Deep History

Michael Wood did a fundraiser at Colchester Arts Centre on 18th January - I attended, agog, since he was my first TV historian crush. It was his series: Domesday - in search of the roots of England - that got me enthused about Anglo-Saxon as a language. He was in person very much as he appears on screen - tall, twinkly, intelligent, warm, witty, enthusiastic of course.

I was particularly interested in what he said about the 'deep currents ' of history i.e. - history that takes us back before written documents to mankind's origins. Instead of concentrating on modern history's bloody conflicts, global financial exchanges and technological wonders deep history looks further back to the earliest humans. It's really an antidote to shallow or micro history and short-term thinking. And this was very appealing to me, since we do seem, as humans to have such short memories and only cast our gaze a few years behind or ahead.

One of Wood's favourite programmes was a Story of England through the microcosm of a village called Kibworth in Leicestershire. It was a year in the making and archaeologists found evidence of human habitation from pre-Roman times through to (for example) the Magna Carta, the Black Death, the Peasants Revolt, the Industrial Revolution, Victoria to the present day. All of these events and stages constitute 'shallow' history - the deep current being the ancient indigenous cultures of human life that have weathered all of this and continued. Extraordinary and ordinary at the same time. Wood's filmmaking has always striven to have this connection to the ordinary - to real people and places - whilst exploring the fantastic sweep of human achievement - and folly.

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