Writer and archaeologist Neil Oliver charts the intrepid journeys of four 19th century explorers.
The last explorers didn’t plant flags, they planted ideas.
The 19th century saw the dawn of the most intense period of exploration in history. Over the next hundred years, the modern world would be shaped by a handful of intrepid men. At its forefront, were a group of Scottish explorers who put an indelible stamp on the fourcorners of the planet. Using their diaries, photographs and letters, Neil Oliver follows in the footsteps of David Livingstone in Africa, John Muir in North America, William Speirs Bruce in the Antarctic and Thomas Blake Glover in Japan, to reveal the ideas they planted and theglobal impact they made.
Episode 1 - Dr David Livingstone: Onward Christian Soldier
During the 1950s and 60s when the people of Africa fought and won their independence, nearly every place name that held a reminder of their former colonial masters was erased from the map. But one survived: David Livingstone’s. This episode focuses on his epic Zambezi Expedition to save souls and end the slave trade. While his travels inadvertently led to the colonising of Africa, Livingstone gave the British Empire a moral purpose. His belief in the basic equality of the human race and that an African exposed to European society was any European’s equal, remains Livingstone’s enduring legacy among Africans today.
Episode 2 - John Muir: Saving America’s Soul
John Muir was a 19th century adventurer who explored the American wilderness and devoted his life and writings to defending nature and teaching us our place in it. Muir travelled through some of the greatest places on Earth, including Alaska, the Carolinas, Florida and California. He was one of the first naturalists to argue that exceptional landscapes should be set aside because they are beautiful. Muir was later hailed as thefather of the modern conservation movement and one of the founders of America’s National Park movement.
Episode 3 - William Speirs Bruce: The Shape of Things to Come
This is the story of one of Britain’s great, but least-known explorers, who set out to conquer Antarctica, not for imperial glory, but to advance scientific knowledge. William Speirs Bruce made scientific history by laying down the foundations of modern climate change studies during the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition of 1902-4. It was also an expedition that tore apart the world of imperial exploration and saw Bruce surrenderhis right to sit in the pantheon of great explorers due to patriotic rivalries.
Episode 4 - Thomas Blake Glover: Rogue Trader
Thomas Blake Glover was one of the great, amoral antiheroes of British exploration and the invisible hand who transformed Japan and global history by launching Japan as a Western-style great power. From Shanghai to Nagasaki, Neil Oliver retraces Glover’s personal journey and life to reveal the clash of empires that he helped shape and which ended with the atomic bomb and the suicide of his half-Japanese son.
Physicist and author Brian Greene, brings us a mind-blowing new exploration of space, time, and the very nature of reality.
Acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns chronicles the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history.
A fresh perspective on the birth of civilisation in the Near and Middle East and its dynamic influence on the West.