1066 and all that (by ‘that’ I mean Box of Broadcasts)

I’m sure all history lovers know today is the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings.

Probably one of the most famous battles in England’s history, this led to the end of the Anglo-Saxon era and was the beginning of the Norman conquest of England under William, the Duke of Normandy (to be William I, also known as William the Conqueror or William the Bastard). But this defining battle didn’t just have consequences for England, it’s ramifications were felt in Scotland, Wales, Ireland and beyond down the years.

If you want to read more about the battle itself, the events leading up to it and the impact the outcome of the battle had then you can find lots of books and journal articles through the Library via DiscoverEd or some of the Library databases.

However, I wanted to take the opportunity to use Box of Broadcasts (BoB) to have a look at just some of the TV programmes (and a couple of radio programmes) available that examine at the Battle of Hastings and the events surrounding it.

Please note you will be asked for your University email address the first time you log into BoB. And like any TV recording service you will often get a few minutes of the previous programme at the beginning (that can be interesting in itself).

1066 (and all that) on BoB

First up Conquest, the second episode from series one of Simon Schama’s A History of Britain. Schama takes us through the events leading up to the battle, the battle itself and its aftermath, roughly covering the period 1000 – 1087. If you don’t know much about this time in history then this is a good starting point.

bob_history_britainA History of Britain was originally shown in 2000 (2000?!?! Where has my life gone?!), was pretty positively reviewed and was very successful for the BBC. It’s been repeated several times on TV and two more series’ were produced. In 2009 The American Historical Review did an AHR Forum on Simon Schama’s A History of Britain. You can access this issue on JSTOR.

If you’re looking for another eminent historians take on these events then why not try Aenglaland, from David Starkey’s Monarchy (coincidentally the second episode from series one). This was first shown in 2004 on Channel 4 and again has been repeated numerous times. It’s interesting to compare and contrast Starkey’s series with Schama’s as they cover a lot of the same ground, however, Starkey’s is a history of the English monarchy from the Anglo-Saxon period to the modern day.

bob_great_british_storyBut what about the ordinary people? How did these events affect the lives of the vast majority of the population? Michael Wood’s The Great British Story: A People’s History explores the United Kingdom’s past from the perspective of the ordinary people and the episode The Norman Yoke focuses on this particular point in history. Starting with the Battle of Hastings this episode takes us much further past the Norman conquest and looks at events leading up to the signing of the Magna Carta.

If straight documentary is not your thing then how about a docu-drama looking at the events of 1066? 1066: The Battle for Middle Earth was a two-part documentary drama first shown on Channel 4 in 2009. Again this was told from the perspective of the ordinary people, more specifically some fictionalised Anglo-Saxon peasant soldiers. It’s a little bit ridiculous but I’m very fond of it and it helps bring that period to life.

If you’re looking for something a bit different you can always rely on Horrible Histories. In their sixth series they did a Wicked William the Conqueror Special. And you can also watch this clip from an earlier series of the News at 1066, which uses the Bayeux Tapestry to describe events of the day.


And just a few more…

1066: The Lost Battlefield: A Time Team Special (apparently this prompted a bit of a debate), episode one of The Normans,  Men from the North (a good introduction to who the Normans actually were), episode two of Battlefield Britain, Hastings (I have to admit I haven’t watched this. Originally shown in 2004, look how young Dan Snow looks!) and a look at one of the consequences of the Norman invasion in the first episode of Castles: Britain’s Fortified History (again I haven’t watched this one but it’s presented by Sam Willis so if he doesn’t at some point play a historically appropriate instrument and sing a historically appropriate folk song or sea shanty then it’s just not worth it!)

And I promised some radio programmes too. So how about episode twenty of the classic This Sceptred Isle.  Historian Christopher Lee’s history of Britain, narrated by Anna Massey, consisted of 216 episodes all roughly 12-14 minutes long. The series was originally broacast 1995-96, episode 20 looks at the Battle of Hastings more from William the Conqueror’s and the Normans point of view than the Anglo-Saxons.

And finally an episode of Michael Scott’s Spin the Globe, which looks at what other events were taking place around the world in the year 1066. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own history and learning about distinct events that we forget that there was a world outside the British Isles. In fact the William the Conqueror episode of Horrrible Histories mentioned above covers some of these events as well, though obviously in a completely different way.

What about BoB?

BoB is an off-air recording service that allows you, as a student or member of staff at the University, to record and get access to recordings of programmes from UK Freeview TV and digital radio channels (plus a few foreign language channels) – it’s a bit like BBC iPlayer but offers much more. You can access BoB via the Databases A-Z list, it’s only available to our current students and staff and can only be used on the UK mainland (though VPN might help you get around that).

Hopefully that’s enough to get you started but why not search BoB for further programmes on the Battle of Hastings or the Norman conquest. It’s amazing what you can find.

Caroline Stirling – Academic Support Librarian for History, Classics and Archaeology