Category: Michael Wood


The Story of China with Michael Wood

BBC Two’s new landmark documentary series, The Story of China (6×60), written and presented by historian Michael Wood, explores the history of the world’s oldest continuous state, from the ancient past to the present day.

Home to over a billion people, China is the new superpower, a country we all want to understand now, and Wood argues that to do so we have to look at its history. Travelling across the country he explores the landscapes, peoples, stories and cultures that have helped create China’s distinctive character and genius over more than four thousand years.

Journeying along the Silk Route, down the Grand Canal, and across the plain of the Yellow River, where Chinese civilisation began, Wood meets people from all walks of life, visiting China’s most evocative landscapes and exploring ancient cities like Xian, Nanjing and Hangzhou.

He’ll trace some of the great moments in Chinese history – from their extraordinary voyages of exploration before Columbus, to amazing scientific inventions before the European Renaissance: he’ll even show that the Chinese invented football!

A grand sweep narrative, full of big ideas and unexpected surprises, the series shows how the Chinese created their own distinctive vision of the world: a vision that is still alive in the 21st century and indeed, Wood argues, is the real motor behind the incredible and growing success of China today.



The Story of India


Michael Wood’s epic journey to uncover the fabulous sights and sounds, the dazzling achievements and the dramatic history of the world’s oldest, richest and most influential civilisation.

From the deserts of Turkmenistan to the Khyber Pass, from war torn Iraq to the palm fringed shores of Kerala, Michael Wood journeys across the Indian subcontinent and beyond to discover a land whose history is almost unimaginably rich and colourful.

When Marco Polo visited India in the thirteenth century, he described the country as ‘the richest province in the world… a land of wonders’. His observation is no less true today.

Everything about India is older, bigger, more colourful, more diverse and more intriguing than anywhere else.

The world’s largest democracy, a nuclear power and a rising economic giant, India is also the world’s most ancient surviving civilization, with unbroken continuity stretching back into prehistory


“One of the best TV documentaries ever made”
The New York Times

(The story of India with) “the knowledgeable,enthusiastic and eternally boyish Michael Wood…this one stands out as a superior product”
The Daily Mail

“Michael Wood loves India. When he starts to tell you about its 10,000-year history, the excitement and passion in his voice is undeniable.”
The Daily Mirror

“Still the gold standard”
The Wall Street Journal

Winner – Accolade Award of Excellence, TV Mini-series
Winner – Accolade Honorable Mention, Cinematography
Winner – Accolade Honorable Mention, Editing


6 X 60 mins for BBC 2/PBS. Producer: Rebecca Dobbs Camera/director: Jeremy Jeffs

August 2008. Video available from Amazon,

Book available here

Download the music

Watch the trailer

Visit the site →


RSC Transforming our Theatres


‘Nothing much short of a revolution’
Michael Wood introduces a series of DVDs produced for the RSC, showing why they needed to embark on an ‘enormous operation’ to transform their buildings. Starring Judi Dench, David Tennant, Anthony Sher and Greg Doran.


3 X 10 mins for RSC. Director Producer: Rebecca Dobbs


Visit the site →


Gilbert White: The Nature Man


A delightful, visually hypnotic biography of an 18th century country curate.  With just one book, “The Natural History Of Selborne,” Gilbert White encouraged generations to appreciate nature in a different, more profound way.  With biographer, Richard Mabey, Michael Wood travels through White’s world, from the bucolic landscape of Hampshire to the grand intellectual societies of London and shows how White created his gentle, ecological revolution.


1 X 60 mins for BBC 4 as part a season focusing on the 18th Century.

Director Producer: Rebecca Dobbs


BBC4 28th June 2006. Video download available from Vimeo


Shakespeare’s Mother: The Secret Life of a Tudor Woman


In Shakespeare’s Mother: The Secret Life of a Tudor Woman, Michael Wood tells the extraordinary story of an ordinary woman in a time of revolution. Born under Henry VIII, Mary Arden is the daughter of a Warwickshire farmer, but she marries into a new life in the rising Tudor middle class in Stratford upon Avon. There she has eight children, three of whom die young. Her husband becomes mayor but is  bankrupted by his shady business dealings. Faced with financial ruin, religious persecution, and power politics, the family is the glue that keeps them together until they are rescued by Mary’s  successful eldest son – William Shakespeare!

Using local documents and government archives, wills and inventories, and  even a report from an Elizabethan informer, Michael Wood reconstructs Mary’s story: the youngest of  eight sisters, who married an illiterate but ambitious glover John Shakespeare. John rose in the world to become a well-off middle class entrepreneur, and finally mayor of Stratford, before his shady business activities brought their world crashing down and bankrupted the family. It would be Mary’s eldest son who restored the family’s fortunes with the money from his box office hits.

The film also looks at women’s work, and at the role a Tudor mother played in the raising and education of her children. Could she read and write? Did she teach her kids to read?  What part might she have had in shaping  her son’s creative imagination? Mary’s story is dramatic, with its tales of bankruptcy, family feuds, political plots and  religious persecution.  Its the glittering Tudor world viewed from below, from a small provincial town:  a window onto an age of fantastic wealth, riches and cultural achievement, through whose storms Mary steered her family, in the process raising the world’s most famous poet.


“A fascinating portrait”

The Sunday Times

“A pleasureable odyssey” 

The Telegraph

“An entertaining way of looking at an era that has us more than ever in it’s thrall”

The Guardian


1 X 60 mins for BBC 4. Producer: Rebecca Dobbs Writer and Presenter: Michael Wood

9pm 12th February 2015

Watch the Programme on Vimeo

Visit the site →


Christina: A Medieval Woman


Michael Wood presents a fascinating portrait of ordinary people living through extraordinary times, tracing the life of a real-life peasant of 14th century Hertfordshire.

She wasn’t a famous person, or of noble blood, yet Christina’s story is important in understanding our own roots.

In this time of war, famine, floods, climate change and the Black Death, which would claim the lives of half the population, are the beginnings of the end of serfdom, the growth of individual freedom and the start of a market economy.


1 x 60 mins BBC4. Producer and Director: Rebecca Dobbs  Editor: Gerry Branigan. Composer: Howard Davidson


First Broadcast on BBC4 5th May 2008. Video download available from Vimeo



Hitler’s Search for the Holy Grail


The true story behind Indiana Jones: How Hitler and the Nazis went on a quest to find the power objects from history and prove the myths of Atlantis, the Grail and an ancient German master race. Michael Wood explains where these ideas came from, shows us how history was used as a political tool and the way top scholars collaborated to provide the ideas used by the SS as a justification for the genocide that followed, ending with chilling footage from the 1946 trial of Wolfram Sievers, the Ahnenerbe’s Chief Administrator. For the first time we see the Nazis traveling to the ends of the earth; Archaeological digs in Persia, Scientific Expeditions to Antarctica and Venezuela and skull measuring in Tibet.


1 X 78 mins for Channel 4. Director: Kevin Sim, Producer: Rebecca Dobbs


Channel 4 1999. Video download will be available soon from Vimeo


Saddam’s Killing Fields


Two years after the allied victory in Kuwait, Saddam Hussein is persecuting the Shia and exterminating the Marsh Arabs in Southern Iraq. Michael Wood pieces together this shocking story of destruction using secretly shot footage, to show a reign of terror previously unwitnessed. Today, this film remains the only detailed telling of the Marsh Arabs’ struggle for survival. The stories told by these people are as relevant as they were fifteen years ago.


Written & Presented by Michael Wood
Director: Christopher Jeans
Producer: Rebecca Dobbs

Winner of both the Silver Nymph Award for Best Current Affairs Documentary and the Critics Prize at Monte Carlo Television Festival.

Saddam’s Killing Fields was also nominated for a BAFTA.


1 X 50 mins for ITV 1993. Video download will soon be available from Vimeo


In Search of Shakespeare


William Shakespeare is the world’s greatest writer, but his life story remains a tantalising mystery. In this engrossing four-part historical detective story, Michael Wood investigates Shakespeare’s life in the turbulent times of Queen Elizabeth I. Using fascinating new evidence from spies’ reports, local archives and even a coded prison diary, he uncovers the dark side of Shakespeare’s world. Present day witnesses help him trace William’s early days, his schooling, his father’s shady business deals and the dark secret that ruined the family.


4 X 60 mins for BBC/PBS. Director: David Wallace Producer: Rebecca Dobbs Camera: Peter Harvey

BBC2 June 2003. PBS Feb 2004 DVD available from BBC

Book available from Amazon

Visit the BBC History site

Visit the PBS site →


Ep 1 A Time of Revolution – Shakespeare’s life in the early years of Elizabeth’s reign. William is one of the privileged few, brought up in a nice house, lots of money, servants, and a good education. But suddenly William’s world turns upside down. His father is hounded by informers, loses his fortune, and sells off his lands.   Now we learn the family’s dark secret. In the new Protestant state of Elizabeth, Shakespeare is brought up at home in a family loyal to the old faith, Catholicism. Between 12 and 15 the family is ruined and the boy has to leave school early. At eighteen, William gets a local girl pregnant and his shotgun marriage also gives us his first known work, a love poem to his wife on their wedding day.

Ep 2 The Lost Years – How this young man from Stratford became a star of the London stage. Michael Wood travels with the Royal Shakespeare Company who perform the plays in a Tudor inn yard as Shakespeare did, and using Tudor maps and remarkable Victorian photos brings his first London home back to life. And he follows Shakespeare’s great rival Christopher Marlow on his fateful journey by river to Deptford – and a murder which left 29 year old Shakespeare as the star of Elizabethan London.

Ep 3 The Duty of Poets – Shakespeare’s rise to fame and fortune in Elizabethan London. With ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘ A Midsummer Nights Dream’, Shakespeare becomes England’s top entertainer. But now tragedy strikes, as his only son Hamnet dies at the age of 11. Plunged into a mid-life crisis William falls in love with a beautiful teenage nobleman, has a passionate affair with a mysterious married woman and is summonsed for GBH! Meanwhile his theatre company builds the Globe Theatre, and is caught up in the rebellion against Queen Elizabeth. But in the midst of it all, William creates some of the greatest characters in the literature of the world.

Ep 4 For all Time – Shakespeare’s life in the era of King James 1. Michael Wood unearths his neighbourhood in London and visits the present queen’s robe makers for evidence of Shakespeare’s role in the royal coronation. But Shakespeare’s world would be transformed in 1605 by the Gunpowder Plot, a Jacobean September 11th. The entertainment industry responded, and Shakespeare contributed a daring play about the murder of a King – ‘Macbeth’. Finally Wood follows Shakespeare back to Warwickshire and looks at the riddle of his will, and its strange bequest to his wife Anne.



In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great


In 335BC, Alexander of Macedonia set off on an expedition to conquer the world. The voyage of Alexander the Great covered more than 22,000 miles in ten years, from Greece to India and back, through some of the most difficult and unforgiving terrain.

While the Maya Vision crew lacked the timescale, budget and manpower of Alexander’s original conquest, they did have the advantages of modern transport. Travelling by jeep, bus, truck, retired Russian ambulance and cadging occasional lifts in helicopters, they discovered that some parts of the world are still completely inaccessible to anything but the feet of camels, mules, horses and occasionally humans.

Leaving countless baffled border guards in their wake, the Maya Vision crew travelled through 16 countries, crossing post-Gulf War Iraq and entering Afghanistan during the rise of the Taliban. They crossed the Great Sea of Sand, the Great Salt Desert and the Desert of Death and climbed one of the highest mountain passes in the world to truly follow in the Footsteps of Alexander the Great.


EP 1 SON OF GOD. Alexander sets off from his native on a war of revenge against the Persian empire. He crosses the Dardenelles into Turkey, where he was welcomed as a liberator by the Greek cities along the coast. At Issus, Alexander defeats the Persian king, Darius and turned south, through Lebanon, Israel and Gaza to reach Egypt. There, the oracle of Siwa declared him Son of God.

EP 2 LORD OF ASIA. Alexander invades Persia – todays Iran. Michael Wood traces his route through the Zagros mountains to Persepolis. He hears from storytellers that this defeat is still remembered today by the Zoroastrian community. The programme ends at the Caspian Sea, the edge of the world for Alexander.

Ep 3 ACROSS THE HINDU KUSH Following Alexander’s route Michael Wood treks over the Khawak pass in Afghanistan, crosses the Oxus river and follows the golden road to Samarkand. He continues to Alexandria the Farthermost – Khodzent in Takjikistan – retraces Alexander’s famous vistory at the Sogdian rock, and visits the ruins of the ancient city of Balkh with the help of an Afghan war lord.

Ep 4 TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH Alexander turns towards India, heading for what he believed would be the end of the earth. Michael Wood traces Alexander’s route through the northwest frontier region of Pakistan, the plains of the Punjab, down the Indus river, and by camel across the Makran desert back to Babylon – where Alexander died, aged 32.


4 X 60 mins for BBC 2/PBS. Director: David Wallace  Producer: Rebecca Dobbs Camera: Peter Harvey

BBC2 July 1998.

Buy the DVD

Buy the book