Second Decade

A historical show examining the fascinating events and people of the second decade of the 19th century (the 1810s), hosted by historian Sean Munger.
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Now displaying: April, 2017
Apr 23, 2017

Since the beginning of film as a narrative and artistic medium, historical events and eras have been popular subjects for filmmakers. The decade of the 1810s, however, has not tended to show up in movies or on TV as frequently or consistently as other eras—but there are still plenty of examples of the second decade on film. Beginning in the 1920s with French filmmaker Abel Gance, depictions of the 1810s, many involving Napoleon or adaptations of popular and classic novels, have woven their way through the history of visual media with varying results. From Miriam Hopkins’s Technicolor turn as Becky Sharp in 1935 to Paul Dano as Pierre Bezhukov in the 2016 miniseries War and Peace, the analysis of the second decade in film covers a lot of fun and interesting ground.

In this episode, a slight departure from the usual emphasis on factual events, historian Sean Munger takes you on a brief tour of the 1810s as they appear on the screen. Films and shows discussed include Ridley Scott’s The Duellists, the 2002 European-made Napoleon miniseries, the classic 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, as well as lesser-known (and less historically serious) efforts like Woody Allen’s Love and Death or the whimsical sendup Lost in Austen. If you’re a fan of the period and you’d like to see it on screen, this episode may give you some new items to add to your Netflix list!

At the website for this episode, you can view YouTube videos for trailers and/or scenes from all the films and shows discussed here.

Correction: in the episode, actress Jennifer Ehle is incorrectly identified as “Elizabeth Ehle.” My apologies to Ms. Ehle.

(Some background music for this episode licensed CC3.0 by Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston).

Apr 9, 2017

Despite being one of the longest-reigning British monarchs as well as wildly popular among his own people, King George III gets a bad rap as the “mad king who lost America.” In truth the story of George’s life is touching and sad. After dealing with not one but two world wars that occurred on his watch, as well as two world-shaking revolutions in America and France, George was ultimately felled by a mysterious illness that affected his body as well as his mind. Signs of his recurring malady appeared as early as 1765, but in 1810, the beginning of the second decade, the King was finally unable to discharge his royal duties. Supplanted by his son (the future King George IV) as regent, George’s illness ended an entire era of British history, the Georgian Era, and began another, the Regency. But this is more than a story of politics and power. It’s a story of a family, struggling to deal with the far-reaching effects of a difficult and ultimately tragic illness whose nature and origin is still debated more than 200 years later.

Historian Sean Munger shines a light on the personal and family stories of King George and the British royals during the 1810s, including eyewitness accounts of the King’s condition and his often curious behavior. In this episode you’ll be thrust into the midst of several acrimonious royal family disputes, you’ll learn to fear the King’s doctors and their straitjackets, and you’ll find out why a blue-stained chamber pot is such a contentious historical artifact. At the end of it you may even have a bit of sympathy for old George and his long-suffering family. Far from being “the mad king,” George III emerges as a historical personality who must be judged on his own terms.

(Some background music for this episode licensed CC3.0 by Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston).

For additional materials about this episode, visit the website!