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Wednesday 29 Oct 2014

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Major new BBC season to explore legacy of the Normans

The BBC is to provide viewers with a definitive look at a seminal period of history, the resonances of which can still be felt today, in a season focusing on the Normans across BBC Two, BBC Four and BBC Learning.

Leading the season will be The Normans, a three-part series on BBC Two that will examine the extraordinary expansion and unchecked ambition of this warrior race between the 10th and 13th centuries.

Presented by Professor Robert Bartlett, the series will bring the history of the Normans to life by uncovering the personal stories of shadowy figures like Tancred of Hauteville, best remembered as a poor 11th-century Norman lord who fathered no less than 12 sons, two of whom left their homeland and risked their lives to become great rulers in the Mediterranean and Middle East.

Sweeping across borders and centuries, Bartlett will journey from the stormy shores of Great Britain via Jerusalem to the Kingdom of Sicily, explaining how and why a dynasty of dukes and warriors became conquerors and kings. Bursting with colourful manuscripts, documents and artefacts, this series will give voice to an unfamiliar world of princess historians and mixed-race monks.

Martin Davidson, Commissioning Editor, History and Business, says: "The Battle of Hastings in 1066 is such an iconic landmark in our history, but what do we really know of the dynasty of dukes and warriors that staged this Norman invasion? And what do we know of the frenetic energy of the centuries that followed? I'm extremely pleased that a world authority like Robert Bartlett will be at the helm of our Norman season, providing BBC Two viewers with a definitive look at the warrior-race whose ambition and power transformed Europe and irrevocably changed the course of British history."

Alongside The Normans, Dr Stephen Baxter will present a one-off BBC Two documentary on The Domesday Book. Locked in a special case deep within the British National Archives, this Norman treasure holds many secrets of the past. This special programme will shake the dust off Domesday and reveal that this ancient public record unleashed enough red tape to help create the modern nation state.

BBC Four will be turning the spotlight on the art and culture of the Normans. In The Stones Of Rosslyn, art historian Lady Helen Rosslyn will delve into the art and architecture of one of the most famous medieval chapels in the world, exploring what it is about Rosslyn Chapel that has enchanted visitors as diverse as JMW Turner, Robert Burns and Tom Hanks.

In Norman Walks, Dan Snow will uncover the forgotten Norman Empire – one that has been largely overlooked but which laid the foundation for modern Britain. Each episode will take in prominent Norman landmarks and feature a mixture of aerial archive and bespoke filming via helicopter.

In The Art Of The Anglo-Saxons, Dr Janina Ramirez will tell the story of how England in the Dark Ages became one of the art capitals of Christendom. She will examine highlights of Anglo-Saxon art, such as the Lindisfarne Gospels, decoding the imagery within them and examining the sophisticated techniques required to create them.

Poet Simon Armitage will show how the legend of King Arthur matured in the years after the Norman invasion in The Making Of King Arthur. Revealing the greatest masterworks of Arthurian literature, Simon will tell Arthur's tragic story and ask what role the mythical king still serves in our national consciousness.

The Norman Season will also launch Hands On History, a two-year BBC Learning campaign offering audiences inspiring opportunities to take the next step from watching programmes to discovering history around them. Working in partnership with more than 20 heritage and history organisations, Hands On History will offer a range of events and activities as part of the Norman Season, including Norman walks.

The Norman Season will take place on the BBC later this year.

CD3

Information for viewers

More content about The Normans; The Domesday Book; The Stones Of Rosslyn; Norman Walks; The Art Of The Anglo-Saxons; and The Making Of King Arthur will be published, as transmission approaches, on:
www.bbc.co.uk/tv/comingup/the-normans/; www.bbc.co.uk/tv/comingup/the-domesday-book/; www.bbc.co.uk/tv/comingup/the-stones-of-rosslyn/; www.bbc.co.uk/tv/comingup/norman-walks/; www.bbc.co.uk/tv/comingup/the-art-of-the-anglo-saxons/; www.bbc.co.uk/tv/comingup/the-making-of-king-arthur/

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