Top positive review
Starkey makes history come alive!
on 16 August 2015
I suppose Dr Starkey is a man you either hate or love. The Guardian once described him as "opinionated, tireless and tiresome". Tireless he definitely is: an excellent communicator who oozes a passion for history. I wish I'd had a history teacher like Starkey, who succeeds in making English history come alive, always reminding us that history is more than just pedigrees, titles and names. Starkey amply demonstrates that history is about real people falling prey to human emotions like burning ambition, jealousy, obsessive love, guilt and remorse. The psychological background to England's monarchs thus contributes to an understanding of the institutions they created.
Starkey is both knowledgeable and entertaining, straightforward and funny (e.g. "There was nothing rigid about the reign of Charles II; in fact, the only rigid thing about the Charles II was his male member"). This does not mean that he is a lightweight historian: there is a great deal of hard work and scholarly research at the heart of his analyses. He is equally at home in the Anglo-Saxon and Plantagenet period (series 1), Tudor England (series 2) and the Stuart and Hanovarian period (series 3). I also liked the comparisons he makes with more contemporary history, thus putting things in a broader perspective.
Key moments in history are acted out by credible lookalikes and complemented with beautiful views of British landscapes, which give the documentary an authentic feel. The image and sound quality is not HD but still very good.
The only drawback I could find was the scant attention paid to the reign of Queen Victoria, which is the point where the third series rather abruptly cuts off. Do not expect any information on Edward VII or George V. If you want to find out more about the history of 20th century Britain, I recommend "Royal Cousins at War" (BBC) as well as Andrew Marr's "The Making of Modern Britain" and "A History of Modern Britain".