The 90s: Ten Years That Changed The World
Saturday 13th June, 9.00pm
Kathy Burke narrates a look back at the “most culturally significant decade of our generation”. As that rather over-hyped description suggests, the emphasis is on music, moving images and art. Expect tunes from Blur and Oasis, and contributions from the likes of Jarvis Cocker, David Baddiel and Irvine Welsh.
Pick of the Week…
The BBC At War
Sunday 14th June, 9.00pm
Over two episodes, Jonathan Dimbleby tells the story of Auntie between 1939 and 1945. Prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, the Corporation had no newsgathering capability. By the end, it was one of the world’s most trusted sources of information – a transformation that came about via battles with Whitehall and with Fleet Street’s press barons.
Sean Bean On Waterloo
Sunday 14th June, 10.00pm
The actor and Sharpe star tells the story of Napoleon’s final defeat, along the way firing weapons from the 19th century and meeting some of those whose forebears fought in the battle. Part one of two. Also this week, look out for Waterloo: The Ultimate Battle (Discovery, Thursday 18th June, 9pm).
Napoleon: The Man And The Myths
Monday 15th June, 1.45pm
Over five weekday episodes, historian Andrew Roberts challenges what we think we know about Napoleon. Little Boney, it turns out, was of average height. Also this week, listen out for Drama: Waterloo: The Ball At Brussels (Wednesday 17th June, 2.15pm), which charts Wellington’s attendance of a society event shortly before his greatest victory.
Thomas Chatterton: The Myth Of The Doomed Poet
Monday 15th June, 8.30pm
Michael Symmons Roberts profiles a writer who died of arsenic poisoning, perhaps as a suicide, at the age of just 17. Chatterton’s death, it’s argued, did much to build the myth of the tortured artist. Followed by How To Be A Bohemian With Victoria Coren Mitchell (9.00pm), which focuses on the Bloomsbury Group.
Victoria Coren Mitchell and Stephen Fry. (BBC/Wingspan Productions/Richard Ranken)
Tuesday 16th June, 11.00am
Brett Westwood considers our attitudes to butterflies down the years. Today, we see them as delicate and beautiful, yet in the past butterflies’ eye-spots, which evolved to deter predators, were seen as menacing, a sign people’s behaviour was being watched and thus a discouragement to lewdness.
Wednesday 17th June, 9.00pm
Andrew Roberts picks up the story of Napoleon in 1805, when the French leader was at the height of his power. In great part, his theme is how Napoleon’s Grande Armée was a genuine meritocracy, in contrast to the European forces he bested at such battles as Austerlitz, when the French defeated a far larger Austro-Russian force.
Wednesday 17th June, 9.00pm
A series looking at the history of science recalls how James Watt kept designs for a radically improved steam engine on a shelf in his workshop for years. If you missed it, the first episode charting feuding between fossil hunters in the Wild West, is well worth checking out.
Mrs Thatcher And The Writers
Thursday 18th June, 11.30am
At the height of her power, Margaret Thatcher broke bread with such writers as Philip Larkin, VS Naipaul and Anthony Powell. What did she get out of these meetings? DJ Taylor investigates, as well as exploring why Thatcher so fascinates authors.
Catching History’s Criminals: The Forensics Story
Thursday 18th June, 9.00pm
Surgeon and writer Gabriel Weston charts the development of forensic science. Kicking off a three-part series, she looks at difficulties around identifying bodies, especially where killers have taken measures to destroy the remains of victims. Gripping stuff, but possibly not for the squeamish.