While I was in a London for a few days in July 2015 I visited the Magna Carta: Law, Liberty and Legacy exhibition at the British Library, which was put on to mark the 800th anniversary of the original issue of the charter. The items displayed in the exhibition were mostly written documents (as you might expect in a library) although there were also some other things, including paintings and examples of seals.
Back in June of this year the BBC did a three part series about the Spanish Armada and how (astonishingly) England wasn't conquered by Spain in 1588. It was billed as "part dramatisation, part documentary" so I was a bit concerned in advance that it wouldn't be my cup of tea. But it turned out to be on the right side of the line for my tastes - a selection of set pieces but mostly a straightforward documentary series.
William the Marshal is one of the men responsible for the Magna Carta as we now know it. His seal is on the re-issuing of the charter in 1217 by Henry III, in his role as Regent for the king. His statue stands in the House of Lords behind the monarch's throne defending the monarchy as he did in life.
In the final chapter of this book Prestwich draws together the ideas and themes he explored in the rest of the book and discusses what it meant to be English during this period (1225-1360). On the one hand England was a pretty cosmopolitan society - there were many leading figures in the government who weren't English born, and migrants with useful skills were encouraged (Flemish weavers during Edward III's reign, for instance). On the other hand there was a strong sense of an English identity. Foreigners apparently had a simple stereotype: Englishmen had tails and were usually drunk!
I'm into the home straight with this book - and actually finished reading it a while ago, I've just got a backlog of posts to write :) This is the penultimate chapter, all that's left after this is the conclusion.
Shakespeare's Mother: The Secret Life of a Tudor Woman was partly a biography of a specific woman - Mary Arden, the mother of William Shakespeare. But there's not really enough surviving detail about her life to get the full picture from, so the gaps were filled in with more general information about the sorts of lives women (and men) of the time lead. The presenter, Michael Wood, did a good job of stitching the two sorts of information into a coherent whole, so it didn't feel disjointed or patchy.
Crime and Punishment
Trade and Merchants
It's the 800th anniversary of the first issuing of Magna Carta this year, and so there are currently a flurry of programmes about the document on the BBC on both radio and TV. We been listening to the Melvyn Bragg presented radio series that was on at the beginning of the year as our Sunday breakfast listening. This was a four part series that covered the context for the document, the thing itself, and its legacy.