Lost art, folk music, and 17th century superstition: see these documentaries and dramas on Netflix now, which explore unique historical subjects off the beaten track of military and political history.
Witches: A Century of Murder (2015) Channel 5 (UK)
What happens when fear, delusion and mass hysteria grip a nation? Historian Suzannah Lipscombe examines the sinister period of witch hunting in 17th century England when hundreds of innocent men, women and children were falsely convicted and executed for the imagined crime of “witchcraft”.
The Last Kingdom (2015) BBC
The Dark Ages is a period of history thus named because it is largely unknowable to later Western historians. After the fall of the Roman Empire, very few written records were kept, and little remains of the archaeological record for what was quite a tumultuous time for the lands formerly occupied by the Romans.
The Last Kingdom attempts to animate this murky epoch by dramatizing the life of a displaced Anglo-Saxon prince, Uhtred of Bebbanburg, raised by Danish invaders who kidnapped him as a boy. He lives in an England radically removed from the country we know today. In the 9th century AD it was divided up into seven kingdoms ruled by varying Saxon, Danish and Celtic powers. Uhtred himself becomes divided in his loyalties to his Saxon heritage and his adopted Danish identity.
Very gripping viewing, but be warned, it does not shy away from depicting the extreme violence of the era.
Raiders of the Lost Art (2014) Director: Cal Saville
A fascinating series about the search for and recovery of some of Europe’s greatest lost artworks.
There is one episode on art stolen by the Nazis during World War Two, another on Faberge Eggs which vanished during the Russian revolution, and a deeply moving episode that touches on the tireless efforts of Van Gogh’s surviving sister-in-law to retrieve and publicise the body of work the tormented artist left behind.