Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Brookes historian lends expertise to BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

David Nash, Professor in History at Oxford Brookes University will be appearing in tomorrow’s episode of BBC 1 series Who Do you Think You Are? (Thursday 17 September). The popular genealogy programme follows celebrities as they trace their ancestry, discovering secrets and surprises from their past. Tomorrow night’s episode is with BAFTA Award-nominated actress Anne Reid, MBE. The 80 year-old from Newcastle upon Tyne has is best known for her roles as Valerie Barlow in Coronation Street, Jean in Dinnerladies and Celia Dawson in Last Tango in Halifax. Anne was close to her father but knows very little about his family; with only a few clues to go on, the name of a house in Scotland and a family story that her father's side wereministers in the church, her journey begins. With the help of Professor Nash, she soon discovers more about her great-great-grandfather John Reid, who was not a minister, but a schoolteacher in Fife who committed forgery on the side. When his forgeries landed him in the dock, his punishment was transportation to Tasmania on a convict ship. An expert on nineteenth and twentieth century British history, particularly crime and punishment in this era, Professor Nash found delving into Anne’s family tree particularly intriguing, he said: “It was very exciting to engage with a real story that tells you about the nature of nineteenth century petty crime and how a shady part of the commercial system operated. Anne’s ancestor was doing what several others were probably doing at the time, but he was unlucky enough to get caught. “I also liked the fact that it was a global story which connected Scotland with Tasmania and reflected the wider history of those who, like her great-great grandfather were forced to take their lives across the world to atone for what they had done.
It’s my passion and my job to explain history to people and to see the fascination and delight in their eyes when they make a real connection with something. Being filmed on camera came rather easy because the story was so intriguing and Anne herself was a fascinated and enthralled audience who cared deeply about her ancestor.
The episode airs tomorrow on BBC 1 at 9.00pm. Clips from the episode and more information about the series can be found on the BBC website. Join in the conversation on Twitter at #WDYTYA.David teaches and researches in the Department of History, Philosophy and Religion at Oxford Brookes. He is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and an officer of the Social History Society of Great Britain.