BBC presents special ‘black history’ episode of semi-educational kids show

The special bank holiday edition of the BBC’s Horrible Histories children series will be dedicated to Britain’s ‘black history’ after the show’s creators said they felt the need to “reevaluate” the nation’s ethnic history in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and the tearing down of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol. 

The Telegraph reports that the long-running comedy/history series, adapted from Terry Deary’s beloved kids books have already probed Britain’s racial history with a punchy take on colonialism, but has decided to go further with a special edition.


The opening sketch to illustrate Britain had a black population “from the start” features Hadrian’s Wall being manned by African troops in the 3rd Century AD.

However, auxiliary (foreign) troops serving in Britannia would have come from North Africa, and would not have been black. For one thing, the empire beyond Rome, where most Roman soldiers came from, did not stretch into sub-Saharan Africa. And Romans were a racist bunch too. Roman chronicle, The Historia Augusta notes Emperor Septimius Severus was ‘disgusted’ when offered a black slave to sacrifice.

Winding back further, the episode explores pre-historic Britain’s dark-skinned people going back 10,000 years, “before these isles were British”. The Cheddar Man acts as a reference point and is thought not to have been white. Other topics include: Dark Age churchmen, Tudor servants, the Sons Of Africa abolitionist group, and soldiers during the Second World War.

“We take our lead from what we think our young audience will want to know, what’s on their minds, and what they’re hearing about,” said Richard Bradly, Horrible Histories’ creative lead.  

“When we started out we had no idea of the responsibility we would end up having. There is an onus on us to get it right.”


The CBBC show had previously tackled the Civil Rights Movement, but Bradley wanted to “go deeper”. He insists Britain has “always been a country with many races and ethnicities” and added that the decision to make a special black history edition was promoted by the “express demand” of teachers.

He added: “We take our lead from what we think our young audience will want to know, what’s on their minds, and what they’re hearing about.

“When we started out we had no idea of the responsibility we would end up having. There is an onus on us to get it right.”

Horrible Histories came in for a shellacking for its earlier crack at presenting British History from a woke perspective. A song on colonialism described sugar, tea and cotton as “British things” that actually came “from abroad” and were “frankly stolen”. Somehow, Queen Victoria was listed as one of these commodities.

Bradley took a bold line of defence, comparing his pandering programming to British comedy classics.  

“Horrible Histories is one of the most British of things,” he said. “It’s in the tradition of Blackadder and Monty Python. And going back to 1066 And All That. We engage with our history and we laugh at our history.”

The creators may laugh, but will anyone else.