History TV and radio in the UK: what’s on our screens in June 2021?

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

Call the Midwife

Grace Kelly: Lost Tapes Of A Princess

Channel 4

Saturday 12 June, 9pm

The life and tragically young death of Grace Kelly, the Hollywood star who married into royalty, has been much documented. Nevertheless, this one-off documentary is billed as offering a new perspective by showing viewers glimpses of the private woman via the recollections of her family, including her only son, Prince Albert, and their personal archives.

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WW2: Frontlines

Yesterday

Monday 14 June, 8pm

What was it like to fight in some of the decisive battles of the Second World War? This new seven-part series promises to take viewers into the heart of the conflict as it reveals critical turning points. First up, how the Americans, outgunned by the Japanese, prevailed at the battle of Midway.

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Pick of the week

Peter Taylor: Ireland After Partition

BBC Two

Monday 14 June, 9pm

The broadcaster, one of the most distinguished chroniclers of the Troubles, revisits some of the films he has made over the past half-century. It all makes for a personal reflection, in which the evolution of Taylor’s own understanding of Northern Ireland and its issues is often front and centre.

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The Long View

Radio 4

Tuesday 15 June, 9am 

The excellent series looking at the present through the prism of the past continues. As the Church of England reflects on some of its monuments amidst recent debates over empire, race and war, presenter Jonathan Freedland considers parallels with the Reformation. The recent episode on the roaring 20s/2020s is well worth seeking out on iPlayer.

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The Citadel

Radio 4

Wednesday 16 June, 2.15pm

The drama based on AJ Cronin’s novel about medical life in the Welsh valleys in the years before the establishment of the NHS returns. It’s 1930 and Dr Denny worries that an epidemic may be about to strike, while Dr Manson finds himself in a luxurious London flat. There’s a second episode on Thursday 17 June (2.15pm).

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In Our Time

Radio 4

Thursday 17 June, 9am

Melvyn Bragg and learned guests discuss the life and times of Edward Gibbon (1737–94). The idea for his monumental History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, published between 1776 and 1789, we learn, occurred to Gibbon in October 1764 as he sat thinking amidst the ruins of Rome.

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Blue: Pain And Pleasure

Radio 4

Thursday 17 June, 11.30am

Marking the 50th anniversary of Joni Mitchell’s masterpiece, Blue, the singer-songwriter Laura Marling looks back at the album’s creation. Those offering their perspectives on a nakedly personal LP that captured days when the idealism of the 1960s gave way to the darker currents of the 1970s include Emeli Sande, Beth Orton, Ellie Goulding, James Taylor and Graham Nash.

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Secret Nazi Bases

Yesterday

Thursday 17 June, 8pm

The series about Nazi military infrastructure continues with the story of the Festungsfront Oder-Warthe-Bogen. This was a technologically advanced system of fortifications in great part designed to protect the country against threats from the east, and much of which was built secretly.

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Descendants

BBC Radio 4

Friday 18 June, 11.30am

The series tracing Britons’ connections to slavery introduces listeners to Marcus, who is of Bajan descent, Somerset vicar Alison Waters and Ruth, a middle class woman living in Bristol. The lives of all three have been impacted by the legacy of one of the biggest slave owners in British history, Thomas Daniel. Narrated by Yrsa Daley-Ward.

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Great Paintings Of The World With Andrew Marr

Channel 5

Friday 18 June, 9pm

The broadcaster takes in one of John Constable’s most famous paintings, The hay Wain (1821). It’s not the chocolate box image that many suppose. Rather, Constable emerges from history as a radical who was determined to show rural life in new ways.

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Previous week

School For Communists

Radio 4

Saturday 5 June, 11am

Alexei Sayle marks the centenary of the Young Communist League, the youth wing of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Expect a sharply scripted and personal view of history from a comedian whose own parents were communists and who spent childhood holidays in the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War era.

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Archive On 4: Covering Edward Said – 40 Years Of Islam, Media And The West

Radio 4

Saturday 5 June, 8pm

First published in 1981, Palestinian-American intellectual Edward Said’s Covering Islam, How The Media And The Experts Determine How We See The Rest Of The World explored how the western media portrayed Islam. Nesrine Malik looks back at a hugely important work, which put forward ideas that still resonate today.

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Book Of The Week: Young Prince Philip

Radio 4

Monday 7 June, 9.45am 

Nicholas Woodeson reads from Philip Eade’s 2011 biography of the early life of Prince Philip. The first of five weekday episodes focuses on Philip’s grandfather, King George I of  Greece, and his father, Andrea. Other readings look at Philip’s education, his time in Germany in the 1930s and his naval service in the Second World War.

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The Buildings That Fought Hitler

Yesterday

Monday 7 June, 8pm

Rob Bell continues his series looking at the construction work needed to defeat Nazism. In this episode, we learn how Britain required huge amounts of ammunition, so much so that the Caernwent Explosives and Propellant Factory needed its own railway. Plus how bomber bases such as Ridgewell RAF changed Britain’s landscape.

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Natalie Haynes Stands Up For The Classics

Radio 4

Tuesday 8 June, 11.30am

Classicist and reformed stand-up Natalie Haynes concludes her current series looking back at figures from the ancient world. Her final subject this time around is Clytemnestra, widely known as the worst wife in Greek mythology. But, for all the tales of Clytemnestra’s murder of Agamemnon, is her reputation entirely fair? Featuring contributions from Professor Edith Hall.

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Extra Life: A Short History Of Living Longer

BBC Four

Tuesday 8 June, 10pm

Steven Johnson and David Olusoga consider the importance of public engagement when there’s a health crisis. It’s a story that takes in how the simple action of hand-washing, which began in a Viennese maternity ward, has saved millions of lives; and how social distancing, face masks and lockdowns were used during the Spanish flu pandemic.

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Coventry Cathedral: Building For A New Britain

BBC Four

Wednesday 9 June, 9pm

In November 1940, German bombers targeted Coventry. The city’s medieval cathedral was destroyed. As part of programming to mark Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture, here’s the story of how a new building, consecrated in May 1962, rose from the rubble. Narrated by Pauline Black.

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In Our Time

Radio 4

Thursday 10 June, 9am

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Charles Booth’s The Life And Labour Of The People In London, published in 17 volumes between 1899 and 1903. Booth (1840–1916), a shipping line owner, wanted to know if it could be true that at as many as a quarter of Londoners lived in poverty. The true figure was closer to a third.

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Pick of the week

Statue Wars: One Summer In Bristol

BBC Two

Thursday 10 June, 9pm

It’s a year since, in the wake of the Killing of George Floyd, Black Lives Matter protestors in Bristol tore down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston and threw it in the harbour. This documentary focuses on how Bristol’s mayor, Marvin Rees, reacted as the city became the centre of culture-war skirmishes.

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Great Paintings Of The World With Andrew Marr

Channel 5

Friday 11 June, 9pm

In a returning series, the journalist and broadcaster tells the stories behind more famous works of art. He begins by visiting Paris to view Claude Monet’s Water Lilies canvasses – the work, we learn, of a man who was tormented and obsessive.

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Pick of the week 

Archive On 4: The Tulsa Tragedy That Shamed America

Radio 4

Saturday 28 May, 8pm

Alvin Hall looks back a century to tell the story of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre. One of the worst episodes of racial violence in US history, this saw white mobs attacking the well-to-do district of Greenwood. It’s estimated that up to 300 African-American citizens were killed, so why isn’t what happened better remembered?

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Call The Midwife 

BBC One

Sunday 30 May, 8pm

Series 10 concludes with Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter) taking annual leave, a cue for Sister Hilda (Fenella Woolgar) to demonstrate her leadership credentials. Followed by Call The Midwife: Special Delivery (9.00pm), a behind-the-scenes celebration of the show’s 10th anniversary.

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Book Of The Week: Natives: Race And Class In The Ruins Of Empire

Radio 4

Monday 31 May, 9.45am 

Rapper, author and activist Akala reads from his own book, first published in 2018. It’s a text that ranges across memoir, the history of colonialism and politics. The first of five weekday episodes look backs at Britain in the 1980s to find a country of racism, inequality and widespread poverty.

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Mrs Thatcher Vs The Miners

Channel 5

Monday 31 May, 9pm

How did Margaret Thatcher go about defeating the miners over 1984 and 1985? This feature-length documentary features contributions from Downing Street insiders and those who found themselves involved in pitch battles during a strike that changed Britain forever. It also looks at the role of Thatcher’s little-remembered advisor and enforcer, David Hart. 

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Natalie Haynes Stands Up For The Classics

Radio 4

Tuesday 1 June, 11.30am

The broadcaster, classicist and former comedian turns her attention to Jocasta. The wife and mother of Oedipus gets a very few lines in Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus. Nevertheless, contends Haynes, we should see her as cleverer than her husband and quicker to understand the implications of what had happened to her.

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Anne Boleyn

Channel 5

Tuesday 1 June, 9pm

Shown over three successive evenings, here’s a drama that tells the story of Anne Boleyn’s final months from her own perspective rather than that of those around her. We begin with the queen consort pregnant and confident she will give Henry VIII (Mark Stanley) a male heir. Starring Jodie Turner-Smith.

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Extra Life: A Short History Of Living Longer

BBC Four

Tuesday 1 June, 10pm

Steven Johnson and David Olusoga explore how the emergence of fact-based research and data mapping has led to improvements in public health. It’s a story that takes in Victorian efforts to battle cholera and the first identification of an epidemic’s ‘curve’.

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Free Thinking

Radio 3

Tuesday 1 June, 10pm

This week’s trio of late-night discussions begins with Christienna Fryar and guests considering new ways of understanding British history via horticulture. Wednesday’s show, which features Salman Rushdie and ties in with a new exhibition at the V&A on Lewis Carrolls Alice books, finds Matthew Sweet leading a discussion of the imagination.

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The Road To Partition

BBC Two

Thursday 3 June, 9pm 

It’s 100 years since Ireland was partitioned. Part two of an excellent documentary (both episodes are available via BBC iPlayer) charts how a June 1921 visit by King George V, who opened Northern Ireland’s new parliament, was the culmination of three centuries of violence and political brinkmanship.

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Descendants

Radio 4

Friday 4 June, 11am

The series looking at Britons’ connections to slavery begins withthe story of Malik. Growing up in Totxteth, Liverpool, Malik’s life was transformed when he encountered Gil Scott-Heron. Its was a first step in trying to learn more about his ancestry, research that would take him to Guyana. Presented by Yrsa Daley-Ward.

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