Michael Wood is the writer and presenter of many critically acclaimed series on television, including “Art of the Western World,” “Legacy,” “In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great” (1998) and “Conquistadors” (2000). He is author of over 70 TV films, which have been shown worldwide, and of several best-selling books.
He was educated at Manchester Grammar School and Oriel College, Oxford, where he did postgraduate research in Anglo-Saxon history. Since then he has worked as a journalist, broadcaster, historian and filmmaker. His films have centered on history, but have included travel -- “Great Railway Journeys of the World” (1982); the BAFTA-winning “Great River Journeys” (1984); “The Sacred Way” (1990)); politics -- “Saddam’s Killing Fields” (1991), an award-winning account of the destruction of the Marsh Arabs of South Iraq, and cultural history -- the award winning “Hitler’s Search for the Holy Grail,” (1999): a study of the abuse of history and archaeology under the Nazis. “Conquistadors” (2000) followed four epic journeys during the Spanish Conquest of the New World and came top in The Guardian's 'Review of Reviews' for the year 2000/1.
Among Michael Wood’s special interests, Greece has always figured prominently. He has made 15 films in Greece and among his publications are the number one bestsellers, “In Search of the Trojan War” (on the archaeology of Homer and the Bronze Age) and “In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great.” These books have been translated into a number of European languages, including Greek. Indian civilization has also long been a special interest: Over the years Michael Wood has made a dozen visits to India, and in addition to his films “Darshan” and “Legacy,” he has written The Smile of Murugan (John Murray), about a small town in Tamil Nadu and its annual pilgrimage. He is also a contributor to “Chidambarnm and Naturaja,” a series of essays on the cult of Shiva in South India (Marg, Bombay, 2004).
His academic background was in early medieval English history; among his publications in this area are In Search of the Dark Ages and Domesday. (both No. 1 best sellers in the UK) He was also a contributor to Ideal and Reality in Frankish and Anglo-Saxon Society (Blackwell 1983). He lectured recently at academic conferences on Anglo-Saxon history in London and Kalamazoo, and is a contributor to Lay Intellectuals in Early Medieval Europe (Cambridge UP 2005).
Recently, he published a series of medieval essays concerned with English identity: In Search of England. (Viking and University of California Press). Of this book, The Times Literary Supplement said: “Better than any historian for decades, Wood brings home not just the ways in which buildings, landscapes and written texts may be read, but the sensual beauty of encounters with them.”
Wood has had a lifelong interest in Shakespeare. As a student he toured the US with Shakespeare, working with directors such as Richard Cotterell and Jonathan Miller. He made three films for the BBC about the history plays, and contributed to Shakespeare in Perspective (1985). His controversial series “In Search of Shakespeare” (BBC/PBS 2003) was the first TV documentary life of Shakespeare. Of the book that accompanies the series, academic Jonathan Bate wrote in the Sunday Telegraph, “It is a great pleasure to report that, thanks to the author's gifts as story-teller, populariser and interpreter of the past, Shakespeare's world is brought alive more vividly than in any other biography of him that I have read.”
His latest BBC/PBS project,, “In Search of Myths & Heroes” (2005), explores iconic global myths and uncovers not only why legends were created but how they have been used, both politically and culturally, over the years -- and why we still need them today.
Wood was elected a fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 2001. He lives in North London with his wife and two daughters.