Over two years, Radio 4 dramatises John Galworthy’s Forsyte Saga, which traces the story of an upper-middle class family between 1886 and 1936. The series continues through the week (from Monday 1st February, 10.45am & 7.45pm). Also listen out for Graham Greene: The Honorary Consul (Sunday 31st January, 3.00pm), a dramatisation of the novel set during Argentina’s 1970s ‘dirty war’.
In the spring of 1916, English folk song collector Cecil Sharp (1859–1924) headed to the USA to give a series of lectures. As Andy Kershaw traces here, Sharp became fascinated by the songs, many with UK roots but lost on this side of the Atlantic, he encountered in the Appalachians, and he began documenting what he discovered.
Just when it seems every major character in the Andrew Davies-scripted adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel is utterly miserable for one reason or another, their worries get put into perspective. Which is another way of saying we’ve reached 1812 and Napoleon is about to invade Russia.
Pierre Bezukhov (played by Paul Dano), Natasha Rostov (Lily James), and Prince Andrei (James Norton) in War and Peace. (BBC/Mitch Jenkins/Kaia Zak)
From Savage To Self
Monday 1st February, 1.45pm
The weekday documentary series tracing the history of anthropology continues with an episode that tells the remarkable story of researcher Ursula Graham Bower, who led Naga tribesman in combat against the Japanese during the Second World War. Presented by Farrah Jarral. The series concludes on Friday.
In a new weekday series, Michael Portillo grabs himself a copy of Appleton’s General Guide To The US And America (1879) and heads for New York. Here, he begins an exploration of the US railway system by exploring the cathedral-like spaces of Manhattan’s Grand Central Station.
Archaeologists John Kelly and Tim Pauketat explore a site that you can’t help thinking should be more celebrated. Cahokia is a pre-Columbian native American city located in what’s now Illinois and dating from c900 AD, a site once dominated by a 10-storey-high pyramid.
Cousins Elizabeth I of England and Mary, Queen of Scots never actually met. That didn’t stop them from becoming deadly rivals, despite once seeing themselves as akin to sisters. This drama-documentary, drawing on their letters, traces the story of the women’s rivalry. (Postponed from Friday 15th January.)
In a new living history series, the Ashby Hawkins family is deprived of modern gadgets as a way to trace how leisure time has changed. They begin in the 1950s where Rob has to get busy with a toolkit. It’s not all weekend chores: there’s ballroom dancing (with Angela Rippon) and exploring the great outdoors too.
In the series that, with the help of the BBC archives, traces changes in the way we view the past, Dr Thomas Ashbridge focuses on the Crusades. It’s in great part a tale of how contemporary events and concerns have shaped attitudes to 1095 and all that.
Michael Wood traces the story of the Song dynasty (960–1279). This was one of China’s greatest cultural eras, as a huge working replica of an astronomical clock, made by the country’s equivalent of Leonardo da Vinci, engineer Zhang Sixun) demonstrates. Plus Wood tucks into a Song era-inspired meal.