Romans, Victorians, Tudors, Stuarts
[Adam Hart-Davis, Local Heroes]
did for us, historian, presenter, Did for Us

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Adam Hart-Davis - historian

Local Heroes & What the Romans Did for Us

Dr. Adam John Hart-Davis (born on July 4, 1943) is a British author, photographer, and broadcaster, well-known in the UK for presenting the television series Local Heroes and What the Romans Did for Us, the latter spawning several spin-off series involving the Victorians (What the Victorians Did for Us), the Tudors (What the Tudors Did for Us), and the Stuarts (What the Stuarts Did for Us). He was also a co-presenter of Tomorrow's World, and continues to present Science Shack.

Born and raised in Henley-on-Thames, he attended Eton College (receiving A and S-levels in Chemistry, Physics and Maths but failing his History O-level), before studying for an MA in chemistry at the University of Oxford. He later took a DPhil in organometallic chemistry at the University of York before doing three years of a post-doctoral thesis at the University of Alberta in Canada. Subsequently, he worked at the Oxford University Press, editing science texts and chess manuals.

His work in broadcasting began in 1977 when he joined Yorkshire Television as a researcher, working on material for the likes of Magnus Pyke, David Bellamy, Miriam Stoppard and Arthur C. Clarke.

In 1985 he was promoted to production work, producing Arthur C. Clarke's World of Strange Powers, the Fred Harris-fronted TV show Me & My Micro and the Johnny Ball-fronted Fun & Games amongst other things. He also devised and produced the highly popular school science show Scientific Eye which was widely viewed in the UK and in some thirty five other countries.

In the early 1990s he moved in front of the camera to present two series for the YTV region: Local Heroes and On the Edge (a scientific look at the east coast region).

Local Heroes involved him cycling around the country in his trademark fluorescent pink and yellow cycling clothes, seeking out places associated with the great innovators of science and technology. He seems to have stumbled on the idea for this programme somewhat by accident - in the summer of 1990, feeling himself to be becoming a little older and little fatter, he had decided to pursue other ways of keeping fit than playing Squash so he bought a mountain bike choosing one in pink and yellow in order to be visible and stay alive:-

" One day I was staggering up the long hill from Birstall to Drighlington, when I spotted a blue plaque on what turned out to be Field Head Farm, almost overhanging the M62. Having discovered this was Joseph Priestley’s birth place, I then found he had spent his teenage years with his Aunt at the Old Hall in Heckmondwicke, which had become my local pub, and had discovered oxygen as a result of watching the beer brewing in a brewery in Leeds."
Adam Hart-Davis felt sufficienty hooked by this brush with 'living history' as to tell all his colleagues about it -- and with such enthusiasm that his boss suggested that he should make a television programme. This was the beginning of the Local Heroes series of programmes.
Local Heroes was subsequently transferred to BBC2, where its scope widened from the Yorkshire region towards a nationwide coverage, a different region being the subject of each episode.

Since then he has essentially become the face of the BBC's output on science and the history of science. At the same time he is heavily critical of the standard of science output on British television (including, to a certain extent, his own programmes), which he sees as dumbed-down.

He has written many books, including a history of the toilet, entitled Thunder, Flush and Thomas Crapper (Thomas Crapper being one of the pioneers of the toilet's development).

Adam is the youngest child of the publisher Sir Rupert Hart-Davis (1907 - 1999), his siblings being the historian, biographer and journalist Peter Duff Hart-Davis and Bridget Min Hart-Davis aka Lady Silsoe.

He has received eight honorary doctorates and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He is the partner of the psychologist Dr. Susan Blackmore. He lives with her and her family in the west of England.

Popular European History pages
at Age-of-the-Sage


The preparation of these pages was influenced to some degree by a particular "Philosophy of History" as suggested by this quote from the famous Essay "History" by Ralph Waldo Emerson:-    
There is one mind common to all individual men...
Of the works of this mind history is the record. Its genius is illustrated by the entire series of days. Man is explicable by nothing less than all his history. Without hurry, without rest, the human spirit goes forth from the beginning to embody every faculty, every thought, every emotion, which belongs to it in appropriate events. But the thought is always prior to the fact; all the facts of history preexist in the mind as laws. Each law in turn is made by circumstances predominant, and the limits of nature give power to but one at a time. A man is the whole encyclopaedia of facts. The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn, and Egypt, Greece, Rome, Gaul, Britain, America, lie folded already in the first man. Epoch after epoch, camp, kingdom, empire, republic, democracy, are merely the application of his manifold spirit to the manifold world.
Ralph Waldo Emerson's Essay "History"
Italian Unification - Cavour, Garibaldi and
the Unification of Risorgimento Italy
Otto von Bismarck &
The wars of German unification
Italian unification map
Risorgimento Italy
Map of German unification
1 The European Revolution of 1848 begins
A broad outline of the background to the onset of the turmoils and a consideration of some of the early events.

2 The French Revolution of 1848
A particular focus on France - as the influential Austrian minister Prince Metternich, who sought to encourage the re-establishment of "Order" in the wake of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic turmoils of 1789-1815, said:-"When France sneezes Europe catches a cold".

3 The Revolution of 1848 in the German Lands and central Europe
"Germany" had a movement for a single parliament in 1848 and many central European would-be "nations" attempted to assert a distinct existence separate from the dynastic sovereignties they had been living under.

4 The "Italian" Revolution of 1848
A "liberal" Papacy after 1846 helps allow the embers of an "Italian" national aspiration to rekindle across the Italian Peninsula.

5 The Monarchs recover power 1848-1849
Some instances of social and political extremism allow previously pro-reform conservative elements to support the return of traditional authority. Louis Napoleon, (who later became the Emperor Napoleon III), attains to power in France offering social stability at home but ultimately follows policies productive of dramatic change in the wider European structure of states and their sovereignty.
Emerson's "Transcendental" approach to History
.
Spirituality & the wider world
.
Some Social Theory and insights
.
The Unfolding of History
.
The Vienna Declaration
.
Framework Convention on National minorities


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Adam Hart-Davis
Local Heroes &
What the Romans Did for Us page