How To Run Europe

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Episodes

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01Rebellious Britannia: Rome's Northern Flank20130415

In the first of three programmes, Anne McElvoy explores the challenges of governing the peoples of Europe across three of the continent's great empires...and the parallels today. To begin the series, Anne looks at the Roman era, when Colchester was the capital of Britannia. With the help of Roman expert Professor Catharine Edwards of Birkbeck, University of London, she discovers how hard it was for Rome to exercise control over its most northerly province.

Roman Britain was a fringe state on a vast empire; conquered late it was initially hard to run. The story of its rebellion and subsequent assimilation into the Roman Empire tells us the story of an experiment into a new kind of rule and governance; running a province was a balancing act between local custom and the idea of being part of a greater whole.

Producers Vicki Perrin and Simon Elmes

In the next weeks: Charlemagne and the empire of faith, and Napoleon sets the European standard.

02Charlemagne - Holy Roman Conqueror20130422

In the second of three programmes, Anne McElvoy explores the challenges of governing the peoples of Europe across three of the continent's great empires...and the parallels today.

The second leg of Anne's journey through Europe takes her to Aachen in Germany. Aachen today lies at a crossroads of the continent, a mile or two from both modern-day Belgium and the Netherlands; once it was, as Aix-la-Chapelle, part of France. And in the late 700s AD it was the capital of Europe, of the Holy Roman Empire founded by the Emperor Charles 1st, Karolus Magnus, better known as Charlemagne.

Anne McElvoy is joined in Aachen by Professor Rosamond McKitterick of Cambridge University to visit the Palatine chapel, all that remains of Charles's imperial palace and containing the rough-hewn stone throne of the Carolingian Emperors. There too they explore how Charlemagne managed to run his vast empire, and discover whether some of the challenges faced by those today whose job it is to bring Europe together had parallels twelve hundred years ago.

Hymned in literature's Song of Roland as the hero of the battle of Roncevalles, Charlemagne had dominion far from his own lands of Austrasia, of which Aachen was the capital. Stretching from Aquitaine in the west, to the Spanish Marches in the south and as far south east as Rome, his conquests gave him a formidable empire, united by Charlemagne's Christian faith - he was Holy Roman Emperor, crowned by the Pope - by learning and culture which he encouraged, and by Carolingian coinage. So to what extent do these unifying characteristics from 800AD have equivalents in the Europe of Angela Merkel, David Cameron and the euro-crisis?

Producers Simon Elmes and Georgia Catt.

03 LASTNapoleon's Way20130429

In the last of three programmes, Anne McElvoy explores the challenges of governing the peoples of Europe across three of the continent's great empires...and the parallels today. To conclude the series, Anne is in Brussels and Paris to explore the empire of Napoleon Bonaparte.

The Arc de Triomphe, symbol of Napoleon's power and victorious military exploits, stands proudly at the heart of Paris, the centre of the Corsican-born French Emperor's vast territory. At its peak, France's First Empire comprised 130 departements, from the Bouches de l'Elbe near Hamburg to the Bouches de l'Ebre in northern Spain and Rome in the south-east. Joining Anne at the Arc de Triomphe is Professor Michael Broers of Oxford University and together, at the Fondation Napoleon and at the Conseil d'Etat, still France's focus of executive legal power, they unpick the complexities of governing a huge and disparate empire.

Famed for his administrative and legal reforms, the Code Napoleon, the French emperor has bequeathed a legacy of standardisation that remains today the model not only in France but - in different guises - across the continent he once bestrode. But how did he achieve it, and were the challenges he faced in bringing 'harmonisation' to Europe in any way analogous to the frustrations of 'straight bananas' and the like that annoy so many today?

Producers Simon Elmes and Georgia Catt.