The Middle Ages on BBC Radio

BBC Radio is considered to be one of the best English-language broadcasters in the world.  From comprehensive news to drama, sports and music, the BBC offers a wealth of resources to listen to, including archived programs.  Shows that deal with history, including the Middle Ages, involve leading scholars and interesting debates.

Here are a list of radio programs that have online content dealing with the medieval period:

In Our Time – one of their best weekly series, which looks at the History of Ideas

The Long View – explores how history can illuminate current debates

Making History – a program that answers listeners’ queries, including medieval questions

Woman’s Hour – although not a history-oriented program, it contains several pieces on the Middle Ages

A Laudable Invasion – from the show Document, this episode examines Henry II’s invasion of Ireland in 1171 and how he was able to justify it.

The Viking Way – a three part series about the Norse and their influence on England. The first program examines the boat buidling and navigation techniques of the Norse; the second part looks at the Viking invasions of England; and the final part examines daily life among the Vikings.

Amongst the Medici – a three part series that examines Renaissance Florence and its ruling family

The Norman Way – another three part series that starts with the Norman Conquest of 1066, followed by the kingship of William I and what it was like for the people of 11th century England to undergo ‘regime change’. The episodes highlights parallels between then and now – bringing the period vividly to life with the help of contemporary accounts and chronicles, the newest research-findings and current areas of fierce academic debate, and the very latest archaeological evidence. People of the 11th century were no strangers to political spin, either. The official chroniclers of the Norman regime eagerly promoted the Norman way of doing things and the justness of Duke William’s claim to the English throne – after all, history is always written by the victors. So how accurate is our view of that period? Was William the Conqueror an opportunistic invader – or was he truly Edward the Confessor’s rightful heir? Was King Harold really killed by an arrow in the eye? How unsophisticated was the late Anglo-Saxon regime, and how brutal was the Norman one? And what changes – for good or bad – did the Norman Conquest instigate?

The First Crusade – from the program What If, this show poses the quite plausible hypothesis that the First Crusade did indeed fail. What would have been the consequences of such an outcome? Professor Chris Andrew poses the quite plausible hypothesis that the First Crusade did indeed fail. What would have been the consequences of such an outcome? Renowned expert on the Crusades, Professor Jonathan Riley-Smith, editor of The Oxford Illustrated Guide to the Crusades explains that, had they failed to take Jerusalem, there would have been no Crusading movement. He goes further: a victory for Islam might well have encouraged the Seljuk Turks to invade Europe with greater success than they achieved in later centuries.

Castles and Cruelty – from the program Voices of the Powerless, this episode examines the life and times in England’s north after the Norman Conquest. In the decade following the conquest, the north of England was one of the main focuses of rebellion. As a result, northeners suffered the retribution which William’s men inflicted – the so-called harrying of the north., which began in 1069. Includes several sections that deal with the development of the city of York during this period.

The Peasants’ Revolt – also from Voices of the Powerless, this episode examines the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 in England. The first sections deal with the causes of the revolt, followed by the events of 1381. Includes commentary by Christopher Dyer and Alastair Dunn.

The Dark Origins of Britain - The Dark Origins of Britain is a landmark series dealing with the greatest unresolved mystery in British history – how the modern nations of England, Wales and Scotland were born out of the chaos of the Dark Ages. In 400 AD, when Roman power collapsed in Britain, we were a province inhabited by Celtic peoples speaking a mixture of early Welsh and Latin. But only two hundred years later, the foundations of a new, Anglo-Saxon, English-speaking nation were being laid.

Cooking Medieval Style – a short program that deals with making Pea Soup the way it was done in the Middle Ages, with a classroom of kids added in

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