Great American Railway Journeys
Friday 5th February, 6.30pm
Michael Portillo’s weekday series continues with the broadcaster learning about the remarkable history of the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge. Next week’s shows find Portillo taking in the splendour of Niagara Falls, treading the famous boardwalk at Atlantic City, and seeing where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg address.
Greece With Simon Reeve
Sunday 7th February, 8.00pm
While not precisely history series, Simon Reeve’s travelogues inevitably touch on the way the past shapes the present. This time around, he journeys through a country where the economic crisis never seems to end and where thousands of refugees arrive daily, displaced by conflict to the east.
Greece with Simon Reeve. (BBC/Olly Bootle)
War And Peace
Sunday 7th February, 9.00pm
The final episode of Auntie’s epic Tolstoy adaptation finds Napoleon itching for a fight. Instead, Russia’s military leaders decide to wait for him to run out of supplies. This all leads to desperate scenes in Moscow. Andrew Davies’ script, via the privations endured by Pierre, explores Tolstoy’s philosophy without letting it get in the way of the story.
Herman Melville’s Sea Change
Monday 8th February, 4.00pm
How did Herman Melville come to write Moby Dick? Poet Paul Farley considers the role of Liverpool in the novel’s genesis, bound up with Melville visiting the great port city. Melville considered settling, it seems, which he thought might lead to his being “annihilated”.
Tuesday 9th February, 3.00pm
The historical magazine show returns for a new series. In the first of eight episodes, Mary Beard explains why 212 AD was a crucial year in world history, Helen Castor considers British victory myths, and Tom Charlton looks at the future of libraries. Hosted by Tom Holland.
Back In Time For The Weekend
Tuesday 9th February, 8.00pm
The Ashby Hawkins family sample leisure time as it was lived in the 1960s. This turns out to involve getting a family Mini, playing Subbuteo with former West Ham midfielder Sir Trevor Brooking, and hearing about the era’s fashions from singer Sandie Shaw. Giles Coren presents.
Back in Time for the Weekend transports us to the 1960s this week. (BBC/Wall to Wall/Duncan Stingemore)
Surviving Alcatraz: Escaping The Rock
Tuesday 9th February, 9.00pm
On 11 June 1962, bank robbers Frank Morris and Clarence and John Anglin launched a raft made from raincoats into San Francisco Bay. The men have never been seen since, could they possibly have survived? Dutch scientists take a fresh look at one of the world’s most famous jail breaks.
Pick of the Week…
Elizabeth I: A Timewatch Guide
Wednesday 10th February, 9.00pm
Drawing on the BBC archives, Vanessa Collingridge explores the life of Elizabeth Tudor. As well as considering some of the most important events in Elizabeth’s reign, most notably her victory against the Spanish Armada, Collingridge considers how what we think we know about the Virgin Queen has changed over the centuries.
The Story Of China
Thursday 11th February, 9.00pm
Michael Wood traces the role of rebellious peasant Hongwu in founding the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). The regime was authoritarian, we learn, a quality that found expression the vast fortifications of the Great Wall and the closed-off ritual spaces of the Forbidden City. Wood also considers why the dynasty fell from power.