18 October 2012 | mail-479-241123
Andrew Marr's History of the World (BBC1) – Review
It's craggy, it's rugged and it looks like it was formed from hot volcanic ash around 70,000 years ago. Yes, it's Andrew Marr's face – desperately in need of dental work but as trustworthy and kindly as your favourite teacher at school.
The History of the World was always going to be a ridiculously ambitious project. But Andrew Marr is tackling it with great flair – as fearlessly as Genghis Khan or Julius Caesar or any of the charismatic historical figures he's introduced us to so far.
Of course, the dramatic reconstructions are a little clunky at times, and some of history's greatest figures do look like they've been cast after a quick flick through the actor's directory Spotlight. But I for one don't care. Because I am loving Andrew Marr's History of the World.
Last night I sat down and watched the first four episodes back to back, and when you cram a potted version of world history into such a short time frame quite a lot of things start to make sense. We kicked off with a look at how the earliest humans spread around the world, mainly, it seems, by balancing their way across precarious narrow stone bridges. Then we explored the great empires of Rome and China – two ancient civilisations who, in the absence of long haul air travel, co-existed for thousands of years without ever knowing of each other's existence. How peaceful the world would be today if the United States and the Muslim World were as blissfully unaware of each other.
My favourite episode so far looked at how the Vikings became the Russians. Apparently they couldn't decide which of the world's religions would suit them best, so they invited the heads of all the world's religions to come to Russia and pitch to them, saying they would choose the one they liked best. They immediately turned down Islam because they didn't want to give up drinking, and finally plumped for the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church, because they liked the style of the paintings and the big pointy gold domes.
Television like this make me wish I'd paid more attention in history classes at school, and underlines the fact that a subject is generally only as interesting as the person who teaches it to you. Presenters like Professor Brian Cox, Simon Schama and Andrew Marr are bringing science and history to life for a generation who previously thought these subjects were dull and boring.
You can catch up with the whole series of Andrew Marr's History of the World on iPlayer, and I highly recommend that you do.
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