Tony Robinson's Gods and Monsters

The Undead

Series 1 - Episode 1 The Undead



“It’s like a Hammer horror, isn’t it?” says Tony Robinson as he hears a tale of medieval corpse mutilation. Yes, and so is his programme, which takes a macabre romp through various beliefs and fears that, Robinson argues — more than Christianity — “really built Britain”.

The most surprising section comes when he looks at medicinal cannibalism, the practice of taking preparations of, say, pulverised skull to improve your health — a favourite of Charles II, apparently. In places, we’re told, it was common for the sick to attend public executions, not just to see the blood, but to drink it.


Tony Robinson continues to explore the history of belief, superstition and religious experience in Britain. In this edition, he focuses on the human fascination with the terror of dead bodies, examining why people in the past thought they could rise from the grave to cause havoc among the living. During his investigation he encounters stories of a plague-breathing zombie and monarchs who ate the remains of their subjects.