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History on Radio and Television – Anniversaries

2015 marks a number of important historical anniversaries of events in British and European History covered by the new schools curriculum and so of course there is plenty of programming offering insights and information.  Some of this is available as short clips too.


Magna Carta

June 2015 sees the 800th Anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede. This event has already been commemorated with a season of programming by the BBC in partnership with the British Library and the Magna Carta 800 Committee as part of a drive to widen understanding of the essential role this document has played in the development of democratic society. More details can be found in our  previous post  www.era.org.uk/blog/electing-engage-politics

Otherwise here is a small selection of other useful material:


Horrible Histories Presents: Crooked King John and the Magna Carta, Available www.bbc.co.uk/cbbc

Of particular interest to KS2, Horrible Histories Presents: Crooked King John and Magna Carta is a special episode of the hugely popular CBBC series. Looking at the life and reign of King John I and exploring the wider events of the time this episode explains how he came to sign the Magna Carta just before the end of his reign.

The new series of Horrible Histories continues on CBBC.  Clips and full episodes from this and previous series are available from the Horrible Histories webpage


The Great Charter  BBC World Service 7 June 12.05pm


From the World Service website: “This innovative drama charts the fight for rights and freedoms in the 21st Century’s supra-state – the Internet – to mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. It powerfully re-imagines the conflict which gave birth to the original Magna Carta in a fictional future to explore the current debate around digital rights.”


King John and the Magna Carta, BBC

A short film aimed at KS3 and available from BBC Bitesize for schools at www.bbc.co.uk/education



The Battle of Waterloo

18 June 2015 marks the 200th Anniversary of the decisive Battle of Waterloo and there are several programmes available exploring the truth behind the legends of both the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon.


Napoleon and Wellington  BBC Radio 4, available on iPlayer Radio  and downloadable as MP3


Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the curiously parallel histories of Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington and ponder which one was the greater general and ultimately, who won?


Napoleon BBC2 10 June 9.30pm

New series in which Andrew Roberts explores the reality behind the myth of one of the world’s greatest ever military leaders.


The Second World War

2015 is the 75th anniversary of Dunkirk and the 70th anniversary of the end of the war.  There will be programming throughout the year to commemorate both these events but here is a small selection currently available to watch:


The Greatest Generation, BBCiPlayer 4 episodes available

Documentary series that tells the stories of the extraordinary last survivors of the generation who fought or lived through World War II.  Clips are available on the programme website


Commando, C4 available on All 4


A four part Documentary series telling the extraordinary true story of this specialist unit set up by Churchill in the wake of the defeat at Dunkirk.


The Sinking of the Lusitania

The 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania transatlantic passenger liner was commemorated on 15 May 2015.  For neutral USA, this tragic event turned the tide of public opinion against Germany which eventually led to the US joining the war in 1917.


Lusitania: 18 Minutes That Changed The World, Channel5.com


From the Channel 5 website “this documentary follows the last voyage of Cunardʼs flagship luxury liner through the stories of individual passengers and crew, as well as the commander of the U-20 submarine that sank the Lusitania.”