Holbein: Eye of the Tudors – A Culture Show Special
Saturday 24th January, 9.00pm
Waldemar Januszczak explores the life of Henry VIII’s court painter. Many of Hans Holbein’s images, the art critic argues, offer us insights into the characters of the era’s great and good. However, we should never forget that Holbein’s most famous painting of Henry, in a heroic pose with his feet planted apart, was intended to project power.
Holocaust: Night Will Fall
Saturday 24th January, 9.00pm
In the wake of the concentration camps being liberated, the Ministry of Information’s Sidney Bernstein planned to make a film showing the horror of what had been done, even bringing in Alfred Hitchcock to help. This powerful documentary, which features harrowing footage recorded by army cameramen, explores why the documentary never saw the light of day.
Churchill: 100 Days That Saved Britain
Sunday 25th January, 10.20pm
The title of this docu-drama is a reference to those weeks in the late spring and summer of 1940 after Winston became prime minister, and when it looked all too likely the Nazis would defeat Britain. Robert Hardy plays Churchill and Jemma Redgrave portrays his wife, Clementine.
David Starkey’s Magna Carta
Monday 26th January, 9.00pm
The historian charts the story of Magna Carta, drawn up in 1215 and designed to curb abuses of power perpetuated by King John. It’s a story that encompasses its export to the US constitution and ends with a warning that we mustn’t sacrifice liberty for security.
The Essay: The Fall and Rise of the British Castle
Monday 26th January, 10.45pm
Echoing the theme of Sam Willis’s recent BBC Four series, five writers reflect on the enduring power of Britain’s castles. The first of the weeknight talks finds historian Jeremy Black discussing the castle as an instrument of power and control.
Holocaust Memorial Day
Tuesday 27th January, 7.00pm
Marking 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, 200 survivors attend a special commemoration for Holocaust Memorial Day. In Touched By Auschwitz (BBC Two, 9.00pm), Laurence Rees explores the legacy of crimes perpetuated at the camp. Meanwhile The Holocaust: A Story of Remembrance (BBC One, Wednesday 28th January, 10.45pm) sees three women, including author Judith Kerr, reflecting on what occurred.
Churchill: The Nation’s Farewell
Wednesday 28th January, 9.00pm
Jeremy Paxman recalls events 50 years ago, when Winston Churchill was granted a lavish state funeral in London in recognition of his service as Britain’s wartime leader between 1940 and 1945. The former Newsnight presenter explores what the event represented, and meets people who were present on the day.
Epsiode two of the terrific adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s novels and events are moving apace. With out-of-favour Cardinal Wolsey (Jonathan Pryce) banished to York and Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy) becoming impatient, low-born but clever Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance) has to tread carefully if he’s to help his patron and also to maintain his own upward trajectory in society.
Melvyn Bragg and learned guests discuss the ancient Greek historian Thucydides (c460–c395BC), whose History of the Peloponnesian War charts conflict between Athens and Sparta in the fifth century BC. The text is noted for offering a discussion of politics, human motivation, and even the nature of history itself.
Timeshift: Battle for the Himalayas – The Fight to Film Everest
Thursday 29th January, 9.00pm
The ever-excellent Timeshift series explores how filmmakers have used the Himalayas, so often visited by military-style expeditions, for propaganda purposes. Followed by The Epic of Everest (10.00pm), a brooding silent documentary charting the ill-fated 1924 attempt by George Mallory and Andrew Irvine to conquer the world’s highest mountain.