The Matter of the North: How the north of England shaped modern Britain

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
October 2021
5 hours 54 minutes
Melvyn Bragg explores the pivotal role of England's north in defining modern Britain, and its enduring effect on every part of the globe

'It's impossible not to admire the thrust and sweep of this series' The Telegraph

In this captivating 10-part series, Melvyn Bragg brings all his enthusiasm, experience and expertise to a subject that has enthralled him his entire life: the importance of the North in shaping the United Kingdom. Joined by special guests including Dame Judi Dench, Sir Michael Parkinson, Joan Bakewell, David Hockney, Maxine Peake, Simon Armitage and Sir Geoffrey Boycott, he charts the ebb and flow of Northern power and influence, examining how one smallish geographical region came to have such an enormous effect on our culture worldwide: from science and philosophy to music and sport.

Beginning his story from the top of Hadrian's Wall, Bragg looks at the fall of Rome and the rise of Northumbria, and considers the glorious Northumbrian Renaissance - and the mark left on the North by invading Vikings and Normans. He looks at the turbulent years of rebellion that swept the area and the idea of 'northern speech', and tells of his love for the Northern landscape that inspired Wordsworth, Coleridge, the Brontës and Turner.

Bragg also celebrates the North as the heartland of the Industrial Revolution, and sings the praises of Manchester, the first city of that revolution. He explains how many radical movements had their genesis in the North: from Chartism and the suffragettes to the birth of the Labour Party. Bringing us right up to date, he looks at some great 20th Century cultural icons, such as the Beatles and Coronation Street. Finally, he reflects on 'Northern power', asking what being and sounding Northern means and questioning what the future holds for the North in the wake of the EU referendum.

Also included In Our Time: Hadrian's Wall, in which Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss this famous archaeological monument, and the two-part series North and South: Across the Great Divide, which finds Ian Marchant travelling along England's North/South divide to ask what it really means - and see if it is shifting.

Production credits
Presented by Melvyn Bragg. Produced by Faith Lawrence

With guests including: Simon Armitage, Syima Aslam, Prof Simon Bainbridge, Dame Joan Bakewell, Maria Balshaw, Prof Hannah Barker, Dr Sarah Bastow, Chris Bonington, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Sir Geoffrey Boycott, Claire Breay, Prof Michelle Brown, Revd Canon Rosalind Brown, Prof Sally Bushell, Prof Robert Colls, Julian Cooper, Ed Cox, Prof Katy Cubitt, Judith Cummins MP, Dame Judi Dench, Prof Richard Gameson, Toby Gordon, Lee Hall, Prof Ian Haynes, Susan Harrison, Prof Nick Higham, David Hockney, Prof Richard Horrocks, Howard Hull, Prof Judith Jesch, Dr Chris Jones, Dr Katy Layton-Jones, Dr Jill Liddington, Bill Lloyd, Natalie McCaul, Jimmy McGovern, Ian McMillan, Dr Katrina Navickas, Sir Michael Parkinson, Maxine Peake, Dr Robert Poole, Irna Qureshi, Canon Apiarist Adrian Rhodes, Lee Rigg, Jonnie Robinson, Prof Dave Russell, Jonathan Schofield, Rommi Smith, Prof Keith Stringer, Dr James Sumner, Dr Matthew Townend, Jenny Uglow, Matthew Watson, Prof Andy Wood
First broadcast on BBC Radio 4, 29 August-9 September 2016

In Our Time: Hadrian's Wall
Presented by Melvyn Bragg
Produced by Victoria Brignell
With Greg Woolf, David Breeze and Lindsay Allason-Jones. First broadcast BBC Radio 4, 12 July 2012

North and South: Across the Great Divide
Presented by Ian Marchant
Produced by Mary Ward-Lowery
With Sir Michael Darrington, Prof Danny Dorling, Rachel North, Dominic Watt, Prof David Morley, John Langton. First broadcast BBC Radio 4, 21-28 March 2012

©2021 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd (P)2021 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd
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