Press Office

Tuesday 23 Sep 2014

Press Release

BBC Television marks King James Bible 400th Anniversary

Melvyn Bragg

The BBC announces a series of programmes to mark the 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible.

Highlights includes two major documentaries on BBC Two and BBC Four presented by Melvyn Bragg and author and presenter Adam Nicolson that look at the cultural impact that this translation of the Bible – the only authorised English translation – had on language, politics and Western democracy.

In The King James Bible: The Book That Changed The World on BBC Two, Melvyn Bragg sets out to persuade us that the King James Version has driven the development of the English-speaking world over the last 400 years – often in most unanticipated ways.

Bragg argues that while many think our modern world is founded on secular ideals, it is the King James Version that influenced the English language and its literature more than any other book.  It was also, he believes, the seedbed of Western democracy, the activator of radical shifts in society such as the abolition of the slave trade, the debating dynamite for brutal civil wars in Britain and America, and a critical spark in the genesis of modern science.

In his quest to uncover the impact of the King James Bible Bragg travels to historic locations in the US, where the King James Bible had a deep impact including Gettysburg and the American Civil War. He also visits Washington's Lincoln Memorial, site of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream..." speech. The King James Bible: The Book That Changed The World is due to transmit in March 2011  

When God Spoke English: The Making Of The King James Bible on BBC Four tells the unexpected story of how the King James Bible came into being.

Author and presenter, Adam Nicolson, reveals why the making of this great and powerful book shares much in common with his experience of a very different national project – the Millennium Dome.

The programme also delves into recently discovered 17th-century manuscripts, from the actual translation process itself, to show in rich detail what makes this Bible so good.

In a turbulent and often violent age the King hoped this Bible would unite a country torn by religious factions. Today, it is dismissed by some as old fashioned and impenetrable.  When God Spoke English shows why, in the 21st century, the King James Bible remains the greatest book of all time. When God Spoke English: The Making Of The King James Bible will be transmitted on Monday 21 February.

On BBC One Songs Of Praise will feature readings from the King James Bible on Easter Day – Sunday 24 April 2011 – as actors Bill Paterson and Tamsin Greig read extracts from the Easter story.

Also on BBC One, in a The Big Questions special, the programme – presented by Nicky Campbell – will mark the anniversary by exploring what relevance the Bible has on society today. This special edition of The Big Questions will be transmitted in May 2011.

Speaking about the 400th Anniversary programmes, Aaqil Ahmed, Commissioning Editor for Religion Television and Head of Religion and Ethics, says: "The King James Bible had a significant cultural and historical impact and has left such a wide ranging legacy. This anniversary marks an important event in British history that has helped shape our nation and the English language into what it is today.

"From Melvyn Bragg's fascinating The King James Bible: The Book That Changed The World to our special editions of Songs Of Praise and The Big Questions, I hope that viewers enjoy our eclectic programmes to mark the 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible."

Notes to Editors

Melvyn Bragg is also to present a brand new series for BBC Two Daytime retelling the fascinating stories about how life in Britain used to be, through the film collections of the British Film Institute and regional film archives.

The Reel History Of Britain will trace the descendants of those featured in the films, as they come face-to-face with their ancestors to discover how they lived their lives. Along the way viewers will see how ordinary British people worked, loved and lived in the 20th century, as seen through social documentaries, tourist information films, newsreels, and government propaganda films. The Reel History Of Britain is due to transmit Autumn 2011.

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