New OU/BBC 4-part series ‘The Ascent of Woman: A 10,000 year story’

New OU/BBC 4-part series ‘The Ascent of Woman: A 10,000 year story’, Weds 2 Sept, BBC2 at 21:00 (BBC2 Scotland at 23:15).

Dr. Amanda Foreman presents an unprecedented series that 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. Dr Catherine Lee (History) was academic consultant for the series

Episode One: Amanda visits the archaeological site of Catalhöyük, in Anatolia; she explores the world’s first law codes written in Mesopotamia regulating women’s status and behavior, including the world’s first known veiling law dating from 1350BC, two millennia before the advent of Islam. Across the Near East, she uncovers a group of extraordinary women who created their own routes to power: Enheduanna, the world’s first recorded author; the Ukok Ice Maiden, one of the great archaeological discoveries of the 20th century; Hatshepsut, one of ancient Egypt’s most successful, but most maligned ruling Queens and explores the darker legacy of gender inequality in ancient Greece.

Episode Two: Amanda travels to Vietnam, China and Japan, as she explores the role of women in Asia under the philosophy religions of Confucianism and Buddhism. From the 1st century AD to the present day, 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, they have cast a long shadow across women’s lives not just in China but across the whole of Asia.

Episode Three: looks at the women who operated from within the Medieval systems of religion, law, marriage and education to create their own routes to power: from Empress Theodora, Empress and co – ruler of the Eastern Orthodox Church; to 12th century German writer and visionary Hildegard of Bingen; from Christine de Pizan, the first woman to write in defense of women’s rights to Roxelana, a former slave who changed the structure of sexual dynastic politics in the Ottoman Court and Mughal Empress Nur Jahan, who helped establish trade routes and pioneered the visual aesthetic of India.

Episode Four: looks at the role of women in revolutions that have transformed the modern world: from political uprisings to reproductive rights. Through the lives of women like the French revolutionary writer Olympe De Gouges, Bolshevik radical Alexandra Kollontai , American activist Margaret Sanger, who coined the term ‘birth control’ and developed the pill. From what’s been called the ‘Arab spring’ to grass roots women’s movements in Africa and interviews with African women active in democratic politics.

OpenLearn has extensive content in connection with the programmes subject areas. For more information go to (content may not be available before the date of broadcast).

A booklet of postcards accompanies the series and can be obtained through or by calling 0300 303 0265.

About ouartsfaculty

The Arts Faculty of The Open University is a world leader in supported Open Learning, and one of the best institutions in the world for arts and humanities. You can follow us on Twitter @OUArtsFaculty and on Facebook.
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