In 2002, the BBC ran a campaign to find the Greatest Briton. 20 years on, we have commissioned academics from Durham University to champion ‘great Britons’ they feel have been overlooked by history. From a a significant and overlooked Black poet and Durham alumni to a pioneering domestic abuse activist from the 19th century, these short talks from leading researchers aim to shine a light on forgotten figures from history.
The New Great Britons is a partnership project with Durham University’s Dr Natalie Mears. Natalie Mears’s research re-evaluates the representation of Elizabeth I, voted 7th Greatest Briton in the BBC’s campaign in 2002 and only one of two women in the top ten. Using insights from the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements, she shifts focus to foreground narratives by ‘outsiders’ — Catholics, women, LGBTQ, and working-class historians, writers, artists, and producers — and exposes how the, at times profound, influence they exerted on popular consciousness was deliberately silenced by elite, educated, white, protestant men who sought to control and exploit Elizabeth’s image for their own political and cultural purposes.
The four videos will be available to watch for free from Monday 10 October
The New Great Britons project will also include a panel event live at Durham Book Festival, featuring authors Richard O’Neill and Ashley Hickson-Lovence.