Drawing on such material as cabinet papers, intelligence reports and diaries, Michael Portillo tells the story of Dublin’s Easter Rising from the British perspective. Did the politicians, soldiers, spies and bureaucrats who wrote these documents hasten the end of an empire with their actions?
Easter 1916: “The Enemy Files”. (BBC Northern Ireland)
Sunday 3rd April, 11.15am
The show that brings together those involved in key moments in modern British history returns for a new series. In the first of five episodes, Sue MacGregor hears from some of those who designed or worked on Britain’s earliest nuclear submarines, built at the height of the Cold War.
Forty years ago, Harold Wilson stood down as both prime minister and leader of the Labour party. Foreign secretary Jim Callaghan succeeded Wilson, and stayed in office for three tough and turbulent years, which culminated in the so-called ‘winter of discontent’ and Margaret Thatcher’s first election victory. James Naughtie presents an evening of Callaghan-themed archive programmes.
Frank Skinner hosts a new series of the panel show that claims its starting point as the comedian’s interest in the past – and his lamentable lack of historical knowledge. For the first show, guests Katy Brand and Pierre Novelli join historian in residence Kate Williams, and the subjects under discussion include Doctor Johnson’s cat.
The first of two new ITV period dramas takes us to Corfu in the 1930s, with the story of Gerald Durrell’s unorthodox childhood. Followed by Home Fires, the Women’s Institute drama set in the village of Great Paxford during the Second World War.
The drama set in Blighty exactly a century ago returns with a run of 40 weekday episodes. An overarching theme this time around is the impact of conscription, brought in with the Military Service Act, on a rural community. As ever, there’s an omnibus edition on Friday (9.00pm).
Inglorious Isolation: A European’s History Of Britain
Monday 4th April, 1.45pm
Over five weekday episodes, continental Europeans consider the history of Britain’s relationship with their home countries. Venice-born architect Francesco da Mosto kicks things off with a humorous take on Britain, while later shows offer French, German, Spanish and Scandinavian perspectives respectively.
Dan Snow teams up with space archaeologist Dr Sarah Parcak for a satellite-assisted programme that looks at Viking exploration of the Atlantic. It’s a show that takes in sites in Iceland, Greenland and Vinland, an area now in Newfoundland, Canada. The duo also locates what could be the most westerly Viking settlement ever discovered.
Living history in a man shed anyone? For a three-part series shown on successive evenings, James May begins with a pile of components and puts the technology of yesteryear back together. His first challenge is a 1959 Suffolk Colt lawnmower, which has 331 parts.
Workers Or Shirkers? Ian Hislop’s Victorian Benefits
Thursday 7th April, 8.00pm
Private Eye’s editor once again puts on his serious hat, this time as a way to consider Victorian attitudes towards the poor. His approach is to profile five individuals whose views still resonate today, including workhouse pioneer Edwin Chadwick and undercover reporter James Greenwood. Hislop’s contemporary interviewees include Iain Duncan Smith and columnist Owen Jones.