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Michael Wood (historian)

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Michael Wood
Wood in 2013
Michael David Wood

(1948-07-23) 23 July 1948 (age 75)
EducationManchester Grammar School
Alma materOriel College, University of Oxford (B A.)
Occupation(s)Historian, broadcaster, documentary filmmaker
Notable workIn Search of the Dark Ages (1979)
Great Railway Journeys (1980)
In Search of the Trojan War (1985)
In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great (1998)
The Story of India (2007)
In Search of Beowulf (2009)
The Story of England (2010)
The Story of China (2016)

Michael David Wood, OBE FSA (born 23 July 1948) is an English historian and broadcaster. He has presented numerous well-known television documentary series from the late 1970s to the present day. Wood has also written a number of books on English history, including In Search of the Dark Ages, The Domesday Quest, The Story of England, and In Search of Shakespeare.[1][2] He was appointed Professor of Public History at the University of Manchester in 2013.

Early life and education


Wood was born in Moss Side, Manchester, England. He attended Heald Place Primary School in Rusholme. When he was eight, his family moved to Paulden Avenue, Wythenshawe, where he could see historic Baguley Hall from his bedroom window. He went to Benchill Primary School. At Manchester Grammar School, he developed an interest in theatre, playing Grusha in the first British amateur production of Brecht's The Caucasian Chalk Circle and later Hamlet in Shakespeare's Hamlet. He took A-levels in English, French and History.[3]

Wood studied history and English at Oriel College, Oxford, touring the United States for six weeks in his final year, and graduated with a second-class Bachelor of Arts degree. Later, he undertook postgraduate research in Anglo-Saxon history at Oriel. Three years into his research for a DPhil, he left to become a journalist with ITV.[1][3]



In the 1970s, Wood worked for the BBC in Manchester. He was first a reporter and then an assistant producer on current affairs programmes before returning to his love of history with his 1979–81 series In Search of the Dark Ages for BBC2.[4] He quickly became popular with female viewers for his blond good looks (he was humorously dubbed "the thinking woman's crumpet" by British newspapers), his deep voice and his habit of wearing tight jeans and a sheepskin jacket.[5] Wood's work is also well known in the United States, where it receives much airplay on PBS and on various cable television networks. The series Legacy (1992) is one of his more frequently broadcast documentaries on US television.

Since 1990, Wood has been a director of independent television production company Maya Vision International. In 2006, he joined the British School of Archaeology in Iraq campaign, the aim of which was to train and encourage new Iraqi archaeologists, and he has lectured on the subject.[6] In 2013, Wood joined the University of Manchester as Professor of Public History.[7]

Wood favours returning artefacts looted during the age of imperialism. He has publicly supported moving the Elgin Marbles from the British Museum back to Attica.[8]

Personal life


His girlfriend for ten years, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, was the journalist and broadcaster Pattie Coldwell.[9][10] He currently lives in north London with his wife, television producer Rebecca Ysabel Dobbs, and two daughters, Minakshi and Jyoti.[11]

Honours and recognition


Wood was a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society[1] until 2007.[12][13] In 2009, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Arts by Sunderland University.[14] This was followed by the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters by the University of Leicester in 2011 and in 2015 he was awarded the President's Medal by the British Academy.[15]

Having previously been President of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society, in 2017 he accepted the position of Honorary Life Vice President, offered in recognition of his work on the documentary series Michael Wood's Story of England.[16] Wood is currently the president of the Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding, an organization founded in 1965 to promote understanding and friendship between the British and the Chinese people.

Wood was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 2008.[17]

Wood was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2021 New Year Honours for services to public history and broadcasting.[18]

BAFTA-winning broadcaster David Olusoga has said that he was inspired as a teenager to become a historian by having watched Wood on television.[19]

Television series



  • Darshan: An Indian Journey (1989)
  • Traveller's Tales: The Sacred Way (1991)
  • Saddam's Killing Fields (1993)
  • Secret History: Hitler's Search for the Holy Grail (1999)
  • Gilbert White: Nature Man (2006)
  • Christina: A Medieval Life (2008)
  • Alexander's Greatest Battle (2009)
  • Shakespeare's Mother; The Secret Life of a Tudor Woman (2015)
  • Ovid: The Poet and the Emperor (2017)
  • How China Got Rich (2019)
  • Du Fu: China's Greatest Poet (2020)


  • In Search of the Dark Ages (BBC Books, 1981)
  • In Search of the Trojan War (1985)
  • Domesday: A Search for the Roots of England (1988)
  • Legacy: A Search for the Origins of Civilization (1992), London: Network Books/BBCbooks/London BCA.
  • The Smile of Murugan: A South Indian Journey (1995)
  • In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great (1997)
  • In Search of England: Journeys into the English Past (1999)
  • Conquistadors (2000)
  • In Search of Shakespeare (2003)
  • In Search of Myths and Heroes (2005)
  • India: An Epic Journey Across the Subcontinent (2007)
  • The Story of England (2010)
  • The Story of China (2020)
  • China's Greatest Poet: In the Footsteps of Du Fu (2023)


  1. ^ a b c Michael Wood Biography Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).
  2. ^ Michael Wood visits the HP Visual and Spatial Technology Centre Archived 20 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine The Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity, University of Birmingham.
  3. ^ a b Jonathan Sale, "Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Michael Wood, television historian", The Independent, 30 August 2007.
  4. ^ In Search of the Dark Ages (Revised Edition, 2001).
  5. ^ Andrew Davies (17 November 2003). "The cudgels are out". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  6. ^ "Archaeology News : Iraq: Michael Wood lecture at British Museum". The Institute of Field Archaeologists article. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 3 April 2007.
  7. ^ "People's historian becomes Manchester Professor | The University of Manchester". manchester.ac.uk. Retrieved 20 September 2014.
  8. ^ "Michael Wood on the future of the Parthenon Sculptures". HistoryExtra. 4 January 2022. Retrieved 18 September 2023.
  9. ^ Pattie Coldwell: Courageous crusader, BBC News, 18 October 2002
  10. ^ Anthony Hayward, Pattie Coldwell: Obituary, The Independent, 19 October 2002
  11. ^ My Favourite Things: Michael Wood, Daily Express, 4 July 2008 [dead link]
  12. ^ According to Sue Carr, Executive Secretary of the Royal Historical Society Michael Wood ceased to be a Fellow of the RHS in 2007.
  13. ^ "Fellows of the Royal Historical Society". Royal Historical Society. 2012. Archived from the original on 27 August 2012. Retrieved 20 July 2012.
  14. ^ Celebs awarded honorary degrees Shields Gazette, 17 July 2009.
  15. ^ "The British Academy President's Medal". British Academy. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  16. ^ Minutes of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society committee meeting (3 May 2017).
  17. ^ "Mr Michael Wood". Society of Antiquaries of London. Retrieved 4 January 2022.
  18. ^ "No. 63218". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2020. p. N15.
  19. ^ Nadia Khomami (19 November 2022). "David Olusoga to receive Bafta special award for contribution to TV". The Guardian.