Tonight, while a few people might be watching Sweden v England on the television, I'll be watching a history programme: Michael Wood's The Great British Story: a People's History. Well, I'm a History Girl - you'd expect nothing less. It's exactly what the title says it is: a history of Britain from the point of view not of the kings and nobles and upper classes, but of the ordinary people. There's one particular technique it uses that I think works very well: it has the ordinary people of today reading the testimony of the ordinary people of long ago. It's a simple but brilliant way of breathing life into the words of dusty ancient documents. If you've read other posts of mine, you'll know that I'm always banging on about history being about ordinary people as well as the well-known movers and shakers, so you'll understand why this appeals to me.
Since then, of course, there have been masses of popular history programmes on television - David Starkey, Simon Schama, Mary Beard, Helen Castor and many more. But I think perhaps that In Search of the Dark Ages was the mould-maker, with its charismatic presenter using every means at his disposal to convey his enthusiasm for his subject, with its delight in showing us the context and the settings and the artefacts which help to bring history to life. Isn't that what they all do now, to a greater or lesser degree?
And Michael kept on making programmes. I remember my sons cheering when he went in search of Alexander the Great, plunging into the sea fully clothed, climbing mountains, eating lamb cooked on a spit over the fire and then turning to the camera, his eyes shining, to share his excitement: 'Here I am, doing just what Alexander might have done, in the place where he might have done it!!'
And now he's taking a fresh approach again, involving people in finding out their own local history, and showing us along the way what life was like for most people in centuries past. The old sheepskin jacket - or a worthy successor - is still occasionally in evidence, often accessorised now with a floaty turquoise scarf. I think he's great. He's certainly far more inspirational than any of my history teachers ever were, bless them!