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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

In a Time of Shadows

       History
On the second part of his journey through the dark ages Richard Rudgley continues into the age of the wandering peoples, the Volkerwanderung. These Northern people enjoyed a golden age unaffected by Rome and just 30 years after the Romans relinquished Britain, the 'Anglo-Saxons' made their move. The bedraggled legions are in retreat. Walls are pulled down. Mosaics shattered. And yet there never was a people called Anglo-Saxon. We look at the lasting influence of Saxon leaders like Alfred the Great, and his blue print for social justice.
Series: Barbarians: Secrets of the Dark Ages

Putin: A Russian Spy Story
Putin: A Russian Spy Story

   2020    History
The Great Acceleration
The Great Acceleration

   2020    Technology
The Story of China
The Story of China

   2016    History
The Truth About
The Truth About

   2018    Medicine
Leaving Neverland
Leaving Neverland

   2019    Culture
Top Gear
Top Gear

   2012    Technology
Survivors Guide to Prison
Survivors Guide to Prison

   2018    Culture
How to Grow a Planet
How to Grow a Planet

   2012    Science