. 26 Episodes. The main narrator was Michael Redgrave. It was a co-production involving the resources of the Imperial War Museum, the BBC, CBC and ABC. The series, unparalleled at the time for its depth of research, range of source material and historical accuracy – all presented in a sequence of clear narratives – is now considered one of the finest achievements of BBC documentary. With few exceptions, successive blocks of episodes are devoted to each year of the war episodes 1 – 6 to 1914, 7 – 10 to 1915, 11 – 14 to 1916, 15 – 19 to 1917, 20 – 23 and 26 to 1918.
Walking With Beasts is an introduction to the animals (predominantly mammals) that roamed the earth from the extinction of the dinosaurs until the rise of early humans, the Cenozoic period. It uses a combination of clever special effects and computer-generated imagery to create a realistic world as it may have appeared millions of years ago. Some of the concepts it illustrates are the evolution of whales, horses, and humans. Episode 3 Land of Giants – Goe back 25 million years to meet the biggest land mammals of all time – the Indricotheres. Up to 7 metres tall and weighing 15 tonnes. This programme follows the fate of a calf from birth to droughts, six foot tall killer hogs and Hyaenodon – a predator the size of a rhino, with jaws that could crush a rock.
In this spellbinding series Professor Brian Cox visits the most extreme locations on Earth to explain how the laws of physics carved natural wonders across the solar system. Episode 2 Order Out of Chaos – Cox starts this episode in Al-Qayrawan, Tunisia to analyse the orbit of the planets around our Sun, with details on how the tilt of the Earth creates the seasons. He also visits the Atlas Mountains and provides an explanation of the how we see the orbit of Mars. This episode also provides an insight on the rings of Saturn and the geysers of Enceladus, including images shown as seen from the Cassini Huygens space probe.
In December 1938, in Berlin, a simple chemical experiment showed for the first time that the atom can be split, releasing immense power. Within months, the Wehrmacht had started research into nuclear weapons. The Germans were the first to start work on the atom bomb. The programme investigates the reasons why Hitler was not the first leader to use it, drawing on new evidence gathered by historian Mark Walker. Dramatised scenes, eyewitness accounts from Allied and German scientists, interviews and archive footage are all employed.
Join hosts Peter and Dan Snow for a look at the decisive conflicts of the 20th century. The intricacies of these crucial battles, strategies, weapons, tactics and their impact. CGI brings to life an overview of the major actions, while the dramatized testimony of ordinary soldiers brings the experience of combat. 1982 Falklands – Covers the Falklands War from start to finish. Beginning with the invasion of the island, it then details all major engagements of the conflict from The Sinking of the Belgrano, The Sinking of the HMS Sheffield, the British landing on the Falklands, Battle of Goose Green, and finally The Battle for Stanley. Dan Snow practices night fighting with the British Army.
Series following the high adrenaline adventures of a team of divers as they explore and film the depths of the world’s greatest river system with cameraman Michael deGruy. You’d think TV crews would be hard pressed to find any corner of the planet that hasn’t been filmed, but it turns out that in the Amazon rainforest there’s a habitat where no cameras have ventured: the river itself. Episode 5 – It is the climax of the expedition as the team prepares to explore a 100 metre chasm at the very bottom of the Amazon river. Scientists have no idea what lurks within. At first, underwater robots take cameras down the abyss and find the deep water flesh feeding CandiruXu. Then, as the expedition draws to a close, the team of divers led by Mike deGruy prepare to jump into the depths of the river to confront and film the extraordinary fish that lie in the depths.
Bible Mysteries is a series of programs exploring great figures and events from biblical times. Historical, archaeological and anthropological evidence combined with stylish drama re-enactments, CGI graphics and expert opinion offers a comprehensive exploration into some of the Bible’s most compelling people and stories and gives fresh insights into the historical realities of the times. Episode The Real Mary Magdalene – Mary Magdalene’s story is intimately linked with Jesus. She plays a starring role in one of the most powerful and important scenes in the Gospels. When Jesus is crucified by the Romans, Mary Magdalene was there supporting him in his final terrifying moments and mourning his death. She also discovers the empty tomb, and she’s a witness to the resurrection. She was there at the beginning of a movement that was going to transform the West. But the Mary Magdalene that lives in our memories is quite different. In art, she’s often semi naked, or an isolated hermit repenting for her sins in the wilderness an outcast.
Egypt is the title of a BBC television drama serial about various archaeological discoveries taking place in that country’s history, with the occasional “flashback” scene involving actors portraying the ancient Egyptians themselves. Episode 2 The Curse of Tutankhamun – In 1922 Carter goes to the Egyptian Antiquities Service in Cairo to announce his discovery but disagrees with Director Pierre Lacau over the clearance and cataloguing of the contents. In 1932 with his work complete Carter leaves the tomb for the last time and hands the key to Lacau.
In Search of Shakespeare is a four part series exploring the life of the world’s greatest and most famous writer. It takes the form of a detective story, a documentary search, and a journey not the style of historical TV shows that use re-enactments and tableaux. There is no one dressed up as Will Shakespeare or Queen Elizabeth! Instead the Royal Shakespeare Company gives a group of Britain’s best young actors and actresses the chance to go on tje road and play in the places where his company played. Shot documentary style, on and off stage, the successors of Shakespeare’s company give us a magical glimpse into how it was done playing scenes from all Shakespeare’s great shows in Tudor Guildhalls, Royal Palaces like Hampton Court, and even in broad daylight. But the core of the series is a biography. The story of one Elizabethan, his life, family and friendships, his triumphs and disasters, his loves and his losses. Episode 1 A Time Of Revolution – Sets Shakespeare’s life in the early years of Elizabeth’s reign, at the beginning of Elizabeth’s Cultural Revolution. The age is marked by the battle of conscience and power, which will lead to religious and class struggle, and eventually to Civil War.
Natural World is a classic wildlife series which tells in depth stories of incredible animals, featuring award winning photography in some of the most extraordinary places in the world. Episode Pandas of The Sleeping Dragon – Wolong Shan, in Sichuan province is China’s main panda reserve, which is home to giant and red pandas and giant salamanders, as well as golden monkeys. Focuses on the predicament of the giant panda and on the lessser known red panda. The giant panda’s digestive system is more suited to meat eating yet, because it feeds almost exclusively on bamboo, which has a low nutritional value, the animal must feed virtually around the clock to survive. Other animals that live in the forests include parrot bills, bamboo rats, golden monkeys, tufted deer, wild dogs, golden pheasants and the takin, a distant relative of the musk ox. The giant salamander, known as the water dragon, the world’s largest amphibian is also to be found in the area.
The Suez crisis in the 1950s signaled the end of Britain’s history as a power that could act alone on the world stage. This series tells the story of Suez using dramatic reconstructions and interviews with participants and witnesses to the crisis. The Suez Canal in Egypt was a symbol of western dominance. France and Britain were the major shareholders in the company that ran the canal and British troops occupied its banks. When Gamal Abdul Nasser came to power in 1954, his main objective was to remove the British from Egypt. The British Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, did not understand that the world had changed. Episode 1 Betrayal – Friends and intimates of both Nasser and Eden recall the events that put them on a collision path. For Eden, Nasser was a threat to peace in the Middle East. For Nasser, Eden was standing in the way of securing his country’s future. When Britain and America refused to help Nasser to finance his ambitious project to build the Aswan Dam, it was the last straw.
Documentary series exploring the fascinating story of the birth of industrial design. Alongside the celebrated names, from Wedgwood to William Morris, it also explores the work of the anonymous designers responsible for prosaic but classic designs for cast iron cooking pots to sheep shears harbingers of a breed of industrially produced objects culminating in the Model T Ford. Episode 3 – Blueprints for War The Genius of Design examines the Second World War through the prism of the rival war machines designed and built in Germany, Britain, the USSR and the USA, with each casting a fascinating sidelight on the ideological priorities of the nations and regimes which produced them. From the desperate improvisation of the Sten gun, turned out in huge numbers by British toy makers, to the deadly elegance of the all wood Mosquito fighter bomber, described as “the finest piece of furniture ever made”, the stories behind these products reveal how definitions of good design shift dramatically when national survival is at stake. Featuring desert war veteran Peter Gudgin and designer Michael Graves.
The generation of Nazis who fought during World War 2 is almost gone, their lives, their actions, and their crimes soon to be consigned to history forever. This sense of urgency, and of time running out, underpins this documentary series about surviving war criminals living in the 21st century. It’s the last chance to tell these stories, to speak to these men, to enter their worlds, and uncover the impact their existence has had on others. Episode 1 The Hunt for Doctor Death – In the autumn of 1941, a young Austrian doctor called Aribert Heim was assigned to the Mauthausen Concentration Camp. In just six weeks, he murdered hundreds of inmates by carrying out horrific and needless experiments. He evaded capture and has never answered for his crimes, but now 60 years on and with Heim well into his 90s, fresh evidence has emerged suggesting that he might still be alive. This film follows Dr Efraim Zuroff in his international manhunt for one of the world’s most wanted Nazi war criminals.
This is where it all began, Adam Hart-Davis first foray, directly inspired by the Monty Python sequence from “The Life of Brian”, where the People’s Front of Judea discuss “What have the Romans done for us?”, into how the foundations of modern society were laid by the surprising cultural and technological achievements of the Roman empires. This is the first series of “What The … Did For Us” hosted by Adam Hart-Davis. Episode 3 Building Britain – Within 30 years of the invasion there were 60,000 Roman troops in Britain, they had come from some of the most advanced places in Europe, and to them this sort of settlement must have seemed primitive. This is the story of how they transformed the landscape and laid the foundations for the countryside and the cities Britain has today. Hart-Davis analyses the Romans’ ingenious farming methods and looks at the creation of early towns. He visits York and discovers the remains of the Roman city and a Roman sewer that is still working. Butser Ancient Farm, described as “an open air laboratory”, this reconstructed Iron Age farm and settlement is an archaeological research project, investigating the ancient methods of Celtic farmers. Housesteads Roman Fort, Britain’s most intact Roman fort, all the more impressive for its clifftop location, built by Hadrian in the second century. Fire brigades and primitive fire extinguishers, demonstrated by Hart-Davis, were developed under the auspices of the Emperor Nero.
Professor David Reynolds takes a fresh look at the extraordinary events and personalities that brought about the armistice of 1918, venturing beyond the familiar British account of Remembrance Day to unravel how the Germans, plunged to total defeat in just a few months at the end of the war. In a journey that takes him through command centres and battlefields, he uncovers a story of wounded egos, mental illness and political brinkmanship as statesmen and generals haggled over the terms of peace, while soldiers fought on with sustained brutality. Reynolds argues that the bitter endgame of the “war to end all wars” tragically sowed the seeds of even more appalling conflict to come.