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Enemies And Traitors

   2020    History
This second instalment looks at how Vladimir Putin arrived in the Kremlin as a vulnerable and unknown president, whom the Russian oligarchs expect to control. The programme reveals how he asserted his hold on power and ultimately surrounded himself with his KGB peers, as well as his philosophy as regards traitors and enemies. The film also examines the stories of businessman Boris Berezovsky and defector Alexander Litvinenko, who both stood up to Putin and wound up dead on British soil.
Series: Putin: A Russian Spy Story

Putin Forever

   2020    History
Putin returns to power under a storm after a four-year absence, but his attempts to improve his popularity are hobbled by accusations of corruption. The final part of this sinister history doesn’t quite come up to date with Vladimir Putin’s recent moves to 'reset' the Russian constitution so he can rule, theoretically, until at least 2036 – longer than Stalin. But it does walk us through some of his other moves to entrench power, including vote-rigging in parliamentary elections that was so brazen, his approval ratings fell amid mass street protests. Leading the protests was opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was then simply gunned down on a street near the Kremlin.
These days, we are told, the world stage interests Putin more than the Russian one, and with various 'mini-Putins' installed around the world, his legacy looks safe.
Series: Putin: A Russian Spy Story

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

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

Changing the Script

   2020    History
The written word is so important in everyday life that there can be few more radical acts than forcing an entire nation to learn a new script. Yet that is what happened in Turkey in 1928 when Mustafa Kemal decreed that the Arabic script would be replaced by the letters of the Latin alphabet. Communication with computers using human language is usually made with Latin letters. This is how most Chinese people interact with their computers and smart phones, using a Latin-based phonetic script called Pinyin. As a result, even highly educated Chinese are losing the ability to write using Chinese characters. Could what is happening in China be the future of writing everywhere?
Series: The Secret History of Writing
Reel Rock
Reel Rock

   2014    Culture
The Planets
The Planets

   2000    Science
Black Hole Apocalypse
Black Hole Apocalypse

   2018    Science
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

   2014    Science
The Crime of the Century
The Crime of the Century

   2021    Medicine
The Nazis, A Warning From History
The Nazis, A Warning From History

   1997    History
Natural World
Natural World

   2015    Nature
How the Universe Works Series 9
How the Universe Works Series 9

   2021    Science