This prelude to the series covers the 4,000 years that precede the Battle of Hastings.
Ancient Briton was a thriving region. The Romans considered the region one of wealth and prestige, and many of the British chieftains were quick to adopt Roman ways and accept their rule; the province was defined with the building of Hadrian's Wall.
When the Romans departed 400 years later, they left a dream of unity; Alfred accepted the challenge of forging a kingdom and repelling the Vikings from a kingdom, a kingdom eventually shattered by the Normans.
In the nine hours which it took to fight the Battle of Hastings, everything changed. Anglo-Saxon England became Norman and its fate was decided.
Harold was quashing his brother Tostig's forces when the French threat arrived. He had to race 187 miles south and drag his exhausted army down Senlac Hill to face attack from William's cavalry and archers.
On Christmas Day 1066, William became King of England, England became part of an Anglo-Norman Empire and the Domesday Book was commissioned; William thus became 'the first database king'.
In the years that followed 1066, the Angevin dynasty overcame, Schama says, 'the legacy of the Conquest: chaos, carnage, famine and extortion'.
At its heart was Henry II, who laid the foundations for the systems of laws and civil service that we live under today, although he is best remembered for ordering the murder of Thomas Becket, Britain's most powerful martyr.
Of Henry's four sons, two came to the throne. Richard the Lionheart, who declared war on his father and was arrested on crusade, and John, whose failure encouraged his Barons to publish the Magna Carta.
Out of attempts to take away their national identity, the Welsh, Scots and Irish found their voices and expressed their declarations of independence in the face of Edward I's relentless ambition.
The Scots took war to their English neighbours and invited their Irish brothers to rise up against their English overlords, resulting in years of bloodletting across Ireland.
As first the Welsh and then the Scots fell under his hammer, Edward I developed a system of empire building not seen since Roman times.
Far from uniting the country, Charles I's belief in the Divine Right of Kings divided the fragile elements of his realm.
From the Scottish prayer book riots through tax rebellions and parliamentary demands, three quarters of a million lives would eventually be lost in the struggles of Crown and Parliament, cavalier and roundhead, English fighting Scots, Welsh and Irish.
At the end, there would be a united Britain but it would not be a united kingdom; it would be a united republic.
This is the story of the Black Death - a squalid disease that killed within a week and a national trauma that utterly transformed Britain.
The class of survivors created a country of higher wages and peasants with a determined sense of their own worth, farmers and traders who formed the backbone of the Peasants' Revolt.
Richard II's attempts to quell the revolt sealed his fate as his crown is seized by Henry Bolingbroke, whose descendants pitched England into twenty years of the Wars of the Roses.
This is the story of two queens: Elizabeth - pragmatic, shrewd and cautious - and Mary Queen of Scots - Elizabeth's tragic opposite and the focus of an intrigue that haunted the English queen.
Elizabeth knew that to be a female ruler would be hard, but in a scheming Catholic world, harder still. When Mary fled to England, she found herself imprisoned, and freed only to be executed at Elizabeth's order.
Elizabeth weathered the storms of plots, religious intrigue and the Spanish Armada; her legacy was Magnae Britanniae - Great Britain.
A need for an heir and a desire for divorce led Henry to reject Rome and assert himself as head of the Church in England. This one event triggered the English Reformation.
England's Catholic past was discarded in just a few decades. 1536 and 1538 saw the uprooting of 10,000 monks, the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the redistribution of their wealth.
Henry's children saw the Reformation take root, as Edward VI introduced the Book of Common Prayer and Elizabeth succeeded in making Protestantism and patriotism one and the same.
In the aftermath of Civil War, Britain was a kingless republic led by Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell ruled with an iron hand; when Parliament dared defy him, he marched in and closed it down. He ruled as king in all but name, with his Major Generals imposing Godly Puritan rule on the counties.
The anarchy that prevailed at his death led to the Restoration of Charles II, who survived the Great Fire and a dynastic crisis triggered by anti-Catholic paranoia. James II's Catholic fervour threatened to trigger another revolution; he was deposed by the troops of the Dutch King William.
Britain never had the kind of revolution France experienced in 1789, but came close to it. This programme explains how 'the romantic generation' discovered the politics of sympathy with the common man.
Nature was turned into a revolutionary idea by radicals and poets like Thomas Paine and William Wordsworth, and events across the channel following the fall of the Bastille initially seemed to point a way forward for Britain.
But when the terrifying reality of the French Revolution set in, nature was recruited by the patriots.
Queen Victoria came to the throne at the tender age of eighteen, to rule over a country in the throes of a painful but supercharged industrial transformation.
Chaos and revolution had been predicted by both socialists and traditionalists but in fact family life provided a bedrock of stability.