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  4. The Ascent of Woman: A 10,000 Year Story

The Ascent of Woman: A 10,000 Year Story

Programme Run: 4 x 60 minutes
Production: Silver Rivver / BBC
First Transmitted: 2015 HD available

Dr. Amanda Foreman’s unprecedented series traverses countries and continents to uncover key stories of women that have made and changed human history from 10,000 BC to the present day. ​ 

 Our preview videos are intended for broadcasters looking to licence content from the Open University. 


Civilisation has given us extraordinary advances – from codes of law and commerce to science and art. But what does it look like from the point of view of women? Travelling from the nomadic worlds of the Eurasian Steppes to the early civilisations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Ancient Greece and Rome, in this film Dr. Amanda Foreman explores how early societies dealt with the roles and status of women and in so doing, she asks some profound questions about the legacy that they have left behind. 


Travelling to Vietnam, China and Japan, Dr. Amanda Foreman explores the role of women in Asia under the philosophy religions of Confucianism and Buddhism. The film covers a huge range: from the 1st century AD to the present day as Amanda looks at how Asian ideals of feminine virtue and the division of space between the female world of the home and male world of business and politics became a hallmark of Chinese identity. As part of the Confucian philosophy, including yin and yang, they have cast a long shadow across women’s lives not just in China but across the whole of Asia.


Dr. Amanda Foreman travels to Istanbul, Germany, Paris and Delhi to explore the stories of women behind some of the most powerful empires of the Middle Ages. From 6th century Byzantium to Medieval Europe, the Ottoman Court to the Mughal Empire, Amanda looks behind the male dominated perceptions of these empires to reveal the strength of women at the heart of power and influence.


In this final film, Dr. Amanda Foreman looks at the role of women in revolutions that have transformed the modern world: from political uprisings to reproductive rights. Amanda discovers through women like campaigner and writer Olympe De Gouges that the French Revolution’s promise of equality, liberty and brotherhood would be limited to men; Bolshevik radical Alexandra Kollontai would find that while her fellow Russian Revolutionaries may have put women’s rights at the forefront of ideological change, the post-revolutionary world would be as rife with gender bias as the societies they’d helped transform.


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