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BBC History magazine has been published for the best part of two years now. As you might expect from Auntie, the magazine is a slick, well-researched journal for anyone with even a passing interest in history. Many of its longer features tie in with tv programmes running that month, for example, an interview with Simon Schama tied in with the broadcast of A History of Britain. There are however many other features that tie in with anniversaries or new museum exhibitions and so on. The articles vary in length from a few paragraphs to 6-7 pages but are always easily digestible and accessible. They are written intelligently with a leaning towards the average reader rather than other historians. They are also always backed up with often lavish colour illustrations, paintings and photos. Regular features include an article on history as told by an eye-witness of the event. There is a featured painting and a short analysis of what it can tell us about the event it portrays. Two historians battle it out each issue over a set question along the lines of "Should Churchill have sought a truce with Germany before the outbreak of war?" These usually generate some thought-provoking opinions. Further to these, there are also book reviews, highlights of forthcoming tv, cable and radio programmes, museums and exhibitions listings and more besides. The magazine has a British bias towards its features but it does also cover events from foreign perspectives. It's range of history is very broad too. From Surviving the Iron Age, to Hitler and Stalin, from how women lived in Victorian Britain (not at all how you might imagine) to the persecution of the Cathars in the east, BBC History Magazine is a constant source of enjoyment and one of the few magazines I absorb and read from cover to cover every month. Often magazine content peters off a few months after its launch but BBC History just seems to keep on getting better. It h
as a way of making historical events applicable to things that are happening today. Anyone should find something of interest in its pages and it might be of particular help for students as it is frequently packed with resources and study guides on particular aspects of historical study. Give yourself a treat and pick up a copy sometime - I think you will be well rewarded.
I have been subscribing to the new BBC History Magazine now for four months and I must say that I think it is a good read. The magazine is a digest of articles related to history. In the four months that I have been reading it the subjects have ranged through various periods of history. What seems particularly good is that the magazine seems to be trying to redress the balance when it comes to the role of women in history. Each month there appears to be some article which points out an aspect of their contribution that has been "forgotten". For instance, did you know that there were women on board at least some of the British "Men of War" during the Battle of Trafalgar and that they fought alongside our men? Did you also know that when it came to handing out the medals the women were quitely forgotten? In this month's issue there is a couple of interesting articles about the writing of historical novels and whether they have anything to offer the field of history. Another article discusses the usefulness of historical re-enactment. There is also an article where two experts put forward the case for and against an event or person. For example, there was a study of Oliver Cromwell and his actions in Ireland. This month's article looks at whether the First World Wae was just. Another aspect of the magazine that I like is how it manages to cover history at different levels. It covers "the great events and famous peoplebut also manages to look at events from the ordinary persons perspective adding an extra dimension and intermacy to its coverage of our past. As a resource this magazine has got to be a good starting point for people interested in history, it offers lots of information on places to visit and things going on that are related to history and it also has listings of programmes that are to be broadcast on TV, Satelite and Radio. There is also information on Internet
resourses. If you like reading about history this will fill in those few spare moments you might have.
I caught BBC History Magazine at number four, principally because my five year old son rushed headlong for it in Tesco’s. He waved it under my nose as one of those ‘must have’ items and my heart sank. He wanted to buy it instead of my preferred Bob The Builder or Tweenies as it had pictures of soldiers on the front. Now I’m used to the idiosyncracies of his magazine choices, we have previously bought Railway Modeller during his transport phase and more recently Military Illustrated for his current obsession. I will give Conor his due – he pores over these far more than he would those magazines designed especially for him – but, to be honest, when reading aloud such fascinating commentary as is contained in Railway Modeller it is hard to get much feeling into the narrative. Anyway, I had a quick look at the cover, thought it a better bet than the above two options, replaced the Tweenies magazine and handed over my £2.95. I’ve handed over a few more since then. BBC History is a great magazine for anyone interested in history, both modern and ancient and for anyone else with an enquiring mind. It is packed with interesting articles that may well lead you to further reading, an evening watching television, a day out, or even a holiday. That first issue contained features on the validity of oral history, cross-dressing in the eighteenth century, the whodunnit murder of William II in 1100, Jewish immigration to Britain during the Nazi era, the re-enactment of historical battles, AJP Taylor, and the obligatory article on the Queen Mother. I’m now on issue seven where the leading articles include items on the South American Conquistadores of the sixteenth century, the Great Plague and Fire of London, Oscar Wilde and the meaning and nature of public memorial. These leading features are, I must admit, often plugs for the latest BBC TV History Zone programmes, but if you've watched for
example any of the excellent Simon Schama ‘History of Britain’ series on telly then you won’t mind. They are trying to be contemporary, if history can be called that, and so the features are also on new exhibitions (this month the British Museum’s Gladiator although I went to this and didn't think much of it) and a wide range of recently published books. Most of the contributors to the magazine are respected academics, broadcasters and journalists, clearly used to writing for other such people. However the articles are not only interesting and informative they are also accessible to laymen such as me. And very interesting too! I’ve bought a book on the strength of one feature (I’m afraid it was about Monsieur d’Eon, the eighteenth century transvestite spy, not sure what that says about me), and been inspired to write a couple of reviews here on dooyoo after reading the article discussing the validity of historical fiction. There are also many regular items. ‘Counterblast’ which is a short ‘for and against’ feature on a hotly debated topic, this month’s on the continuation of Remembrance Day. ‘Witness’ is an original historical text with a commentary, October’s contribution was on the R7101 airship disaster. ‘My Hero’, obviously enough a writer or broadcaster choosing their favourite historical character, Magnus Magnusson chose Macbeth, who would YOU have? There is an extensive review section on recently published history books, a complete listing of forthcoming radio and TV (including satellite) history programmes and a page on internet sites on a historical topic. For the travellers amongst you there is also a section called ‘History To Go’ which in my first issue covered Bruges in Belgium as well as historical events and places of interest to visit nearer home. Although the presentation has something of a &
#8216;sound-bite’ flavour, BBC History magazine is an excellent resource for anyone interested in history generally and it’s an entertaining read if you just want a general ‘digest’, the issues I’ve bought have certainly sent me down a few tracks. There are very few BBC publications which lack quality in my opinion but this one really is a goodie. It’s busy proving that it is possible to produce a publication with broad appeal that doesn’t resort to ‘dumbing down’ and three cheers to Auntie and its editing team for that. Oh, and by the way, the subscription offer currently stands at 20% off the cover price and a free book on the Domesday Book by Michael Wood (he of ‘In Search of the Dark Ages’ fame) – a bargain if you ask me! Go try an issue, you can even read it aloud to your five year old without falling asleep!