Henry Louis Gates Jr. explores the transformative years following the American Civil War, when the nation struggled to rebuild itself in the face of profound loss, massive destruction, and revolutionary social change. The twelve years that composed the post-war Reconstruction era (1865-77) witnessed a seismic shift in the meaning and makeup of our democracy, with millions of former slaves and free black people seeking out their rightful place as equal citizens under the law. Though tragically short-lived, this bold democratic experiment was, in the words of W. E. B. Du Bois, a 'brief moment in the sun' for African Americans, when they could advance and achieve education, exercise their right to vote, and run for and win public office.
In the Andes, the Spanish open up the largest silver mine in the world – and mint millions of pesos de ocho (pieces of eight). These coins transform the global economy. They fill the treasure chests of pirates. They fuel a stock market boom. They help pay for the Taj Mahal. As trade booms, millions of people come to the New World as slaves. But a handful of Pilgrims come as pioneers – looking for freedom.
Alastair explores the extraordinary afterlife of the Greek masterpieces that changed the course of western culture. Succeeding centuries have found in ancient Greek art inspiration for their own ideals and ambitions. Filming in Italy, Germany, France and Britain, Alastair's investigation includes The Venus of Knidos, the first naked woman in Western art, the bronze horses of St Mark's in Venice which became a pawn in an imperial game and the naked discus thrower, the Discobolus, personally bought by Adolf Hitler and used by him as a symbol of Aryan supremacy.
Deep in the Bolivian Andes at the height of 13,000ft stands Tiwanaku, the awe-inspiring ruins of a monolithic temple city. Built by a civilisation who dominated a vast swathe of South America, it was abandoned 1,000 years ago. For centuries it has been a mystery - how did a civilisation flourish at such an altitude and why did it vanish? Jago Cooper journeys through Bolivia's spectacular landscape to investigate the origins of Tiwanaku and finds evidence of an ancient people with amazing understanding of their environment, whose religion was based on collective effort and ritual beer drinking.
Up to one million gladiators are thought to have died in arenas across the Roman Empire. Seventy-five were recently found in a single cemetery in York. Two thousand years ago, York was a Roman stronghold, a staging ground for the push against the Scots. Apart from ancient Italy, Roman Britain had the highest density of gladiatorial arenas in Europe. As part of a routine building inspection in the outskirts of York, archaeologists discover an ancient Roman burial site. It soon became apparent the find was anything but routine. Of total 80, 75 of the skeletons were men, a much higher majority than would be expected in a family grave site. The height, build and signs of musculature made the men much bigger than that of the average Roman man. A closer inspection of the bones also revealed a number of cut marks and fractures, evidence the men were no strangers to violence. Most disturbing of all most of the men had been brutally decapitated. Could the men be gladiators?
2010 • History