David Reynolds: Will host ambitious new British TV series about the US
If Empire sounds like a lot to chew on, the series’ writer and presenter, Cambridge historian David Reynolds (the presenter of BBC4’s impressive Summits documentary series earlier this year), thinks not. “You can listen to a single programme and I hope get something out of it,” he says. Each programme will focus on a self-contained story, be it about the wife of US Founding Father John Adams, or an incident in the Vietnam war, so listeners don’t have to catch every instalment to understand what’s going on. Also, the series will frequently return to Reynolds’ three main themes.
“Listeners will build up a broad sense of the pattern of US history through the recurrent themes of liberty, empire and faith,” he says. These themes highlight paradoxes about America that continue to this day. Reynolds explains: “America is an anti-empire: a country that declared itself independent of the British Empire but has become, in some senses, an empire. It is a country of liberty that rested on slavery. It is also a country which has a strictly separate church and state but where evangelical Protestantism has again and again played a major role in politics.”
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