What the Tudors Did For Us Episode 4 The Goode Lyfe


What an unruly lot! Beheadings, murder, divorce, rows with the Pope, civil war, fire and plague. The headline stories from the Tudor and Stuart years represent a roller-coaster ride through one of the most important periods of history in the development of modern Britain. Most know the bloody, battle filled history of the Tudor period, not many know the accomplishments of the period. Adam Hart-Davis travels through England in search of Tudor excellence in science, art, printing, exploration and more. Ranging from a shepherd’s discovery of graphite which led to the first pencil, to a fuller understanding of human anatomy once Henry VII legalized human dissection. The Tudors and Stuarts left us with a lot of blood-stained pages in the history books but what else did they leave behind? Well, quite a lot, in fact. The opening up of the New World, the development of the cast iron cannon, the first lead pencil, the first shopping centre, the first theatre and even the first spy network, were just some of the legacies from the Tudors.
Episode 1 Seeing the World – Before Tudor times the image people had of their world was, well, rather dark and mysterious, but that was about to change thanks to some incredible adventures and remarkable discoveries. Hart-Davis travels around Britain to introduce the idea and inventions of the Tudor Age in art, optics and exploration. The lens was added to the camera obscura by Giambattista della Porta in Natural Magic leading to fine arts and the first cinema. Mainland North America was discovered by John Cabot and possibly named after his investor Richard Americ. The first atlas (flat map) was drawn by Gerardus Mercator using the Mercator projection demonstrated by Hart-Davis. The first British colony in America was founded by Sir Walter Raleigh at Roanoke opening the New World to the Tudors. The perspective glass invented by Leonard Digges and demonstrated by Hart-Davis may have been the first telescope.
Episode 2 The Thinkynge Revolution – Hart-Davis travels around Britain to introduce the idea and inventions of the Tudor Age in science, literature and education. The first printing press, like the one recreated at St Bride Printing Library, was brought to England by William Paxton. The resulting printing revolution included William Tyndale’s English bible that lead to the standardisation of the English language. State education was founded by Henry VIII providing opportunities for Christopher Marlowe and William Harvey amongst others. Modern medicine began from the Swiss Alchemist Paracelsus’ belief that minerals and chemicals could be used to treat diseases. Observational science came of age when Thomas Diggs recorded the first observation of a supernova.
Episode 3 The Goode Lyfe – The Wars of the Roses concluded, Britain could finally afford to reap some of the rewards of civilization. In a climate of domestic peace England prospered, wealthy Tudor homeowners could worry less about defence and more about comfort. In this programme we see the vast opulence of the richest woman in Britian, Bess of Hardwicke, as well as the invention of tennis (originally played with kitchen sieves), horceracing, the theatre, and knitting. And of course what programme would be complete without an investigation of that perennial Hart-Davis obsession, the Water Closet.
Episode 4 War Machyne – Adam looks at the development of Tudor weapons of war, taking in unpleasant implements of torture, cryptography, and casts his own cannon out of pure iron and test fires it!