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Words on a Page

   2020    History
Writing itself is 5,000 years old, and for most of that time words were written by hand using a variety of tools. The Romans were able to run an empire thanks to documents written on papyrus. Scroll books could be made quite cheaply and, as a result, ancient Rome had a thriving written culture. With the fall of the Roman Empire, papyrus became more difficult to obtain. Europeans were forced to turn to a much more expensive surface on which to write: Parchment. Medieval handwritten books could cost as much as a house, they also represent a limitation on literacy and scholarship.
No such limitations were felt in China, where paper had been invented in the second century. Paper was the foundation of Chinese culture and power, and for centuries how to make it was kept secret. When the secret was out, paper mills soon sprang up across central Asia. The result was an intellectual flourishing known as the Islamic Golden Age. Muslim scholars made discoveries in biology, geology, astronomy and mathematics. By contrast, Europe was an intellectual backwater.
That changed with Gutenberg’s development of movable type printing. The letters of the Latin alphabet have very simple block-like shapes, which made it relatively simple to turn them into type pieces. When printers tried to use movable type to print Arabic texts, they found themselves hampered by the cursive nature of Arabic writing. The success of movable type printing in Europe led to a thousand-fold increase in the availability of information, which produced an explosion of ideas that led directly to the European Scientific Revolution and the Industrial Revolution that followed.
Series: The Secret History of Writing

From Pictures to Words

   2020    History
We take it for granted, but every time we pick up a pen or type on the keyboard, we are employing the most powerful technology ever invented: the technology of writing. Explore how the invention of writing gave humanity a history. From hieroglyphs to emojis, the series is an exploration of the way in which the technology of writing has shaped the world we live in.
The invention of writing about 5,000 years ago made civilization itself possible, and every innovation of the modern world is based on the foundation of the written word. But how and where did writing begin, and who began it? In From Pictures to Words, the first of three films about the history of writing, we uncover the hidden links between all the diverse writing systems in use today and trace the origin of our own alphabet to a turquoise mine in the Sinai Desert and a man riding a donkey whose name was Khebded.
Series: The Secret History of Writing

Elvis Presley: The Searcher Part Two

   2018    History
The second part of this series begins with his return home after his discharge from the army, and how he dealt with a rapidly changing pop scene.
The picture is more complicated than even a fairly serious Elvis fan may understand. Priscilla Presley, who made some appearances in the first part, offers much more here, helping us understand how being forced into making a string of lousy movies was one kind of artistic prison, and then being ensconced in casino hotels for his famous Las Vegas residency was another. The man who had so carefully created his original persona was now stuck in the shallow roles others forced him to play.
Series: Elvis Presley: The Searcher

Elvis Presley: The Searcher First Part

   2018    History
Elvis Presley grew up to become the biggest star in music, thanks to a staggering range of influences that created a revolutionary sound in his lifelong search for self-expression. This two-part documentary reveals his creative journey from childhood through his final recording sessions in 1976. It features more than 20 new, primary source interviews with session players, producers, engineers, directors and other artists who knew him or who were profoundly influenced by him. It also features never-before-seen photos and footage from private collections worldwide, and an original score by Pearl Jam lead guitarist Mike McCready.
The first part begins with his early life in Tupelo, Mississippi, and his unprecedented rise to fame over a single year.
Series: Elvis Presley: The Searcher

Humboldt Epic Explorer

   2020    History
In 1799, the German scientist Alexander von Humboldt embarked on a perilous journey of discovery across South America. It would take him to the deepest jungle near the Orinoco and to the heights of the Andes. His aim was twofold: to conduct the first scientific survey of South America and to discover how the natural world actually works — at a time when most scientists believed that the world was created less than 6,000 years ago. He later became a leading scientific figure and champion of the abolitionist movement in the US.
This extremely visual docudrama follows Humboldt’s extraordinary path. Travelling in Humboldt’s footsteps is historian Andrea Wulf, whose book on Humboldt became a worldwide bestseller. For good reason, since Humboldt’s ideas on the planet’s fragile web of life are as important today as they were 220 years ago.
The Nazis, A Warning From History
The Nazis, A Warning From History

   1997    History
Africa with David Attenborough
Africa with David Attenborough

   2013    Nature
The Private Life of Plants
The Private Life of Plants

   1994    Nature
Conquistadors
Conquistadors

   2002    History
Empire of the Tsars
Empire of the Tsars

   2017    History
The Last Dance
The Last Dance

   2020    Culture
The Nazis, A Warning From History
The Nazis, A Warning From History

   1997    History
Inner Worlds Outer Worlds
Inner Worlds Outer Worlds

   2012    Culture