History on TV

(89 Posts)
MadBusLady Sat 15-Sep-12 15:03:58

Sooo, this comes off the back of this thread about Richard III and then this thread about MN History Club.

I thought it might be good to have a big general thread about any history on TV we are watching/looking forward to/really enjoyed in the past. And I see we are already tackling some of the major themes such as the rugged cheekbones and leather jackets of the presenters on the other thread. wink

We're currently watching Neil Oliver's Vikings series, which is ace - what I really like about it is he starts out in the first programme in the Scandinavian bronze age/iron age, and showed where the Vikings had come from as a culture.

Francis Pryor is the worst offender when it comes to things being 'ritual'. He drives me crackers.

MadBusLady Sat 15-Sep-12 19:45:56

Basically TT get a free pass from me though as TV because they're still one of the very few formats that isn't "authority presents scripted viewpoint to camera as if all of what they're saying is 'true' and none of it is remotely controversial". I've seen some great history TV, but I've rarely seen any authority figure presenter even hint at the fact that the whole point of studying history is that people disagree with other about it. And particularly not the ego-driven big names.

MadBusLady Sat 15-Sep-12 20:01:37

JoyfulPuddleJumper Weirdly I was about to say I enjoyed Pryor's Britain BC very much, as a partial exception to the "authority presents script to camera" format! Not too much "it's ritual" in it at all. He spent a good chunk of one of the programmes talking to the director of a long-term (bronze age?) mega field survey of a big chunk of land in the fens, and I thought it explained really well how big archaeological projects work, and how we learn gradually about settlement/population change over time etc. I could almost sense a producer jumping up and down somewhere and screaming "We must have a slo-mo panning shot across a spectacular find or what's the point!" smile

Oh, damn, I quite like Francis Pryor's book on Seahenge. blush

I was all taken with the 'ritual landscapes' thing and I'm not usually into woobollocks.

What should I watch to give me a different perspective?

MadBusLady I missed that series! I was thinking more of his cameos on TT and his academic work.

LRD I had a lecturer at uni who was obsessed with ritual landscapes. It made essay writing quite easy!

MadBusLady Sat 15-Sep-12 20:18:57

Hmm, DP advises me I may be mixing up Britain BC the book with the series "Britain - the Not So Dark Ages" blush Anyway, the series was Pryor, and it was very good.

MadBusLady Sat 15-Sep-12 20:23:05

Sky's "The British" sounds hilarious grin Russell Brand??? May have to search out some YouTube clips, just to exercise the blood pressure.

Tryingtobenice Sat 15-Sep-12 21:43:41

The british only started last week. Even the trailer admits it is capitalising on the summer of british success. Any excuse for a bit of jingoistic history. To hear them tell it Britain was the toughest conquest the romans ever faced....

meditrina Tue 18-Sep-12 13:49:17
meditrina Tue 18-Sep-12 13:50:10

martial?!?

Sorry DYAC, should be material.

habbibu Wed 19-Sep-12 13:35:11

Neil Oliver makes me want to scratch my ears off with a stick. Why they can't find an actual Viking specialist to do this series is beyond me.

Paleodad Thu 20-Sep-12 09:52:04

read this and had to comment r.e.JCB's!
Removing topsoil with anything other than machine is a complete waste of time, whether on a research or commercial excavation. Nothing you get from the topsoil can tell you anything about the underlying archaeology, except that there may be archaeology underneath, and lets face it, if you're going to the trouble of excavating a particular area you should have done your homework first and expect that there is something there (unless the area is being checked to make sure there isn't, in which case hand excavation of topsoil is an even bigger waste of time.
Topsoil finds have no value in terms of dating a site as they could have come from anywhere, and are not in a secure context/layer. All you can say about them is how pretty they are.....
Agree about JCB's though, not really suitable for archaeology as a straight line or smooth surface if virtually impossible to all except the most skilled drivers (though i have seen a few....). A 30 tonnne 360 tracked machine is much better! That said, a JCB is still better than hand-digging topsoil.

oh, and just to add about Time Team, it's worth bearing in mind that in the background of most of the excavations they do is a professional archaeological unit(s) doing the legwork, ably aided by many hardworking volunteers from local societies and groups. Time Team excavations are often preceded by a lot of work by professionals and volunteers, and the excavations often continue after the cameras have gone.

Paleodad Thu 20-Sep-12 10:19:09

@linerunner: yes Guy de la Bedoyere is a real archaeologist...though his views are regarded by some in academia as somewhat Neocolonialist old-fasioned. He got into quite an argument in the letters pages of British Archaeology magazine a few years ago (2006-7?) when David Mattingly published a new book on Roman Britain, for those that enjoy a good academic spat!

strandednomore Thu 20-Sep-12 10:53:13

We watched the 2nd episode of the British last night and yes, we were left scratching our heads as to why those well-known historians Russell Brand and Frank Lampard (to name but two) were commentating. Having said that, I must be a little dumb as I quite like the CGI effects!

Looking forward to what Andrew Marr has to offer.

strandednomore Thu 20-Sep-12 10:54:18

Love to know what you all think of Horrible Histories. My dd (7) loved is, she is always quoting from it. I think it's very funny, have just started reading their books too. I think it's a good way to get youngsters interested in history - I wish they had been around when I was little.

Paleodad Thu 20-Sep-12 11:29:07

Horrible Histories is great, and best of all it's all true! Love the fact that they don't talk down to their audience either.

scaevola Mon 24-Sep-12 14:43:52

Following on from the Andrew Marr article, this is what the BBC has put on its website about what readers/viewers would want to see included. It's mainly unsung things that a huge the invention of double-entry book-keeping.

Was the first Vikings programme any good? It's not on Iplayer and I only saw the second. It was very pretty TV but I found him quite an annoying presenter (England had a 'national mindset'? Really? I'm not even sure it does now. And 'shipmanship'/'craftsmanship' - if I were in his classes he would get feministy raised eyebrows for being a twonk with this one.)

But I would love to diss it with someone who knows what they're talking about. grin

DH's thing is Kievan Rus, but he is sadly less into the dissing of things than me, so was just amused at the real geek role-player Russians rolling their longboat.

MadBusLady Tue 25-Sep-12 11:27:07

Hmm, the first one was better, we thought that. But I don't like dissing these things unless it's really merited, TBH. It's not yet another "The Vikings were big fierce, beardy men, here are lots of slo-mo action shots of actors making fierce noises" jobbie, and that puts it a long way ahead of most rivals. DP is also into the whole eastern Vikings thing so felt much vindicated that the series is touching on them at all.

In a museum recently I learned something incredibly basic about the Jurassic coast that blew my mind. It was just about the age of the coast and the conditions in Devon/Dorset that brought it about, things so fundamental a geologist or palaeontologist probably wouldn't even consider it a "fact" but to me it was new, and it was a pretty basic picture-led gallery (with, I'm sure, heaps of over-simplification and inaccuracy) that brought it home to me. It didn't matter, it gave me a starting point. When I wander around in another field as a beginner, I realise how precious I can be about the fields I am specialist in.

THAT SAID grin I did get a bit annoyed with the constant refrain (not confined to this series) about places in Scandinavia/the Baltic being "on the edge of the world". Only if you (a) are Christian/Orthodox/Roman/Byzantine and (b) have a particular kind of cartography.

LineRunner Tue 25-Sep-12 13:32:43

I've just read Guy de la Bedoyere's website and I like him a lot more now. smile

Fair enough, madbus, I am just quibbling then.

I did get annoyed at the 'national mindset' bit, though, and that was merited - it's a dodgily xenophobic thing to do, to attribute 'national mindset' to the Anglo-Saxons before there was even such a thing as a unified nation. Plus he kept talking about the vikings invading 'us' in England. 'Us' who? English today are not Anglo-Saxons.

I think that does tie in with what you're saying about the 'edge of the world' ... it was a wee bit rude.

I take your point about being precious. blush

MadBusLady Tue 25-Sep-12 14:15:29

I definitely quibble and am precious. Occasionally I think "hm, I probably shouldn't be". grin

LineRunner Tue 25-Sep-12 14:19:04

Hi LRD, I was going to say why aren't you busy finishing your thesis? grin that the idea of 'ritual landscapes' isn't per se considered woo - it's more that it's considered a bit of a lazy concept. If you think about it, anything can be considered 'ritual'. It's like saying something is 'cultural'.

Because I am currently indulging in alternate bouts of sulking/panicking about postdoc apps, writing a 1000 word research proposal, and wishing no-one had told me there were over 100 applicants per place.

<sulks>

<panics>

No, seriously, I am getting there thank you. I take your point about ritual/culture. Ritual as I'd use it has a fairly narrow (Catholic) sense, so I didn't pick up on that at all.

LineRunner Tue 25-Sep-12 14:35:07

I think Paleodad might be more 'in the know' about this, but I think there's a running joke in archaeology that calling something 'ritual' means 'I don't know what it's for'.

LRD, I'm also writing researchy stuff - grant applications as it happens to re-write a monograph I did a long time ago. Doing my head in.

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