Matteo Ricci was a Jesuit priest who went to China in the 16th Century with the aim of converting the Chinese to Christianity. He wasn't particularly successful in that goal, but he was influential on European attitudes to China & vice versa. Discussing him and his mission on In Our Time were Mary Laven (University of Cambridge), Craig Clunas (University of Oxford) and Anne Gerritsen (University of Warwick).
The title of the Channel 5 documentary The Spy Who Brought Down Mary Queen of Scots was a little misleading - it wasn't about Francis Walsingham (the titular spy) per se, instead it was about the Babington Plot in 1586, Walsingham's role in that and the consequences for Mary Queen of Scots.
Monkey Planet was a three part series presented by George McGavin about primates - monkeys, apes and lemurs. The first episode in was primarily a survey of just how wide-ranging and varied a group the primates are. The other two looked at aspects of primate behaviour that we tend to think of as particularly human, and showed both how it's actually primate-wide and more varied than our narrow perspective suggests.
For some odd reason the BBC had a new documentary series about The Stuarts and then only aired it in Scotland. I can see that it was intended to tie in with the upcoming vote on independence but it was straightforwardly a documentary rather than a piece of propaganda. So I'm not really sure why it was kept north of the border. We only spotted it because I'd recorded something else off BBC2 Scotland to avoid a clash, and there was a trailer for The Stuarts.
Baroque! - From St Peter's to St Paul's was a three part series presented by Waldemar Januszczak about Baroque art and architecture. The three programmes moved in geography (covering Italy, Spain & the Netherlands, and Britain respectively) and forwards in time. He started off with the story of how baroque art has its roots in the Counter Reformation - basically intended to propagate the "right" Christian message via eye-catching art.
Pilgrimage with Simon Reeve was a three part series that was partly a travelogue and partly about the history of Christian pilgrimage across Europe and the Holy Land from medieval times through to the modern day. Reeve made it pretty clear several times that he's not a Christian himself, so this was an outsider's view on the subject. He did, however, talk to several people who do pilgrimages for religious purposes today, so we got both sides of the subject represented.
Byzantium: A Tale of Three Cities was a series about the history of Byzantium aka Constantinople aka Istanbul presented by Simon Sebag Montefiore that we watched in December last year finishing just before Christmas. Montefiore seems to be specialising in serieses about holy cities - his previous ones have been about Jerusalem (which we watched before I started writing blog posts) and Rome (post).
The Book of Common Prayer was written during the English Reformation as the new reference for the services & ceremonies for the new Church of England, and it's still in use in many churches today. Discussing it on In Our Time were Diarmaid MacCulloch (University of Oxford), Alexandra Walsham (University of Cambridge) and Martin Palmer (Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education, and Culture).
While at the V&A for the Treasures of the Royal Court exhibition (post) I also managed to have a look at a couple of other galleries before & after the exhibition. Sadly train times meant I didn't get long there overall (otherwise I'd've had to pay the peak time fare) but I did get some photos!
The second episode of Wild Shepherdess with Kate Humble was all about alpaca farming in Peru. In the first half of the programme she stayed with a family who herd alpacas in a traditional way. To feed themselves they grow potatoes and keep guinea pigs. The guinea pigs have free reign of the house & are fed on the potato greens so they're combination pet, recycler & dinner. According to Humble they taste like dark chicken meat.