Barging Round Britain With John Sergeant
Friday 13th February
In which the BBC’s former chief political correspondent turned national treasure journeys along Britain’s canals and finds lots of history along the way. First up, the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Also tonight, Italy Unpacked (BBC Two, 9.00pm) returns, with Andrew Graham-Dixon and Giorgio Locatelli taking an art history- and food-themed journey up Italy’s east coast.
How We Got To Now
Saturday 14th February, 7.35pm
Writer Steven Johnson presents a five-part series in which he explores breakthroughs crucial to the making of the modern world. He begins with our triumph over dirt, a story that encompasses engineer Ellis S Chesbrough raising whole buildings to improve Chicago’s drainage and sewerage system.
Trojan Horse: The New Evidence
Saturday 14th February, 9.00pm
The notion of sending in a wooden nag to break a siege may have its roots in reality rather than being a myth. That’s the essence of this documentary, which features the latest archaeological evidence and sees Professor Stephen Ressler using ancient records and computer modeling to build a scientifically sound Trojan Horse.
Sunday 15th February, 9.00pm
Every summer during the Raj era, Simla in the foothills of the Himalayas would become the capital of India. To judge by this first episode in a promising and big budget new series, it was a place of intrigue, political machinations and outright bad behaviour. Julie Walters heads the cast in a historical drama set in 1932.
A History Of Britain In Numbers
Monday 16th February, 1.45pm
The weekday series in which Andrew Dilnot, chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, considers the national story through data, returns. This week’s themes include knowledge and power, how the state makes war (and, conversely, how war makes the state) and tax.
The Essay: The Five Photographs That (You Didn’t Know) Changed Everything
Monday 16th February, 10.45pm
The ever-excellent Essay slot turns its attention to five images that have changed the way people think. The first programme sees photographic historian Kelley Wilder discussing an image of Anna Bertha Ludwig Röntgen’s hand captured in 1895 – the world’s first x-ray.
The Long View
Tuesday 17th February, 9.00am
Jonathan Freedland looks at current concerns over immigration through the prism of the 1905 Aliens Act, seen as a reaction to East European Jewish immigration. ForIn Our Time, (Radio 4, Thursday 19th February, 9.00am) Melvyn Bragg’s guests debate Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, a subject that also has contemporary resonance in the aftermath of the global crash.
Digging For Britain
Tuesday 17th February, 8.00pm
The archaeology series continues with Alice Roberts and Matt Williams charting digs that took place in 2014 in northern Britain. Roman Britain: A Timewatch Guide (9.00pm, BBC Four) follows. Also presented by Roberts, it explores how our view of the Romans and their time on these shores has changed over the years.
The slow-burning but utterly compelling historical drama continues. Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy) is pregnant again, but Henry VIII (Damian Lewis) is growing bored of his wife. Instead, his attention turns to Jane Seymour (Kate Phillips). All too soon, he will turn to Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance) for help.
Saints And Sinners: Britain’s Millennium Of Monasteries
Thursday 19th February, 9.00pm
Art historian Janina Ramirez presents a three-part series chronicling the history of the monasteries in Britain and their influence on the development of these islands. She begins at Skellig Michael, desolate island site of the oldest monastery in the British Isles, and considers how institutions at locations such as Lindisfarne and Whitby became beacons of civilisation.