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04 February 2010 @ 10:58 am
Lost Kingdoms of Africa; Seven Ages of Britain  
Despite J's tooth problems TV night still happened on schedule :) (And his tooth is getting better, the antibiotics seem to be working & he doesn't need as many painkillers as he did.)

First up was the final episode of Lost Kingdoms of Africa - this one about Benin, which is in western Africa, part of modern Nigeria. He started by showing us some cast bronze plaques in the British Museum, which came from the city of Benin when the British sacked it back in the late 1800s (the Brits & the Benin people fell out over trade, first the Benin killed most of the 200 Brits in the country, then the Brits came back with 1200 soldiers to avenge them). They were another of those can't-possibly-be-African artifacts that European colonials found - you'd think they'd've started to realise a bit sooner that the Africans must be more sophisticated than they gave them credit for ;) The programme then traced the symbolism from those plaques to that of the animist beliefs of people in the Mali kingdom before they were converted to Islam & he went to visit a group of villages where they stick to the old beliefs and traditions. Including having metal working be a high-status occupation & making wooden plaques to commemorate & teach about past events that looked very like the bronze ones in concept.

Overall an interesting series - and I certainly learnt a whole lot about Africa that I never knew before. But in other ways it felt a bit shallow, I think I'd've preferred more history/archaeology & less looking at the modern peoples with an eye to "could they be descendants ...". Personal preference tho, and I suspect just a mis-match between what I expected & what the programme really was.

Next we watched the first episode of Seven Ages of Britain, to see if we wanted to keep recording it or not. We've decided on yes :) The premise is David Dimbleby does the history of Britain - can't tell yet if that's Britain for real or if it's mostly England, tho I suspect the latter. Mind you, that's where my interest lies, so I don't care so much. This first episode covered the time from the Roman conquest to the Norman conquest - a thousand years in an hour, so it was a fairly brisk trot through it. He was telling the story by looking at the art & artifacts from the period - so we were shown things like the Bayeux Tapestry, the Alfred jewel, a bible made in Northumberland that was sent to Rome as a gift to the Pope (it only got as far as Florence tho), a statue of Britannia ground beneath the heel of Rome (in Turkey) and loads more. Lots of locations both in Britain & abroad (a fair amount of David Dimbleby speaking foreign languages too). Not sure I'll learn anything from the series, but it looks like it will be fun to watch & will show us a lot of interesting & beautiful things. And the next episode looks like there'll be implements of pointy death, which is always a good thing ;)
 
 
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Jen: norwayylla on February 4th, 2010 11:31 am (UTC)
can't tell yet if that's Britain for real or if it's mostly England

I only saw the very beginning, but it didn't seem to have any concept of lands beyond Hadrian's Wall, or that the original Britons/Priteni/Cruithne who gave the country its name were Celtic and Pictish tribes - although of course everyone was at that point, except the Romans.
Margaretpling on February 4th, 2010 11:46 am (UTC)
One of the locations he went to was in Wales (for Romans mining Welsh gold), and one of the locations was the Isle of Iona for the arrival of St Columba (sp?) from Ireland (when he could just as easily have stuck to St Augustine in the south). So there's at least some nod to non-English history. But then in discussing the Norman conquest there wasn't any mention of not-England being not-conquered, so as I said I'm not sure which way it's going yet.
magidmagid on February 4th, 2010 02:51 pm (UTC)
Wait, there wasn't an Age before the Romans showed up?
Margaretpling on February 4th, 2010 03:06 pm (UTC)
Yeah, definitely not even a nod to pre-Roman history. No attempt to justify that choice either, possibly just somewhere to start?
magidmagid on February 4th, 2010 03:11 pm (UTC)
Well, sure, it's a convenient starting point and all that, but, well, the Romans might not have bothered if there hadn't been stuff there worth conquering.

(Total tangent: if you read SF, have you read Guy Gavriel Kay's Last Light of the Sun? It's set in the time of Alfred, and though it's definitely not historical in the true sense, it does give a flavour of the time that I found fascinating.)
Margaretpling on February 4th, 2010 03:27 pm (UTC)
I've not run across that book yet (I've read very little Guy Gavriel Kay in general), I shall keep an eye out for it :)
magidmagid on February 4th, 2010 03:41 pm (UTC)
I like most of his work very much (though the first trilogy he wrote felt a bit weaker than the rest). He does a lot with not-Earth history, setting other books in Spain at the time of the reconquista, and a duology of the Roman empire at the time of Justinian and the building of the Hagia Sophia (which got me to read a real history book, Justinian's Flea, a month or two back. Fascinating period.)
eta There are straight SF books too, set in places that are definitely not anywhere in our solar system, and yet, they also have a(n?) historical feel.


Edited at 2010-02-04 03:44 pm (UTC)