Here’s a strange tale that’s worth checking out via the BBC website. During the Cultural Revolution in China’s violent summer of 1968, there was huge unrest at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. Mao first sent workers to occupy the campus – and then exotic fruits. The mangoes, we learn, became a symbol of hope.
Continuing to make tracks in the USA, Michael Portillo reaches the Mason-Dixon line, the boundary between the northern and southern states. The weekday series continues on Monday 15th February, when the broadcaster learns how the first American steam train owed much to British technological know-how.
With this year’s Oscars soon to be handed out, Paul Gambaccini’s series looks back at the creation and impact of films that have won the best picture gong. He begins with Bernardo Bertolucci’s historical epic The Last Emperor, which took nine Academy Awards in 1988 and made many in the west far more conscious of recent Chinese history.
Writer Thomas Penn considers the life and times of the first Tudor monarch, who took the throne after victory over Richard III at Bosworth in 1485 and held power in England until his death in 1509. A picture emerges of a man who was frighteningly ruthless and secretive.
Storyville – Decadence And Downfall: The Shah Of Iran’s Ultimate Party
Sunday 14th February, 9.00pm
In 1971, the Shah of Iran marked 2,500 years of the Persian monarchy with a celebration so lavish it cost hundreds of millions of dollars. The event also had unintended consequences, as it became a symbol of all that was worst about Iran’s police state and galvanised opposition to the monarch.
Storyville: Decadence and Downfall: The Shah of Iran’s Ultimate Party. (BBC/Amber Television)
The Renaissance Unchained
Monday 15th February, 9.00pm
Waldemar Januszczak thinks we’ve got the Renaissance wrong. It wasn’t centred on Italy, he argues in this four-part series, but built on pioneering achievements in northern Europe. In addition, he suggests we should see the Renaissance not as a return to the classical, but as a climax of medieval values. Followed by Botticelli’s Venus: The Making Of An Icon at 10pm.
The magazine show continues with an episode that finds Helen Castor exploring why the Cold War is currently such a hot topic for historians. Plus Tom Holland reports on the discovery a Bronze Age body and Dan Snow speaks up for 1759, a year of British military victories, as possibly the most important year in history.
The Ashby Hawkins’ living history odyssey reaches the 1970s. The family finds it to be a decade when there was plenty of leisure time to spend together, and a new-found sense of freedom too. Expect roller disco in the company of DJ Trevor Nelson, darts with Eric Bristow and a camping holiday. Giles Coren presents.
Back in Time for the Weekend visits the 1970s. (BBC/Wall to Wall/Duncan Stingemore)
JD Salinger, Made In England
Thursday 18th February, 11.30am
In 1944, the novelist JD Salinger spent three months in Tiverton, Devon, as one of many American soldiers in Blighty preparing for D-Day. How did this experience affect the writing of a man who would go on to give the world an archetype of disaffected youth in The Catcher In The Rye’s Holden Caulfield? Mark Hodkinson investigates.
Michael Wood traces the history of the Qing dynasty, which lasted from 1644 until 1911. This was an era when China expanded to take in Xinjiang, Mongolia and Tibet. However, things began to go awry when the Chinese encountered the British. Cue the Opium Wars.