Thursday, 18 February 2010

Europe to America

Wednesday was a travel day for me, from London's Heathrow airport back to Ottawa. For the past few weeks I've been enjoying several history programs on BBC TV, including the "Seven Ages of Britain." "Empire of the Seas" was the story of the Royal Navy told in four hour-long episodes by British-Canadian author and broadcaster Dan Snow. His books include "Death or Victory - the battle of Quebec and the birth of Empire."

The only genealogy program was "Heir Hunters" which is case studies of probate research in England and Wales, mainly featuring the company Fraser and Fraser.

Unfortunately these programs are behind a UK-only firewall.

From British history I switched to American, in the shape of the second episode of Henry Gates PBS series, "Faces of America" www.pbs.org/wnet/facesofamerica/. The program aims to answer the questions "What made America? What makes us?"

Gates was shown presenting documents from the life's of various celebrities and then putting their experiences in context. The focus on Wednesday was on immigration stories. I enjoyed the program but found the approach ready to forgive the transgressions of the US government and society, as in Japanese internment and Irish immigrant support for the South during Civil War, but ready to soft-peddle unbridled British capitalism during the Irish Potato Famine. I wonder if lack of a national health care system and similar US unbridled capitalism will feature in upcoming episodes in discussing "What makes us?"

In the meantime the CBC seems devoid of historical content, and History Television Canada has sunk to the level of "Ice Road Truckers."

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