New History Series For BBC 2 Announced


From the Ancient Egyptians to Cold War Britain, BBC Two Controller Janice Hadlow today announces a range of new history programming.

Janice Hadlow says: “It’s an exciting time for history on BBC Two. We’re celebrating the Genius Of Invention throughout the year and we’ve enjoyed critical and ratings successes with series from Mary Beard’s Rome to Ian Hislop’s Stiff Upper Lip.

“Looking ahead, I’m thrilled to announce a major new season exploring one of Britain’s greatest dynasties. Tudor Britain was one of the most extraordinarily turbulent and compelling periods in history with giant personalities. But this season isn’t a definitive story of the Tudor Kings and Queens. This is about life at the court of the Tudors and focuses on the people who made a great dynasty and then nearly tore it down: the fixers, makers and detonators of the Tudor court.

“BBC Two has a strong track record of introducing dynamic new presenters and I’m delighted to welcome Egyptologist Dr Joann Fletcher to the channel as she reveals what life was like for ordinary people living in ancient Egypt. I’m equally pleased to be welcoming back Lucy Worsley, Dominic Sandbrook and Melvyn Bragg as they present new programmes for the channel.”

The controversy surrounding Anne Boleyn’s death in 1536 is as intriguing today as it ever was. Featuring the Booker Prize-winning author of Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel and other experts and historians, The Last Days of Anne Boleyn, explores why Henry abandoned Anne to the executioner’s sword. Did Henry’s foreign policy needs lead to the death of Anne or was she really guilty of sleeping around? What part did the dictates of theology, court faction, witchcraft and the attractions of Jane Seymour have to play? Making use of primary sources, the experts pit the arguments against each other to explore their significance and reliability. The result is a fascinating examination of the events that culminated in Anne’s beheading.

The success of Wolf Hall has led to a renewed interest in the complex character of Thomas Cromwell. In a one off film, historian Diarmaid MacCulloch sets out to reveal a compelling portrait of the man. Not just a ruthless, scheming politician, who destroyed people and institutions to please and enrich his king, but a cool, self-contained idealist, who wanted to change the kingdom of England in the name of a new religion. Diarmaid explores the complexity of this fascinating, self-taught man, who rose from the back alleys of rural Putney to become Earl of Essex, one of the oldest noble titles in the realm, yet who in the moment of this greatest triumph, was struck down and destroyed.

Thomas Penn tells the story of Henry VII (1×60). He was the founder of the Tudor dynasty and yet also one of its least well-known members. In many ways he was everything his successors were not: quiet, methodical, pragmatic – but just as deadly when crossed. He was a king who understood how to wield power both at the point of a lance and also by far more modern methods, through finance, capital, international banking and commodity trading.

In a three-part series, Time Traveller’s Guide to Tudor England, best-selling author Ian Mortimer transports viewers back to Tudor England. He reveals in amazing detail a living, breathing Tudor world. Viewers learn how ordinary Tudor housewives turned plants into medicine; how the middle classes kept themselves clean using linen cloths; how the poor made pottage; how cooks of the rich devised recipes for new ingredients; and how Tudors learned to read and write. The series will also show how people identified and avoided different types of common criminal, how the invention of the brick chimney piece turned Tudor England into a building site, and how Elizabeth’s spy network covered eight countries.

Melvyn Bragg explores why translating the Bible into English was such a controversial undertaking in the sixteenth century in William Tyndale – The Most Dangerous Man in Tudor England (a BBC Religion production 1×60). Melvyn reveals the story of a man whose life and legacy have been largely hidden from history but whose story marks a turning point in Christianity and in the English language. His life’s work was a carefully translated Bible so simple that even the ploughboy could read God’s word. The project made him a profound threat to the leadership of Church and State who demanded civil obedience, and he was ultimately killed for heresy.

Dr Joann Fletcher presents Ancient Egypt: Life & Death In The Valley Of The Kings. The Valley of the Kings is the burial place of the greatest Pharaohs of Egypt’s Golden Age. But for Egyptologist, Dr Fletcher, it isn’t the lives of the great Pharaohs that draws her to the study of Ancient Egypt – but the ordinary people.

Dr Fletcher reveals the lives of the ordinary Egyptians who were born, lived, worked and died in the service of the New Kingdom. It is a forensic study of the real lives of two ordinary Egyptians, a husband and wife team who lived in the tomb-builder’s town of Deir el-Medina and who gave their entire lives over to the service of their famous masters, their everyday lives set against the grand narrative of the creation of one of the world’s greatest and most extraordinary mausoleums.

In a three-part series, Fit To Rule?, Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, Lucy Worsley, explores one of the most intimate aspects of dynastic power: the state of health of the monarch. For hereditary rulers, the impact of individual illness goes far beyond the personal. For Kings, Queens and their children, sickness was a political illness that shaped not just their own futures, but also the destiny of the nation.

Over the course of the series, Lucy will explore key moments when the health, or otherwise, of the monarch made a material difference to history. She will examine royal clothes, medical records, personal letters and diaries to gain a unique insight into the intimate mental and physical worlds of the real men and women who lie behind the regal portraits.

Dominic Sandbrook presents a three-part series, The Looking Glass War: Britain In The Cold War Years. Drawing on his work on post-war Britain and Seventies America, Dominic gives a fresh take on Britain during the Cold War. He contends that the global Cold War between democratic West and Communist East is fundamental to understanding domestic society, economy and politics.

The Looking Glass War: Britain In The Cold War Years is not the usual story of spies and lies, protest and paranoia, it is also the story of great culture, ordinary lives changed for ever and the destiny of Britain from the end of the Second World War to today and beyond.

All history programmes were commissioned by Martin Davidson, Commissioning Editor, History and Business and Janice Hadlow, Controller, BBC Two.

William Tyndale – The Most Dangerous Man In Tudor England was commissioned by Aaqil Ahmed and Janice Hadlow.

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