In this ground-breaking film, historian Tom Holland explores how a new religion - Islam - emerged from the seedbed of the ancient world, and asks what we really know for certain about its rise. The result is an extraordinary detective story. Traditionally, Muslims and non-Muslims alike have believed that Islam was born in the full light of history. But a large number of historians now doubt that presumption, and question much of what Muslim tradition has to tell us about the birth of Islam.
In the first episode of an exciting three-part series, Professor Robert Bartlett explores how the Normans developed from a band of marauding Vikings into the formidable warriors who conquered England in 1066. He tells how the Normans established their new province of Normandy -'land of the northmen' - in northern France. They went on to build some of the finest churches in Europe and turned into an unstoppable force of Christian knights and warriors, whose legacy is all around us to this day. Under the leadership of Duke William, the Normans expanded into the neighbouring provinces of northern France. But William's greatest achievement was the conquest of England in 1066. The Battle of Hastings marked the end of the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy and monarchy. The culture and politics of England would now be transformed by the Normans.
Today it is easy to see D-Day as inevitable - a straightforward victory against a German army that was already all but defeated. This film explodes that myth. It charts the careful planning of the campaign, the development of specialised equipment needed for the amphibious landing. It reveals the deception plan that wrong footed Hitler. It shows how the Americans were very nearly driven off Omaha beach. If that had happened, the whole operation might have failed. The film ends with the Liberation of Paris, as the Free French forces led by Charles de Gaulle matched down the streets of the capital.
This episode looks at the turning of the war against Germany, with Allied victory at El Alamein and Russian triumph at Stalingrad. Inside Hitler's Germany the SS gain more power, and in southern Europe the Allies fight their way though Italy
Second part is looking at Czechoslovakia's attempts to reform communism, which were brutally crushed in an invasion by Warsaw Pact allies in 1968. What followed was the reimposition of hardline communist rule known as 'Normalisation' - under which the reformers were removed, the reforms reversed and history rewritten, leaving the country known as 'the Kingdom of Forgetting'.