History documentaries

From the dawn of civilization to the emergence of modern-day superpowers, BBC Select hosts a wide-ranging collection of world history documentaries. If you live in the US or Canada, you can sign up to watch these BBC history documentaries hosted by the likes of Bettany Hughes, Lucy Worsley, Simon Schama and David Olusoga today.

Philippa Gregory's The Real White Queen And Her Rivals

The dynastic conflict known as the War of the Roses was steeped in treason and bloodshed. Three remarkable women were at the very center of this pivotal moment in English history. Bestselling author Philippa Gregory presents an emotional portrait of Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen, Margaret Beaufort, the Red Queen and Anne Neville, wife of Richard III, one of England’s most notorious kings.

Ep 1: Women of Ambition
Three powerful, ambitious women were integral to Britain’s brutal War of the Roses. The brutal and bloody dynastic conflict known as the War of the Roses tore medieval England apart. Acclaimed author Philippa Gregory delves into the lives of three remarkable women at the heart of the conflict: The White Queen, Elizabeth Woodville and her rivals Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville. To what extent did these powerful, ambitious women influence this pivotal point in English history?

Ep 2: Power Games
Who was the commoner who enchanted a king and became one of England’s most powerful women? Powerful, driven women were decisive figures in the brutal medieval conflict known as the War of the Roses. Author Phillipa Gregory profiles these women whose influence was as vital as the kings and nobles of this dynastic feud. Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen, was a commoner whose beauty enchanted a King but then struggled to hold a grip on the throne for herself and her children.

The Stuarts

The Stuarts

The Stuart monarchs are considered merciless tyrants, but they also forged modern Britain.

Ruling Britain from 1603 to 1714, the Stuart monarchs have often been branded as merciless tyrants. But the kingdoms they ruled, Scotland, England and Ireland, were already steeped in bloodshed and infighting as they took power. Historian Dr Clare Jackson argues that the Stuarts were Britain’s defining royal family and their impact on the country is still felt today.

Ep 1: And I Will Make them One Nation

How attempts to rule England and Scotland under one monarch led to rancor and bloodshed.Today’s modern United Kingdom is often taken for granted. But there was nothing inevitable about its creation. This union was mainly down to the persistence of theStuart dynasty of kings and queens. Historian Clare Jackson looks at King James VI and his attempts to unite Scotland and England under the umbrella of his crown and persuade his subjects to feel more ‘British’.

Ep 2: A King Without a Crown

King Charles tried to impose his will on the land, leading his grisly execution. In the mid 1600s, King Charles I attempted to impose political and religious uniformity throughout his kingdoms. It was a disaster. Soon civil war raged throughout Britain, Charles was defeated and beheaded while his family fled into exile. The Stuart monarchy seemed doomed. Historian Dr Clare Jackson reveals how this unprecedented violence shaped the DNA of British political culture.

Ep 3: A Family at War

As the Stuart dynasty ends dramatically decisions are made that still impact the UK today. The final, dramatic period of the Stuart dynasty saw a family fatally divided by religion. In 1688, the catholic King James was deposed by the protestant William and Britain became a constitutional monarchy, Scotland lost its monarch while Ireland was reduced from a kingdom to a colony. As historian Clare Jackson reveals, resentments from this time continue to trouble Britain to the present day.

Waterloo's Warriors

Waterloo's Warriors

The army that defeated Napoleon and the French at Waterloo is often regarded as a quintessentially English force. But most of the soldiers under the Duke of Wellington’s command were not English. Through their own accounts, this compelling history documentary tells the stories of the Scots, Irish, Welsh, Dutch, and German troops who fought the battle and of the families who travelled with them.

Ep 1: Eyes of War
It was one of history’s bloodiest battles that changed the face of Europe forever.

Waterloo was one of the bloodiest and most decisive battles in history. The Irish-born Duke of Wellington engaged his army into what would be the last major pitched battle in history, with his countrymen and kilted Highlanders to the fore. This fascinating history documentary uses the testimony of the men who were there to tell the story of a battle where an estimated 50,000 died in 10 hours.

Ep 2: Last Stand at Waterloo
The conclusion of the Battle of Waterloo, with Wellington snatching victory from Napoleon.

With 200,000 men fighting over a small area of land, the Battle of Waterloo was an amazing, gory spectacle. This astonishing history documentary looks at the battle’s conclusion and the tactics of both Napoleon and Wellington that swung the skirmish in England’s favor. But the human cost is also explored, such as Elizabeth McMullen who heroically rescued her injured husband from the battlefield.

The Queen Of Empire: Victoria

The Queen Of Empire: Victoria

Crowned queen shortly after her 18th birthday, Victoria presided over an extraordinary period of British history which saw huge industrial, social and territorial expansion. As this revealing history documentary shows, over her long reign she also managed to shift the public perception of the royal family and became a celebrated public figure, influencing popular culture.

The First World War: The Peoples' Story

The First World War: The Peoples' Story

The brutality, suffering and slaughter of World War I changed the face of Europe forever and had a devastating impact on those involved. Filmed over 25 years, this remarkable history series draws on an extraordinary archive of 200 interviews and digitally restored footage to tell the story of the Great War through the eyes of the ordinary people at the heart of the conflict.

Ep 1: King and Country
Young men enthusiastically volunteered for the Great War unaware of the horrors to come.

The ‘Pals Battalions’, as they were known, were young men who had enthusiastically volunteered to serve their country in World War I. But soon they had their first taste of the horror of mass industrialized warfare. This groundbreaking history documentary features interviews with ordinary people who were present at the time, telling the story of the first brutal years of war in 1914 and 1915.

Ep 2: The Battle of the Somme
The 1916 Battle of the Somme was one of the bloodiest skirmishes in human history.

They thought it would be the epic battle that would end the war. But 1916’s Battle of the Somme was one of the bloodiest skirmishes of World War I, leading to a million casualties. This World War I history documentary tells the story of one of the most tragic battles mankind has faced through the remembrances of its last survivors and the thoughts of their desperate families at home.

Ep 3: The Fightto the End
For the Allies the war looked lost. But a series of brutal battles changed their fortunes.

The Allies appeared to be facing defeat as World War I dragged on. But a series of brutal, devastating battles turned the conflict in their favor, though the consequences were unimaginably tragic. Using personal testimony from those involved, this World War I documentary tells the story of these terrible battles and how Britain and its Allies turned a looming loss into victory.