Early Modern

Early Modern

A dichotomy of old and new, the Early Modern era was a fascinating period in history. Feudalism was on the decline, the old and established religious institutions that had once exercised enormous power of populations were now being challenged and European colonists began to settle in the Americas. This time also saw a rebirth of interest in the writings of scholars from antiquity and a new emphasis on the use of observation as the basis of knowledge - the Renaissance. Enjoy our host of documentaries, interviews and podcasts, with leading historians such as Suzannah Lipscomb, ranging from Henry VIII and the scandals of the Tudor Court, to the sailing of the Mayflower in 1620.

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Early Modern
  • The Real Robinson Crusoe

    Professional yachtsman Conrad Humphreys and Dan Snow tell the story of Alexander Selkirk, an 18th century sailor whose story, some argue, served as a historical basis for Daniel Defoe's famous novel Robinson Crusoe.

  • Painting Elizabeth: Creating a Royal Legend

    Elizabeth I is one of the most iconic figures from British history - her image can be recognised in an instant. But this was no mistake, for Elizabeth’s portraits were an audacious act of spin to cement her image of female majesty. In this documentary, Dr Nicola Tallis and Prof Anna Whitelock tak...

  • Medieval Kings: Henry VII

    Sean Cunningham, Head of Medieval Records at the National Archives, answers key questions about Henry VII. From his unexpected rise to the throne to his founding of England's most famous royal dynasty: the Tudors.

  • The British Republic

    The Commonwealth of England between 1649 and 1660 is one of the least talked about, yet most defining, periods in British history. Paul Lay comes on the show to discuss this momentous decade, when Britain was a republic.

  • London: A Tale of Two Cities

    London suffered a calamitous century between 1600 and 1700. Sectarianism. Civil War. The execution of the King. Plague and the Great Fire. London should have been finished. In fact, the turmoil catalysed London's transformation into the phenomenal city we know today. But why did this happen? By w...

  • Coronavirus: Lessons From History

    In the past few months more than a billion people have faced restrictions unlike any seen before. Shops are closed; the death toll is rising; people across the globe have been forced to rise to an extraordinary challenge. But it is important to remember that humans have experienced pandemics befo...

  • Guy Fawkes: The Yorkshireman Behind the Plot

    Tensions were high in England in late October 1605, when a Catholic English nobleman, Lord Monteagle, received a mysterious letter telling him to avoid the opening of Parliament in a few days time. The letter would come to foil the plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament and kill the Protestant ...

  • Henry VIII: Statesman or Tyrant?

    On Midsummer's Day in 1509 a 17 year old was crowned king of England. He would go on to transform his realm over almost four decades on the throne. He would revolutionise its religion, reforge its politics and its relations with neighbouring countries, and establish a royal navy. But, by the time...

  • The Mystery of the Headless Man

    This story has everything: war, politics, betrayal, scandal, murder and at its heart a cracking forensic science mystery. This is the story of Simon Fraser, the 11th Lord Lovat of the Highland, also known as the Fox. In the late 1660s, Simon Fraser was born in a house on the banks of a burn in th...

  • Secrets of Shakespeare's Stratford

    1 season

    In this series, Alice Loxton and Dan Snow head to Stratford-upon-Avon to uncover the secrets of William Shakespeare’s early life and upbringing.

  • Parliament's Greatest Speeches

    The Palace of Westminster is one of the world's most famous buildings: 'the mother of parliaments'. Since the days of Simon de Montfort parliaments having been meeting at this location in the heart of London. Though plagued by controversy and destruction over its long history the site's significa...

  • Atahualpa: Death of the Last Inca Emperor

    On 26 July 1533, a rope was tightened around the neck of Inca Emperor Atahualpa in the central plaza in Cajamarca in what is now Peru. The general who ordered his execution, Pizarro, is said to have shed a tear as the life drained from the condemned's body. On paper, the man died a Catholic by th...

  • Africa: Written out of History

    Historian Luke Pepera looks at how and why the history of Africa was written out of world history. He also explores how and why, as a consequence of this, the history of Africans in Britain was written out of British history.

  • Hans Holbein the Younger: Painting the Tudor Court

    In this fascinating documentary, historian Dr Nicola Tallis and author Franny Moyle dissect and unravel the meaning behind the famous paintings of the Tudor Court depicted by the renowned artist, Hans Holbein the Younger.

    Born in Ausburg in 1497, Holbein worked as a painter and printmaker in Ba...

  • Henry's Forts: Castles on the Coast

    On the 26 February 2021, around 38 metres of wall collapsed at Hurst Castle, one of a series of vital coastal forts built by Henry VIII in the 16th century to protect England from threat of invasion by the European powers. Recently, Dan went out on his kayak to assess the damage at the castle whi...

  • Ottomans Versus Christians: Battle for the Mediterranean

    1 season

    Julian Davidson looks at the colossal warfare that seized the Mediterranean in the 16th century. A struggle for men's souls between the rapidly rising Muslim Ottoman Empire in the east and a fractious alliance of Christian superpowers.

  • Mayflower 400: Beyond the Journey

    On 16 September 1620, 400 years ago, a merchant ship called the Mayflower departed from Plymouth, England, on a voyage to America. Its passengers sought a new life, for some this meant religious freedom and for some a fresh start in a new land. They would go on to be known as Pilgrims, and influe...

  • Redcliffe Caves

    Redcliffe Caves are a series of man made tunnels beneath the Redcliffe area of Bristol, England. The Triassic red sandstone was dug into in the Middle ages to provide sand for glass making and pottery production. Further excavation took place from the 17th to early 19th centuries and used for sto...

  • Bring Out Your Dead: The Great Plague of 1666

    1665-1666 was not a good time for the people of London. Not only was most of the city engulfed by what soon became known as The Great Fire of London in September 1666, but months before the most infamous outbreak of disease in British history occurred: the Great Plague. Plague arrived in England ...

  • The Most Daring Escapes From The Tower of London

    For more than 900 years, the Tower of London has occupied its place at the heart of English life. At various times a royal citadel, palace, menagerie, observatory, public records office, mint, arsenal and, even to this day, the home of the crown jewels of England, since 1100 it has famously serve...

  • Rebellion in the North

    1 season

    Since the Roman occupation, England has mostly been dominated by a power-base ruling from the South of the country, principally centred on the great City of London. Yet the northern regions of England, remote and culturally disinct from the South, were, for much of recorded history, staunchly ind...

  • Edgehill: A Fight of Spite and Spleen

    When Charles I acceded to the throne in 1625, there was every reason to hope his reign would be as peaceful and prosperous as any. But by 1642, after almost two decades of religious aggravation and personal ‘tyranny’, tensions reached boiling point. The chance for peaceful resolution and diplomat...

  • The English Parish Church: An Introduction

    In this introduction to the English Parish Church, Alice Loxton travels across the country to uncover some gems of England’s heritage. From the whitewashing of the Reformation to Wesley’s hymns to William Morris’ efforts to preserve the past, there is lots to discover. And Alice is joined around ...

  • Shakespeare

    Emma Smith, Professor of Shakespeare Studies at the University of Oxford and the author of 'This is Shakespeare', tackles the big questions about William Shakespeare.