Escape From The Deep
Friday 2nd December, 11.00am
Louis de Bernières heads for Cephalonia, the setting for his bestseller, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, to investigate a story from the Second World War. On 7 December 1941, the submarine HMS Perseus was hit by a mine and sank. The crew was lost, except for one man, John Capes, who claimed to have escaped the wreck: can this really be true?
Friday 2nd December, 9.00pm
Rory McGrath and field archaeologist Paul Blinkhorn dig at the Command House in Chatham, Kent. The pub is located on the Medway, close to the docks that have been so integral to British naval history, and the duo’s team hopes to find evidence of the Tudor shipyard where the fleet that defeated the Spanish Armada was prepared.
Tony Robinson’s Gods And Monsters
Saturday 3rd December, 8.00pm
In the worldview of our ancestors, dangerous demons and spirits that might enter and take control of the body populated the world. As Tony Robinson explores here, those with mental illness or epilepsy were thus often subjected to cruel treatment in the belief they’d been possessed.
The Things We Forgot To Remember
Sunday 4th December, 1.30pm
The defeat of the Spanish Armada is remembered in the UK as a triumph of the underdog against an overbearing, over-ambitious foreign power. What’s less talked about, on this side of the Bay of Biscay at least, is that England sent its own fleet against Spain in 1589. Michael Portillo looks back at the ‘Drake-Norris Expedition’.
The People’s Post: A Narrative History Of The Post Office
Monday 5th December, 1.45pm
Over 15 weekday episodes, Dominic Sandbrook charts the development of the Post Office. In the first episode, he looks at Henry VIII’s launch of the Royal Mail in 1516 and the way the state used the postal network to exert control during the Civil War era. Listen out for an omnibus edition on Friday (9.00pm).
Timeshift: The Golden Age Of Trams – A Streetcar Named Desire
Monday 5th December, 9.00pm
In the early part of the 20th century, overhead wires above the streets were an everyday feature of British urban life, a reflection of the streetcar’s key role in getting people to work and home again. A nostalgic look back at trams, featuring contributions from Alan Bennett, Ken Dodd and Roy Hattersley.
Tuesday 6th December, 4.30pm
The series in which celebs champion historical figures returns. First up, the actor Michael Sheen speaks up for Philip K Dick. Turns out the American science fiction writer, whose Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? formed the basis for Blade Runner, had a huge influence on Sheen’s recent production of Hamlet. Presented by Matthew Parris.
True Stories: The Boy Who Was A King
Tuesday 6th December, 10.00pm
In 1943 and aged just six years old, Simeon II was declared Tsar of Bulgaria. Then, in 1946, he was exiled. As this documentary explores, it would be the prelude to a remarkable comeback: in 2001, Simeon was elected as prime minister of his homeland, holding the office until 2005.
Random Edition Special: Pearl Harbor
Wednesday 7th December, 11.00am
Peter Snow flicks through the pages of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin from 7 December 1941, the day the Japanese struck against the American fleet. While later editions of the paper carry vivid stories of the attack, early editions show a community looking forward to a quiet Christmas.
Saxon Gold: New Secrets Revealed
Wednesday 7th December, 9.00pm
In 2009, a metal detectorist happened upon a huge haul of Anglo-Saxon treasure in an unremarkable field. A documentary that follows the cleaning process necessary to reveal the full splendour of the Staffordshire hoard, and which explores what it reveals about the so-called Dark Ages.
Pick of the Week
Jerusalem: The Making Of A Holy City
Thursday 8th December, 9.00pm
Simon Sebag Montefiore presents a three-part series that explores the history of a city key to three great faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In the first episode, the author and historian heads back to the era of the Canaanites and, via Solomon and the death of Christ, follows Jerusalem’s story down the years to the seventh century AD.
Public Enemy: Prophets Of Rage
Friday 9th December, 9.00pm
It’s easy to forget now, but there was a time when Public Enemy were genuinely feared by sections of the American establishment. As to why, this documentary profile outlines how the band welded leader Chuck D’s radical politics to extraordinary collages of samples, a combination that immediately connected with disaffected youth.
Friday 9th December, 9.00pm
Another week, another alehouse, as Rory McGrath, archaeologist Paul Blinkhorn and the team explore the history of Ye Olde Smugglers Inn in the East Sussex village of Alfriston. Followed by How Beer Saved the World (10.00pm, History), which argues that farmers first grew grain for brewing purposes.