Sunday, April 22, 2007

1564: William Shakespeare born

t is commonly believed that the great English dramatist and poet William Shakespeare is born in Stratford-upon-Avon on April 23, 1564. Actually, it is impossible to be certain exactly the day on which he was born, just as it is impossible to prove conclusively if it was the Shakespeare from Stratford who displayed such literary and theatrical mastery. However, it is certain that no plays have been performed or analyzed as much as the 36 plays ascribed to him. These works, such as Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and King Lear, are known worldwide, and, as frequent modern adaptation attests, continue to be relevant 400 years after they were composed.


The Dead Sea Scrolls are arguably the most important manuscript discovery in history.

Believers hoped they would provide clues about the origins of Judaism and Christianity and that the name Jesus might appear in documents written during his life. We follow one scholar in search of new caves that might contain scrolls.
As the dig team works along a cliff face near Qumran, we trace the history of the Dead Sea Scroll controversy and the evolving interpretation of what was written 2,000 years ago.

Miss Potter is an enchanting tale of British icon

To celebrate the release of Miss Potter on DVD, The History Channel and Momentum Pictures offer you the chance to win a terrific prize pack valued at £50.
Miss Potter is an enchanting tale of British icon, Beatrix Potter, the most successful classic children’s author of all time. Whilst her books have delighted generations of children, her own life story is still largely unknown.
Miss Potter, set for 23 April 2007 DVD release, courtesy of Momentum Pictures, is set in London and the Lake District in 1902, and shows just how ahead of her time Beatrix Potter was. A free spirit who defied the conventions of her Victorian upbringing, Beatrix also went against her parents’ wishes and secretly fell in love with, and became engaged to, her publisher, Norman Warne. Miss Potter stars Academy Award-winner Renée Zellweger as Beatrix Potter and Ewan McGregor as Norman Warne.
Beatrix’s much loved characters, such as Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-Duck and Squirrel Nutkin, delighted generations of children, but her own story was locked carefully away. Miss Potter goes behind the façade and allows us to meet the woman who was an adept businesswoman, scientist and conservationist. Her fascination with animals, love of nature, sense of humor, prodigious memory and wonderful imagination produced a children’s writer and illustrator that has never been matched. In addition to creating a publishing phenomenon, she later in life became a pioneering naturalist.

Friday, April 20, 2007

In this exciting programme, we investigate the mystery of the sinking of the Andrea Doria, a beautifully engineered Italian vessel that disappeared beneath the waves in baffling and unusual circumstances.

By the end of 1945, Italy had lost half of its merchant fleet. Harry S. Truman, the American president, gave Alcide De Gasperi, Italy’s Christian Democrat premier, permission to construct large passenger ships for the trans-Atlantic route. Significantly, this overturned a particularly hated clause of the humiliating post-war peace treaty.

The construction of this modern and elegant liner involved an entire city. On 16th June 1951, the hull slid majestically into the sea in front of an enthusiastic crowd of over a thousand. The Andrea Doria was a jewel, built to the highest standards and bursting with works of art. Wood panels and mosaics gave it the appearance of a floating museum. The vessel was captained by Piero Calamai – a man with the experience and charisma to lead almost seven hundred crewmen and two thousand passengers.

The Doria immediately proved a good investment. Countless Italian emigrants in search of a new life in the United States ensured that it almost always sailed at full capacity. Soon a cruise on the Doria became a pleasant interlude for stars of the silver screen like Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy and Orson Welles. On 17th July 1956, the Andrea Doria was birthed in the port of Genoa, ready to embark upon her 101st voyage. A total of 1,134 passengers and 572 crew members were on board.

On 25th July 1956, the reinforced prow of the Stockholm - a small passenger ship owned by the Swedish America Line – pierced the side of the Andrea Doria with the force of two hundred high calibre bullets fired at the same time. It created enormous damage and pierced the ship’s watertight compartments, instantly killing forty-three people.

We examine the enormous rescue operation that was undertaken as the ship gradually disappeared beneath the waves. Then, we examine the battle to determine who was responsible for the collision which occurred in the wake of the disaster. We reveal the truth about who was really responsible for the tragedy. The real facts only emerged many years later, thanks to a scientific study carried out at the United States Merchant Marine Academy.

In three dreadful years over one third of Europe's population was wiped out. Everyone believed it heralded the end of the world.

To the chroniclers of Padua the plague was devastation deemed more final than Noah's flood. The plague shook the wealthy, relatively well-populated, confident society of mid-14th-century Western Europe to its foundations.

This film follows the spread of the plague and its implications for the Europe of the Middle Ages.

Looking at issues such as medicine, religion, superstition and society, and employing expert analysis from top historians, this is a fascinating look at one of the most chilling and terrible periods in all of human existence.

Most of all, this is history told through contemporary voices of some of the key chroniclers of the time. Real people who contracted the disease and died from it, but who left amazing, vivid accounts of what it feels like to live in a world that is falling apart.

Engineering an Empire: The Persians

In this intriguingly IranianINSTALMEN of ‘Engineering an Empire’, we chart the history of the ancient Persian Empire through its scientific and technological achievements.
Under theACHAENI king, Cyrus the Great, Persia’s empire was consolidated in what is now modern-day Iran. Cyrus overthrew the empire ofMEDES, going on to conquer the entire Middle East, including the territories of the Babylonians, the Phoenicians and the Lydians.
Cyrus also created a policy of religious and cultural tolerance that became the hallmark of Persian rule; the empire that he left behind expanded to India and Greece under the reign of Darius I, who built the grandiose capital of PERSEPOLIS.
The Persian Empire masterminded some remarkable scientific schemes. An innovative system of water management was accomplished using simple tools, while a cross-continent paved roadway stretching 1500 miles made travel safe and facilitated communication.
Persian engineers also constructed a canal linking the Nile to the Red Sea, which was a forerunner of the modern Suez Canal. Perhaps most astoundingly, Persian architects hold responsibility for creating the creation one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the MausoleumofMAUSSOLLOS.
We outline the deadly rivalry which arose between the soaring Persian Empire and the Greek city-states, led by Athens. Although Greek involvement with Persia began when Cyrus (II) the Great conquered the Greek cities of western Asia Minor, two Persian invasions of mainland Greece in 490 BC and 480–79 BC officially unleashed the bloody ‘Persian Wars’. This thirty year long series of conflicts would result in bloody defeat for this empire of exceptional engineers, marking the end of Persian domination of the ancient world and the beginning of Greek supremacy.


n this shocking INSTALMENT of ‘The Final Report’, we explore the bombing that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over the small town of Lockerbie in Scotland. The tragic event prompted a worldwide, three year long investigation. We outline the detailed global detective work that produced two indictments in the case, as well as the protracted political MANOEUVRING that led to the trial and convictioN.

On 21st December, 1988, a 747 jumbo jet began a flight from HEATHROU Airport to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. There were 259 passengers and crew members on board; many of them were American tourists on their way home from England. As the passengers began to relax, a sudden blast from the cargo hold blew a hole the size of a dinner plate in the airliner’s skin. Although it was relatively small, the opening caused a drastic loss of air pressure. This shattered the plane into pieces as it flew over ...

Luggage, aeroplane components and people began falling towards the quiet town below. Within minutes, an explosion stretching 350 feet into the air violently shattered the peace of this small Scottish community. Eleven unsuspecting Lockerbie residents were killed when the plane’s wings hit Sherwood Crescent. Several houses and their foundations were completely vaporised. Four members of one family died when their house exploded. Although the emergency services were immediately dispatched... tragic fate had already been cemented.

More than four million pieces of wreckage were spread over 845 square miles of northern England and southern Scotland. In total, 270 people were killed. At the time, the bombing was the worst act of airline terrorism ever committed against the USA. From the outset, investigators suspected that the bombing had been committed by terrorists. They quickly determined that a bomb packed inside a Toshiba radio-cassette player had brought down Flight 103 and ... This discovery focused suspicion upon a radical Palestinian ... with ties to both Syria and Iran.

However, tiny fragments of evidence found in the fields near ...soon started to paint a different picture. Pieces of charred clothing and a circuit board the size of a thumbnail pointed detectives toward the African nation of Libya, led by Colonel ...

This programme examines the meticulous detective work that produced two indictments against Libyan intelligence agents, comprehensively outlining the political manoeuvring that brought them both to trial. One man... was eventually imprisoned for causing the deaths of 270 people. The trial’s outcome remains controversial, and various theories abound concerning the motives and details of the bombing. This documentary attempts to unravel the diplomatic, legal and emotional tangle of the Lockerbie bombing.

Vietnam's Unseen War

"It was horrible. I didn't want to take any pictures, but I had to record what was left by war. We have to find a way, reporters as well as civilians, Vietnamese as well as other peoples in the world, to prevent scenes like this from happening again"
This documentary tells the tragic story of the Vietnam War through the eyes of a young British photojournalist. In 1962, Tim Page left the ... of the English suburbs to travel through Europe, Pakistan, India, Burma, Thailand and Laos. He began to work as a press photographer in Laos; his exclusive images of the 1965 attempted coup earned him a position in the Saigon bureau of UPI.

In Vietnam, Page found himself in a divided land devastated by brutal superpower-sponsored civil war. He became one of a small band of civilian freelance photographers who were willing to take outrageous risks in order to secure the perfect shot. Page was wounded in action three times. In April 1969, he was struck by an enormous piece of shrapnel as he attempted to load wounded soldiers into a helicopter.
Page’s recovery from his injury was long and painful. As he embarked upon a lengthy course of ... he became closely involved with the Vietnam Veterans peace movement, also working as a care-giver for young men who had suffered mental trauma and physical injuries as a result of the desperate and senseless conflict.
In this gripping programme, we join Page as he returns to the land where he almost lost his life. Amid the drama and lunacy of 1960s and 1970s Vietnam, Page’s colleagues joked that the fearless young photojournalist would never make it to the age of twenty-three. We join an older, more contemplative Page as he meets photographers from the ‘other side.’ While Page and his camera-toting colleagues chose to become absorbed in the turmoil of the Vietnam War, North Vietnam’s photographers had no such choice.
We observe Page’s revealing meeting with the people who photographed the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong. These brave men developed their pictures in jungle streams and made flash powder from bullets to light their subjects. They spent endless months in the field, dodging bullets, bombs, bad water, malaria and deadly snakes. Their pictures captured the beauty and resilience of the human spirit, and the meaningless bloodshed of war.
‘Vietnam’s Unseen war’ is a haunting film, featuring pictures which are both harrowing and inspiring. Page’s story demonstrates that these visual representations of a nation’s suffering still have the power to move us deeply, more than thirty years after North Vietnamese troops marched into Saigon.


In one of the most ambitious experiments in practical ever attempted, Stonehenge will be rebuilt exactly as it was 4000 years ago, less than ten miles from the original monument with a grand total of 171 stones.
Stonehenge is the world's most famous prehistoric stone circle and an enduring mystery. Nobody knows how or why the Neolithic Britons built it.
Where did the stones come from and how were they transported to the present site in How many different types of stone are there, and did they all arrive at the same time? What did they use to sculpt them in to shape?
This will answer these questions and also propose and test revolutionary new theories about the engineering techniques of the ancients.
our of the world's leading archaeological experts carry out practical, groundbreaking experiments in the full size reconstruction to determine exactly what Stonehenge was used for and who the people who built it were.
Did the Druids build it for human sacrifice? Was it a sophisticated astronomical calculating device or even a gigantic burial ground?
The dramatic climax is a recreation of a mystical ritual ceremony celebrating the transfer of life into death at the Winter Solstice 2300BC.
This PROGRAMME will harness all the available evidence together with the findings of the experiments, to create a stunning supernatural event which will allow the team of archaeologists to provide the definitive answers to how and why Stonehenge was built and what exactly happened there 4000 years ago.