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In Search Of The Dark Ages: Ethelred the Unready – Michael Wood (1981)



In Search of the Dark Ages is a BBC television documentary series, written and presented by historian Michael Wood, first shown between 1979 and 1981. It comprises eight short films across two seasons, each focusing on a particular character from the history of England prior to the Norman Conquest, a period popularly known as the Dark Ages

.The series was made by BBC Manchester and narrated by Wood, who was at that time a lecturer (and, eventually, Professor of History) at Manchester University. It consists of eight separate programmes, and the collective title is often written as In Search of… The Dark Ages (originally it was known simply as In Search of…). Each programme, except the finale, ran between 35 and 45 minutes. It began with a one-off pilot programme called In Search of Offa, filmed in 1978, and first broadcast in January 1979.When its reception was regarded as favourable, three further programmes were filmed in 1979. The series first aired on BBC Two in March 1980, beginning with Boadicea and including a repeat showing of the original Offa programme. The series was so well received that a second series was soon commissioned.

In terms of production, the programmes were filmed entirely on location with no studio-based scenes whatsoever. Wood’s concept was that the entire production should occur in the actual places associated with the historical events on which he was reporting. Essentially, the films were mostly about touring the battlefields and cathedrals of England to view the actual places where the great events of history occurred. This “popular and serious style of history programming” was becoming increasingly prevalent at that time. The effect was enhanced by Wood often appearing on-screen, instead of being merely a voice-over, thereby giving the viewer an impression of journalistic immediacy. Further, many viewers would not have been aware of him emulating the style of another famous television academic, A.J.P. Taylor.

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