History - Back to BBC docudramas

Barbara Hibbert

What's it all about?

The excellent BBC History File programmes offering slices of the past - now traded as hard currency by history teachers in the know - are increasingly difficult to access. There are occasional broadcasts in the early hours of the morning, but they are not well publicised. Short extracts can be found among the BBC Learning Zone's Class Clips, but you have to know what you are looking for. No further series have been commissioned from producer Andrew Chater, writes Barbara Hibbert.

The programmes give irreplaceable pictures of the past to young people who find it difficult to imagine what it was really like to live in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia or the US between the wars. The past really is a foreign country, but one easier to envisage through these series based on the life stories of real people.

One such story is that of Henry Metelmann, who died last July. The son of a socialist railway worker and a committed Christian, Henry became a passionate follower of Hitler, much to his parents' sorrow. When Henry's scout group was submerged into the Hitler Youth, he loved the uniform, the marching and the camping trips. At 18, he was drafted into the army and became a tank driver on the Eastern Front.

Generations of schoolchildren have heard his story, which helps them to understand how easy it is for ordinary people to be caught up in extraordinary events and evil regimes.

What else?

Nearly 400 videos have been shared by BBC Class Clips - History on TES Resources. Andrew Chater also created Timelines.tv, a free, film-rich resource that covers broad chronological sweeps of British history.

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Barbara Hibbert

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