History documentaries

History genre page header
BBC Select is the place to discover so much more about history. Stream a range of compelling BBC history documentaries that explore the people, places and events of the past that shaped our world. Whether it’s the Roman Empire, Nelson and Napoleon, Black history, the story of the Titanic or the Tudors, BBC Select brings acclaimed and award-winning history shows, and featuring experts including Bettany Hughes, Lucy Worsley, Simon Schama and David Olusoga.

Henry VIII's Enforcer: The Rise and Fall of Thomas Cromwell

Image of Henry VIII

Was Thomas Cromwell a corrupt, ambitious politician or has history unfairly maligned him?

Thomas Cromwell rose from poor beginnings to become chief minister and the power behind the throne to King Henry VIII. However, falling victim to the King’s anger, he was beheaded in 1540. His greatest triumph was usurped and destroyed. Thomas Cromwell has gone down in history as an ambitious and corrupt politician. But this BBC Thomas Cromwell documentary asks, is that fact or fiction?

How Mad Was King George?

King George

King George III was the longest-reigning king in British history. But his reputation brands him a foolish, incapable madman. As this history documentary reveals, this unfair assessment overshadows his achievements and qualities as a monarch. With new revelations from diaries and letters and interviews with experts, a very different side to this remarkable ruler emerges.

Genius of the Ancient World

What happened in the 5th century BC changed your life. This was the time when three trailblazers – the Buddha, Confucius and Socrates – transformed our understanding of human potential, cutting us loose from gods, making us deciders of our own destiny. All survivors of childhood trauma, living thousands of miles apart, what was it about their time that created ideas that still shape our own lives?

Join historian Bettany Hughes in this fascinating BBC documentary as she travels to India, Greece and China to discover more about three icons of ancient philosophy.

Elizabeth I and II: The Golden Queens

Watch Elizabeth I & II: Golden Queens on BBC Select

This fascinating royal history documentary explores the parallels between Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth II. Both became monarch at 25 but what unites and what divides them? Historians analyse the moments that define their reigns. Despite the centuries between them, could they share any surprising characteristics?

Armada: The Untold Story

Watch Armada: The Untold Story on BBC Select

When Elizabeth I ascended to the English throne in 1558, she rejected Philip II, Emperor of Spain, as a suitor. Thirty years later, he would lead a huge invasion force against her, seeking to depose Elizabeth and bring Protestant England back into the Catholic fold. It was a decision that would define them both.

Historian Dan Snow looks at this monumental time in European history in this European history documentary on the Spanish Armada.