A price is being paid by the viewer for the current cult of youth and beauty in academic TV presenters. But those presenters who do bypass this hurdle have to be very good indeed. And Robert Bartlett is one of those few. One guesses that his teaching skills have been honed by long experience. They are not though easy to describe and even less easy to replicate. Attention-grabbing but sound generalisations and orientations throughout which cannot be misunderstood and anticipate a listener's reasonable questions are at least a part of it.
Understanding the thinking in a very distant era is difficult enough, making it intelligible to others is yet another order of difficulty. It is too easy to describe the extremely strange - and separately the extremely familiar and universal aspects of human life - and to leave it at that. What is difficult is to integrate them as they would have been to the historical individuals, retaining full respect for their intelligence as being no less than our own. This is often the fate historians of science as they reverse back into the medieval world particularly that of alchemy, viewing it as a very poor version of modern science, (and the individuals as very poor versions of modern scientists).
Bartlett has a brisk matter-of-fact approach which I think springs both from courage as well as confidence in his scholarship. In one hour he traverses and links different periods, fields and outstanding historical figures. Television allows his words to be accompanied by creative and helpful images. His words however are worthy of being carved into stone tablets.
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