Just for the sake of anyone who may be interested, the BBC did a couple of series on the history of the countries on the British Isles, two seperate series were done, "A History of Britain" and "A History of Scotland". As per BBC standard, they're both to a high quality, and also to BBC standard, they're all incredibly long episodes. Both are presented well, albeit differently, although personally I prefer the presentation of the Scotland one. The episodes aren't linked together, mostly, so you can watch any one that takes your fancy without having to have watched the others, although you might miss certain references to the past. Anyway, firstly:
A history of Britain (With a particular focus on England)
Episode 1: Beginnings - Covering the period 3100 BC – 1000 AD. Simon Schama starts his story in the stone age village of Skara Brae, Orkney. Over the next four thousand years Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Danes, and Christian missionaries arrive, fight, settle and leave their mark on what will become the nations of Britain.
Episode 2: Conquest - Covering 1000–1087. 1066 is not the best remembered date in British history for nothing. In the space of nine hours whilst the Battle of Hastings raged, everything changed. Anglo-Saxon England became Norman and, for the next 300 years, its fate was decided by dynasties of Norman rulers.
Episode 3: Dynasty - Covering 1087–1216. There is no saga more powerful than that of the warring dynasty – domineering father, beautiful, scheming mother and squabbling, murderous sons and daughters, (particularly the nieces). In the years that followed the Norman Conquest, this was the drama played out on the stage of British history.
Episode 4: Nations - Covering 1216–1348, this is the epic account of how the nations of Britain emerged from under the hammer of England's "Longshanks" King Edward I, with a sense of who and what they were, which endures to this day.
Episode 5: King Death - Covering 1348–1500. It took only six years for the plague to ravage the British Isles. Its impact was to last for generations. But from the ashes of this trauma an unexpected and unique class of Englishmen emerged.
Episode 6: Burning Convictions - Covering 1500–58. Here Simon Schama charts the upheaval caused as a country renowned for its piety, whose king styled himself Defender of the Faith, turns into one of the most aggressive proponents of the new Protestant faith.
Episode 7: The body of the Queen - Covering 1558–1603. This is the story of two queens: Elizabeth I of England, the Protestant virgin, and Mary, Queen of Scots, the Catholic mother. It is also the story of the birth of a nation, Magna Britannia - Great Britain.
Episode 8: The British Wars - Covering 1603–1649. The turbulent civil wars of the early seventeenth century would culminate in two events unique to British history; the public execution of a king and the creation of a republic. Schama tells of the brutal war that tore the country in half and created a new Britain – divided by politics and religion and dominated by the first truly modern army, fighting for ideology, not individual leaders.
Episode 9: Revolutions - Covering 1649–1689. Political and religious revolutions racked Britain after Charles I's execution, when Britain was a joyless, kingless republic led by Oliver Cromwell. His rule became so unpopular that for many it was a relief when the monarchy was restored after his death, but Cromwell was also a man of vision who brought about significant reforms.
Episode 10: Britannia Incorporated - Covering 1690–1750. As the new century dawned, relations between Scotland and England had never been worse. Yet half a century later the two countries would be making a future together based on profit and interest. The new Britain was based on money, not God.
Episode 11: The Wrong Empire - Covering 1750–1800. The exhilarating and terrible story of how the British Empire came into being through its early settlements—the Caribbean through the sugar plantations (and helped by slavery), the land that later became the United States and India through the British East India Company--and how it eventually came to dominate the world. A story of exploration and daring, but also one of exploitation, conflict, and loss.
Episode 12: Forces of Nature - Covering 1780–1832. Britain never had the kind of revolution experienced by France in 1789, but it did come close. In the mid-1770s the country was intoxicated by a great surge of political energy. Re-discovering England's wildernesses, the intellectuals of the "romantic generation" also discovered the plight of the common man, turning nature into a revolutionary force.
Episode 13: Victoria and her Sisters - Covering 1830–1910. As the Victorian era began, the massive advance of technology and industrialisation was rapidly reshaping both the landscape and the social structure of the whole country. To a much greater extent than ever before women would take a centre-stage role in shaping society.
Episode 14: The Empire of Good Intentions - Covering 1830–1925. This episode charts the chequered life of the liberal empire from Ireland to India – the promise of civilisation and material betterment and the delivery of coercion and famine.
Episode 15: The Two Winstons - Covering 1910–1965. In the final episode, Schama examines the overwhelming presence of the past in the British twentieth century and the struggle of leaders to find a way to make a different national future. As towering figures of the twentieth century, Churchill and Orwell (through his 1984 character Winston Smith) in their different ways exemplify lives spent brooding and acting on that imperial past, and most movingly for us, writing and shaping its history.
A History of Scotland
Episode 1: The Last of the Free - At the dawn of the first millennia, there was no Scotland or England. In the first episode Oliver reveals the mystery of how the Gaelic Scottish Kingdom - Alba - was born, and why its role in one of the greatest battles ever fought on British soil defined the shape of Britain in the modern era.
Episode 2: Hammers of the Scots - Oliver charts the 13th century story of the two men who helped transform the Gaelic kingdom of Alba into the Scotland of today. While Alexander II forged Scotland in blood and violence, William Wallace's resistance to King Edward I of England hammered national consciousness into the Scots.
Episode 3: Bishop Makes King - Robert Bruce's 22-year struggle to secure the Scots' independence is one of the most important chapters in Scotland's story. Oliver explores the role the Scottish church played in promoting Robert Bruce, the propaganda campaigns, both at home and abroad, and how the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath persuaded the Pope to finally recognise Scotland as an independent nation.
Episode 4: Language is Power - At one time, Gaelic Scotland - the people and the language - was central to the identity of Scots. But as Oliver reveals, Scotland's infamous Highland/Lowland divide was the result of a family struggle that divided the kingdom. This is the story of how the policies of the Stewart royal family in the 15th century led to the Gaels being perceived as rebels and outsiders.
Episode 5: Project Britain - Oliver describes how the ambitions of two of Scotland's Stuart monarchs were the driving force that united two ancient enemies, and set them on the road to the Great Britain we know today. While Mary Queen of Scots plotted to usurp Elizabeth I and seize the throne of England, her son James dreamt of a more radical future: a Protestant Great Britain.
Episode 6: God's Chosen People - Neil Oliver continues his journey through Scotland's past with the story of the Covenanters, whose profound religious beliefs were declared in the National Covenant of 1638. This document licensed revolution, started the Civil War that cost King Charles I his head, cost tens of thousands of Scots their lives and led to Britain's first war on terror.
Episode 7: Let's Pretend - Bitterly divided by politics and religion for centuries, this is the infamous story of how Scotland and England came together in 1707 to form Great Britain. Over time the Union matured into one of the longest in European history, but it very nearly ended in divorce. Exploiting the Union's unpopularity, the exiled Stuarts staged several comebacks, selling themselves as a credible and liberal alternative to the Hanoverian regime. Neil Oliver reveals just how close they came to succeeding.
Episode 8: The Price of Progress - Through the winning and losing of an American empire and the impact of the Scottish Enlightenment, Neil Oliver reveals how in the second half of the 18th century Scotland was transformed from a poor northern backwater with a serious image problem into one of the richest nations on Earth. This was the dawn of the modern age when Scotland made its mark on the world by exporting its most valuable commodities - its people and ideas.
Episode 9: This Land is Our Land - At the start of the 19th century, everything familiar was swept away. People fled from the countryside into the industrial towns of Scotland's Central Belt. Rural workers became factory workers - in some of the worst conditions in Europe. This new Scotland became a seedbed of revolution. But it wasn't just force that kept the Scottish people in their place, it was fantasy. Neil Oliver reveals how Sir Walter Scott created so powerful a myth, it haunts the Scots collective imagination to this day.
Episode 10: Project Scotland - As a partner in the British Empire, Scotland began the 20th century with an advanced economy and a world-beating heavy industry. But in the closing decades its sense of Britishness was in doubt and a Scottish Parliament sat in Edinburgh for the first time since 1707. Charting Scotland's darkest century, Neil Oliver discovers a country driven to self-determination through a series of economic crises so deep that her most striking export became her own disillusioned population.
The Story of Ireland
Episode 1: The Age of Invasion - The opening episode include the impact of early Christianity and monasticism in Ireland; the birth of Ireland's potent literary culture; the unique law tracts created by Irish lawyers that afford us remarkable insights into the day to day lives and habits of ordinary people nearly 1500 years ago.
Episode 2: The Age of Conquest - As the English set foot in Ireland, there begins 800 years of British rule. This episode examines the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland and the huge upheavals and changes taking place across Europe at the time.
Episode 3: The Age of Revolution - Spanning the Ulster Plantation to the Act of Union, this is an era that sees Ireland take centre stage in a much wider European conflict. This episode will also investigate Gaelic life and culture during the eighteenth century through poetry, music and the rise of a Roman Catholic middle class.
Episode 4: The Age of Union - A new area for exploration is Ireland's role in the British Empire - both in terms of military service - Irish regiments holding the Punjab for example, and in terms of intriguing Irish governors and political men posted in various corners of the British Empire.
Episode 5: The Age of Nations - The Boer War is of much forgotten significance to the Irish story in the early 20th Century. A strong theme in the programme is the exploration of Irish nationalism, the welding together of culture, physical force and blood sacrifice, from Patrick Pearse, Connolly and Larkin right through to the beginning of the period known as 'The Troubles' in Northern Ireland.
And also the opening up of the 60s under Sean Lemass brought in a new era of economic openness in the south and its eventual membership of the EEC. There is a look at some key moments in The Troubles.
If you've got an interest in history, I'd definitely suggest they're worth a watch. Even if you don't really, I'd still recommend a watch, they present the information in a pretty entertaining way. Enjoy.