Britain's Outlaws: Highwaymen, Pirates and Rogues

Knights of the Road: The Highwayman's Story

Series 1 - Episode 1 Knights of the Road: The Highwayman's Story

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Review

A man walks through forest, across moorland and heath; he dons periwig and tricorn; he fires a flintlock. Yes, it’s a historical documentary and presenter Dr Sam Willis sticks to the tried-and-tested formula of walking and talking, dressing up, and having a go at things.

But his subject is a fascinating one: the rise of the highwayman in the 17th and 18th centuries. These violent criminals became romanticised folk heroes even in their own lifetimes and Willis wants to find out why. Along the way he exposes the true story of Dick Turpin. Forget Carry On Dick; he was more like a brutal thug from a Tarantino film.

Summary

Historian Sam Willis explores the criminal underworld of Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries, beginning with the arrival of the highwayman in the wake of the English Civil War. Heavily romanticised in literature, these glamorous gangsters became a social menace on the roads and a political thorn in the side of the creaking British state, but a far darker reality lay underneath the dashing image of stylish robbers on horseback.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Sam Willis
Director Andy Hall
Producer Andy Hall
Documentary History