History TV and radio in the UK: what’s on our screens in September 2020?

Can't decide which shows to watch or listen to this month? Here are the latest history radio and TV programmes airing in the UK that you won't want to miss

Africa Turns the Page - The Novels that Shaped a Continent/  Aminatta Forna and David Olusoga. (Uplands TV - Photographer: Nina Kropotkine- Watson)

This week, 18–24 September

The Romantics and Us with Simon Schama

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BBC Two

Friday 18 September, 9pm

The second episode of Simon Schama’s new series exploring the Romantics. With contributions from Tobias Menzies, Peter Doherty, Piotr Anderszewski and Sir David Attenborough, Schama looks at how they explored the subconscious long before modern psychology was invented.

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Soul America

BBC Four

Friday 18 September, 9pm

Final episode in trilogy exploring the journey of soul music from its origins in gospel and R&B. Narrated by Carleen Anderson, episode three looks at the 70s and 80s era of Barry White and Teddy Pendergrass, which was also a successful time for female soul singers like Candi Staton.

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The Queen v Number 10: Behind closed doors

Channel 5

Saturday 19 September, 9pm

Documentary exploring the varied relationships the Queen has had with the 14 prime ministers she has had dealings with during her reign of more than 68 years.

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The Secret History of Writing

BBC Four

Monday 21 September, 9pm

The history of the written word, first exploring the hunt for the origin of writing, which reveals links between ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and modern-day letters. Episode 1 of 3.

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Britain’s Biggest Dig

BBC Two

Tuesday 22 September, 9pm

Anthropologist Professor Alice Roberts and historian Dr Yasmin Khan explore excavations taking place at St James’s burial ground as part of the HS2 works to link London and Birmingham. They’re on the hunt for Matthew Flinders, an explorer who expanded the British empire’s domains to the then-uncharted coast of Southern Australia, and Bill Richmond, a champion boxer who was born in slavery in Colonial America…

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Celebrity Antiques Road Trip

Wednesday 23 September, 7pm

Linford Christie and Katharine Merry join experts Christina Trevanion and David Harper to find items to sell at auction in Buckinghamshire.

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Last week, 11–17 September

Antiques Roadshow: Battle of Britain and the Blitz
BBC One
Sunday 13 September, 7pm

The experts head for Biggin Hill in Kent for a special episode commemorating events in 1940, when the country’s fate was in the balance. As for presenter Fiona Bruce, she gets the opportunity to take to the skies in a Spitfire.

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Singapore Grip
ITV
Sunday 13 September, 9pm

ITV’s latest Sunday night drama is an adaptation of JG Farrell’s satirical novel, which deals with the end of empire. In the first of six episodes, we meet Walter Blackett (David Morrissey), a wealthy, privileged and ambitious man who is seemingly oblivious to the risks posed by Japanese imperial ambitions, and his nearest and dearest.

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Battle of Britain at 80: Allies at War
Sky History
Monday 14 September, 9pm

Among this week’s shows marking the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, Sky History’s first offering features the testimony of fliers, including those from Poland. Also this week, Flying For Britain With David Jason (ITV Tuesday 15th September, 8.00pm) sees the actor meeting technicians and pilots involved with the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

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The Essay: Mayflower Portraits
BBC Radio 3
Monday 14 September, 10.45pm

Over five weeknights, writers reflect on the story of the Pilgrim Fathers, who set sail aboard the Mayflower 400 years ago. First up is Nick Bryant, who considers what the voyage means in the contemporary USA. On Tuesday, Margaret Verble focuses on the life and legacy of Squanto, a Native American man who acted as an interpreter for the settlers.

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Pick of the week

Britain’s Biggest Dig
BBC Two
Tuesday 15 September, 9pm

The construction of the HS2 high-speed railway is an enterprise costing billions. A small but hugely significant part of the budget is being spent on archaeological work along the railway’s route. Beginning a three-part series, Dr Yasmin Khan and Professor Alice Roberts follow excavations at St James Gardens, Euston, site of a Georgian-era burial ground.

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Free Thinking
BBC Radio 3
Tuesday 15 September, 10pm

This week’s trio of Free Thinking shows begins with Matthew Sweet meeting Susanna Clarke, whose Piranesi is the long-awaited follow-up to Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. A theme of the show is haunted spaces, a reflection of the influence of printmaker Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–88), who made illustrations of Rome and of imagined prisons, on the novel.

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Harlots
BBC Two
Wednesday 16 September, 9pm & 9.50pm

Back again to Georgian London, where we find horrible Mrs Quigley (Leslie Manville) auctioning a young girl. A very different take on the past is to be found on BBC Four, where The Evacuees (10pm) is a repeat of Jack Rosenthal’s 1975 Play For Today about two Jewish brothers evacuated from Manchester to Blackpool during the Second World War.

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In Our Time
BBC Radio 4
Thursday 17 September, 9am

Melvyn Bragg returns with a first post-lockdown episode of the series exploring the history of ideas. He begins with a show about Pericles (c495–429BC), the Greek statesman and orator who gave his name to an era when Athens was a cultural powerhouse. Guests include Edith Hall, Professor of Classics at King’s College London.

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The Romantics and us with Simon Schama
BBC Two
Friday 18 September, 9pm

The Romantics, notes Simon Schama, retreated inwards to explore their own minds long before modern psychology was invented. It’s a cue to consider artworks from such creative powerhouses as the novelist Victor Hugo, the poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Thomas De Quincey, and the composer Robert Schumann.

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Soul America
BBC Four
Friday 18 September, 9.30pm

In the early 1970s, soul musicians turned their attention anew to matters of the human heart. The series tracing soul’s history concludes with an episode that finds space for Marvin Gaye, Teddy Pendergrass and Barry White, and considers how female singers, including Candi Staton, delivered songs of empowerment.

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5–11 September

Archive On 4: Spitfire: From The Ashes

Radio 4

Saturday 5 September, 8pm

In September 1940, the Luftwaffe targeted the Supermarine works in Southampton, which disrupted Spitfire production. Covering some of the same ground as the World Service series Spitfire: The People’s Plane, this documentary draws on the archives to show how the aircraft, vital to Britain’s war efforts, were subsequently assembled in makeshift factories. Presented by historian Victoria Taylor.

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Drama: Half Of A Yellow Sun

Radio 4

Sunday 6 September, 3pm

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s 2006 novel, set against the backdrop of the Nigerian-Biafran War in the late 1960s, was an instant bestseller. At the centre of the story lie two sisters, Olanna and Kainene, daughters of a nouveau riche tribal leader, characters deftly sketched in Janice Okoh’s two-part adaptation.

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George Clarkes National Trust Unlocked

Channel 4

Sunday 6 September, 9pm 

The architect heads for his home patch, Northumbria, as he continues his exploration of National Trust sites and properties. Here, he visits Cragside, a Victorian mansion that was the first house ever to be powered by hydroelectricity. Among other highlights, Clarke also tramps the Bath Skyline walk.

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From The Mayflower To The Moon (And Back Again)

Radio 4

Monday 7 September, 1.45pm 

Satirist Joe Queenan’s 10-part weekday series about journeys that shaped the United States continues with an episode focused on Lewis and Clark’s expedition west to reach the Pacific. There’s an omnibus edition of the week’s show on Friday 11 September (9pm).

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The Repair Shop

BBC One

Monday 7 September, 4.30pm

For proof of the British public’s love affair with the past, look no further than the weekday series where Jay Blade and his team restore family heirlooms. In the first episode of a new series, the objects brought in include a battered Art Deco handbag, in which its owner once found a never-before-seen photograph of his mother.

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Africa Turns The Page: The Novels That Shaped A Continent 

BBC Four

Monday 7 September, 9pm

David Olusoga presents a documentary charting the development of the African novel since the 1950s. He begins with Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, a book that established the idea of telling African stories that dealt with being African rather than seeing through the prism of colonialism.

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Harlots

BBC Two

Wednesday 9 September, 9pm & 9.55pm

The latest double bill of the bawdy drama finds the feuding between brothel madams Mrs Wells (Samantha Morton) and Mrs Quigley (Lesley Manville) growing more and more vicious. After tonight’s episodes have aired, series two of Harlots will be available via BBC iPlayer.

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Great Continental Railway Journeys

BBC Two

Thursday 10 September, 8pm

Michael Portillo’s final journey this series takes him from the Swedish capital of Stockholm into the Arctic Circle. Along the way, he boards a steam train to celebrate midsummer in Marielund and bravely takes an icy dip in one of the countrys 96,000 lakes.

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Pick of the week

The Romantics And Us With Simon Schama

BBC Two

Friday 11 September, 9pm 

Ever adept at grappling with big ideas, the art historian considers the enduring impact of the Romantics on our culture. In the first of three episodes, Schama considers how their work was so often political and radical. It’s a discussion that takes in, among others, William Blake, Mary Wollstonecraft and Eugène Delacroix.

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Soul America

BBC Four

Friday 11 September, 9.30pm

In the late 1960s, soul began to reflect the wider tensions in American society. The second episode in this excellent music series finds space for artists such as James Brown, The Temptations and Marvin Gaye, all of whom made records rooted in the turmoil of the era.

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