Category: Michael Wood


The Sacred Way


Michael Wood takes us on a 14 mile journey from Athens to Eleusis on the Sacred Way, an ancient road, followed for over 1000 years by pilgrims on their way to celebrate the Mysteries of Demeter.

This forgotten corner of Greece, now transformed by industrial sprawl, contains clues to the most important pilgrimage of the ancient world. Each year at Eleusis, Demeter was worshipped as the Earth Mother who taught mankind agriculture and continued to guarantee the fertility of the Earth. The rites, it was said, held humanity together. The Roman Cicero, called them “Greece’s greatest gift to the world”.

Each September the pilgrims walked the sacred Way to Eleusis (the names means ‘happy arrival’) to take part in the Mysteries. All participants swore never to reveal what they saw or heard. When the Christians closed the site around 400 AD, the secret died with the last priest. But many clues are left and this film is in part a search for the lost secrets of the Mysteries.

The Sacred Way is a witty and picturesque journey through a forgotten corner of Greece, an exploration of a deep current of human experience and a reflection on an ecological theme of great relevance today.

Wood’s search for the unknowable is fascinating.” – Mail on Sunday


Written & Presented by Michael Wood
Director: Michael Houldey
Producer: Rebecca Dobbs


First broadcast 1991 on Channel 4


Darshan – An Indian Journey


Darshan takes historian Michael Wood on a journey through India, from the spectacular modern developments of Delhi, to the hustle, bustle and poverty of Calcutta and on to the deep South of Tamil Nadu, where the gentle peace of the holy men at the temple at Chidambarum is at one with the lives of the ordinary families there.

Charting the changes that technology has brought to India’s way of life and religion, this film is a personal search for the meanings of the old way when confronted by the new, a process which is happening all over the sub-continent. From the industrial North to the villages in the South, where TV is fast replacing traditional entertainment, there is still the enormously powerful influence of the ancient myths and legends – of Krishna, Kali and Siva – and which interweave their magic everywhere through the rich tapestry of life there.

Michael Wood’s experience of the vivid contrasts and many layers of a culture which is one of the oldest and greatest the world has ever seen takes him through a mixture of emotions as his journey continues until Benares, the holiest city, it resolves ultimately with the strongest impression – that of fascination and wonder at the spectacle that is India.

A glorious Indian travelogue with historian Michael Wood, travelling through a world within a subcontinent of cultures and traditions.” – Today


Written & Presented by Michael Wood
Director: Gerry Troyna
Producer: Rebecca Dobbs


First broadcast 1989 on ITV

Available to watch here on ITV Studio’s YouTube channel


Du Fu: China’s Greatest Poet


Sir Ian McKellen reads the poetry, Michael Wood traces the journey on the ground. Together they conjure up the extraordinary life, times and words of China’s greatest poet, Du Fu.

From the Yellow River to the Yangtze Gorges, and down to the forested hills of Hunan, Michael Wood travels in the footsteps of China’s most-loved poet. Born in 712, the age of Beowulf in Britain, Du Fu lived through the violent fall of China’s brilliant Tang dynasty. As rebel armies sacked the capital, and floods and famine wrecked the country, he was forced to flee, taking his family on the roads as refugees.

But out of these events he produced what Harvard’s Stephen Owen calls ‘the greatest poems in the Chinese language’, words that ever since have been seen as an expression of what it means to be Chinese. ‘There is Dante, there’s Shakespeare, and there’s Du Fu,’ says Owen. ‘These poets create the very standard by which great poetry is judged.’ But though in the east Du Fu is an immortal, in the west, even today, few have even heard of him.

In this film, the first to ever be made about Du Fu in the west, Michael follows his tracks by road, train and riverboat. Along the way, he meets ordinary people, dancers and musicians, who help to tell the amazing story of a poet whose words have resonated through the centuries, describing the experiences of ordinary people caught up in war, corruption, famine and natural disasters. ‘I am one of the privileged. If my life is so bitter, then how much worse is the life of the common people?’

In China, poets have always been seen as the trusted chroniclers of the people’s hearts and the nation’s history. And for the Chinese, Du Fu is ‘more than a poet,’ says Wood. ‘For generations he has been the guardian of the moral conscience of the nation.’


Written & Presented by Michael Wood
Produced & Directed by Rebecca Dobbs
Edited by Aleksandar Nikolic
Featuring Sir Ian McKellen


First broadcast April 2020 on BBC4

BBC website


Ovid: The Poet & The Emperor


Ovid, one of the world’s greatest poets, died 2,000 years ago. His Metamorphoses is the most influential secular book in European literature, and, unique among ancient poets, he also wrote an autobiography, full of riveting intimacy.

Born in Sulmona, Ovid moved to Rome and rose to spectacular fame with his poems about sex, seduction and adultery. By his twenties he was a literary superstar and a thorn in the side of the powerful and puritanical Emperor Augustus. Then in the midst of a sensational scandal involving the Emperor’s daughter, Ovid was banished forever to the farthest edge of the empire. The exact reason is still a mystery, as Ovid put it, ‘my downfall was all because of a poem and a mistake, and on the latter my lips are sealed forever.’

In this film Michael Wood traces Ovid’s footsteps from the beautiful town of Sulmona, to the bright lights of Rome and into exile in Constanta in today’s Romania. The poems, the mystery and Ovid’s immense legacy are discussed with leading experts, while Ovid’s own words are brought to life by Simon Russell Beale.


Written & Presented by Michael Wood
Producer: Rebecca Dobbs
Executive Producer for BBC: Mark Bell
Camera: Peter Harvey
Editor: Aleksandar Nikolic


First broadcast November, 2017 on BBC4

Visit the site →


The Story of China with Michael Wood

BBC Two and PBS’s landmark documentary series, The Story of China, written and presented by historian Michael Wood, explores the history of the world’s oldest continuous state, from the ancient past to the present day.

Home to over a billion people, China is the new superpower, a country we all want to understand now, and Wood argues that to do so we have to look at its history. Travelling across the country he explores the landscapes, peoples, stories and cultures that have helped create China’s distinctive character and genius over more than four thousand years.

Journeying along the Silk Route, down the Grand Canal, and across the plain of the Yellow River, where Chinese civilisation began, Wood meets people from all walks of life, visiting China’s most evocative landscapes and exploring ancient cities like Xian, Nanjing and Hangzhou.

He’ll trace some of the great moments in Chinese history – from their extraordinary voyages of exploration before Columbus, to amazing scientific inventions before the European Renaissance: he’ll even show that the Chinese invented football!

A grand sweep narrative, full of big ideas and unexpected surprises, the series shows how the Chinese created their own distinctive vision of the world: a vision that is still alive in the 21st century and indeed, Wood argues, is the real motor behind the incredible and growing success of China today.


See the extensive PBS official website featuring a comprehensive history of China timeline, dynastic maps, interactive games, photo gallery and a Q&A with Michael.


Written & Presented by:
Michael Wood

Rebecca Dobbs

Executive Producers:
Sally Thomas
Leo Eaton
Martin Davidson

Gerry Branigan
Aleksandar Nikolic
Jullian Rodd

Howard Davidson

Peter Harvey
Jeremy Jeffs
David Tong
Bosie Vincent
Jon Wood
Shi Xu

Mick Duffield

Associate Producer:
Tina Sijiao Li

Susanna Thornton


Broadcast 2016 on BBC2 and 2017 on PBS

The BBC version is available to buy on iTunes, Amazon Prime and DVD

The PBS version is available to buy on Blu-ray & DVD


The Story of India


Michael Wood’s epic journey to uncover the fabulous sights and sounds, the dazzling achievements and the dramatic history of the world’s oldest, richest and most influential civilisation.

From the deserts of Turkmenistan to the Khyber Pass, from war torn Iraq to the palm fringed shores of Kerala, Michael Wood journeys across the Indian subcontinent and beyond to discover a land whose history is almost unimaginably rich and colourful.

When Marco Polo visited India in the thirteenth century, he described the country as ‘the richest province in the world… a land of wonders’. His observation is no less true today.

Everything about India is older, bigger, more colourful, more diverse and more intriguing than anywhere else.

The world’s largest democracy, a nuclear power and a rising economic giant, India is also the world’s most ancient surviving civilization, with unbroken continuity stretching back into prehistory


“One of the best TV documentaries ever made”
The New York Times

(The story of India with) “the knowledgeable,enthusiastic and eternally boyish Michael Wood…this one stands out as a superior product”
The Daily Mail

“Michael Wood loves India. When he starts to tell you about its 10,000-year history, the excitement and passion in his voice is undeniable.”
The Daily Mirror

“Still the gold standard”
The Wall Street Journal

Winner – Accolade Award of Excellence, TV Mini-series
Winner – Accolade Honorable Mention, Cinematography
Winner – Accolade Honorable Mention, Editing


6 X 60 mins for BBC 2/PBS. Producer: Rebecca Dobbs Camera/director: Jeremy Jeffs

First broadcast August 2008.

Video available from Amazon,

Book available here

Watch the trailer

Visit the PBS site →


RSC Transforming our Theatres


‘Nothing much short of a revolution’
Michael Wood introduces a series of DVDs produced for the RSC, showing why they needed to embark on an ‘enormous operation’ to transform their buildings. Starring Judi Dench, David Tennant, Anthony Sher and Greg Doran.


3 X 10 mins for RSC. Director Producer: Rebecca Dobbs


Promotional DVDs and online

View final promo: Six Years On


Gilbert White: The Nature Man


A delightful, visually hypnotic biography of an 18th century country curate.  With just one book, “The Natural History Of Selborne,” Gilbert White encouraged generations to appreciate nature in a different, more profound way.  With biographer, Richard Mabey, Michael Wood travels through White’s world, from the bucolic landscape of Hampshire to the grand intellectual societies of London and shows how White created his gentle, ecological revolution.


1 X 60 mins for BBC 4 as part a season focusing on the 18th Century.

Director Producer: Rebecca Dobbs


First broadcast 28th June 2006 on BBC4


Shakespeare’s Mother: The Secret Life of a Tudor Woman


In Shakespeare’s Mother: The Secret Life of a Tudor Woman, Michael Wood tells the extraordinary story of an ordinary woman in a time of revolution. Born under Henry VIII, Mary Arden is the daughter of a Warwickshire farmer, but she marries into a new life in the rising Tudor middle class in Stratford upon Avon. There she has eight children, three of whom die young. Her husband becomes mayor but is  bankrupted by his shady business dealings. Faced with financial ruin, religious persecution, and power politics, the family is the glue that keeps them together until they are rescued by Mary’s  successful eldest son – William Shakespeare!

Using local documents and government archives, wills and inventories, and  even a report from an Elizabethan informer, Michael Wood reconstructs Mary’s story: the youngest of  eight sisters, who married an illiterate but ambitious glover John Shakespeare. John rose in the world to become a well-off middle class entrepreneur, and finally mayor of Stratford, before his shady business activities brought their world crashing down and bankrupted the family. It would be Mary’s eldest son who restored the family’s fortunes with the money from his box office hits.

The film also looks at women’s work, and at the role a Tudor mother played in the raising and education of her children. Could she read and write? Did she teach her kids to read?  What part might she have had in shaping  her son’s creative imagination? Mary’s story is dramatic, with its tales of bankruptcy, family feuds, political plots and  religious persecution.  Its the glittering Tudor world viewed from below, from a small provincial town:  a window onto an age of fantastic wealth, riches and cultural achievement, through whose storms Mary steered her family, in the process raising the world’s most famous poet.


“A fascinating portrait”

The Sunday Times

“A pleasureable odyssey” 

The Telegraph

“An entertaining way of looking at an era that has us more than ever in it’s thrall”

The Guardian


1 X 60 mins for BBC 4. Producer: Rebecca Dobbs Writer and Presenter: Michael Wood

First broadcast 12th February 2015

Visit the site →


Christina: A Medieval Woman


Michael Wood presents a fascinating portrait of ordinary people living through extraordinary times, tracing the life of a real-life peasant of 14th century Hertfordshire.

She wasn’t a famous person, or of noble blood, yet Christina’s story is important in understanding our own roots.

In this time of war, famine, floods, climate change and the Black Death, which would claim the lives of half the population, are the beginnings of the end of serfdom, the growth of individual freedom and the start of a market economy.


1 x 60 mins BBC4. Producer and Director: Rebecca Dobbs  Editor: Gerry Branigan. Composer: Howard Davidson


First Broadcast on BBC4 5th May 2008