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.
Prester John was the greatest Christian King who never lived. All through the Middle Ages there were persistent legends (sometimes backed up by apparent documentation) about this powerful priest-king in the East who was ready to bring his powerful armies to attack the Muslims in concert with the Western Crusaders.
We finished three different series over the last week so I wasn't going to write about any of the one-off programmes as well, but Heart vs Mind: What Makes Us Human? irritated me sufficiently that I wanted to say why! The premise of this film was that the presenter, David Malone, had always thought of himself as a wholly rational person but then his life had become derailed - his wife had started to suffer from severe depression and it was as if the person she had been no longer existed.
The Mamluks were a slave army that went on to rule Egypt (and Egypt's empire) for around 300 years between the mid 13th Century & the early 16th Century AD. Although we call it a dynasty the position of sultan was generally not hereditary during this period, and before one could be a sultan one needed to have been a slave. The three experts who discussed it on In Our Time were Amira Bennison (University of Cambridge), Robert Irwin (SOAS, University of London) and Doris Behrens-Abouseif (SOAS, University of London).
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 Helen Castor's She Wolves: England's Early Queens was about Isabella of France & Margaret of Anjou. Neither of these women ruled England in their own right, but both ruled in the name of a man (son & husband respectively) and neither have been remembered kindly by history. Rather unfairly, I think (although Isabella brought it on herself to some degree).
We decided to watch a couple of programmes that we've had on our PVR for 3 or 4 years and somehow never got round to actually watching before. First was an episode of Time Team about a medieval village that used to exist around a farmhouse at Ulnaby, County Durham. Obviously being Time Team they only had 3 days to do a fairly superficial excavation of a handful of areas around the site.
Over the last week we finished off watching the Wild Arabia series. The second episode looked at the wildlife along the south eastern coast of the peninsula (what I think of as the bottom of it, for no apparent reason!). Part of the programme focussed on the sea life in the region (including turtles coming up to lay their eggs on the beach.
We're still trying to whittle down the amount of stuff we have recorded on our PVR so on Tuesday evening we started to watch a series about Arabian wildlife & people narrated by Alexander Siddig. This first episode was called "Sand, Wind and Stars" and was all about the desert in the centre of the Arabian peninsula. As with most nature programmes it's hard to say much about it, because the point is primarily the visuals.
Pompeii is the city most often mentioned when talking about the places destroyed by Vesuvius erupting in 79AD, but Andrew Wallace-Hadrill explained that Herculaneum actually tells us even more about how the Romans lived than Pompeii does. He started this programme by explaining that the way that Herculaneum was covered up by the ash from Vesuvius means that there is a lot of stuff preserved in Herculaneum that isn't preserved in Pompeii.