Home Television Drama History Man, The

History Man, The

1 9 8 1 (UK)
2 x 60 minute episodes
1 x 50 minute episode
1 x 56 minute episode

The History Man was based on Professor Malcolm Bradbury’s cynical, satirical novel about a trendy 1970s Marxist lecturer, and featured some of the longest and most daring nude scenes to date.

Antony Sher played philandering and scheming Zapata-moustached sociology lecturer Howard Kirk, marking his students’ papers according to how left-wing they professed to be and bedding almost every female at the (fictitious) University of Watermouth.


Geraldine James was tremendously affecting as Barbara, his sad, disenchanted wife. They had an ‘open’ marriage, but it was clear that she felt it was wearing thin; Howard made himself less and less available as the number of his dalliances increased (usually accompanied, appropriately enough, to an aria from Mozart’s Don Giovanni).

Isla Blair also stood out as the cool and calculating social psychologist Flora.

The main plot focused on Howard’s potential dismissal for ‘moral turpitude’ (for sleeping with a student), but the story’s thematic underpinnings anatomised the student revolutionary movements in the 1970s, which displayed less of the previous decade’s sense of optimism as money became scarcer and industrial action increasingly common.

Episodes also featured the tragic comic episodes of Howard’s accident-prone colleague, Henry Beamish (Paul Brooke).

The series was actually filmed at the University of Lancaster.


Howard Kirk
Antony Sher
Barbara Kirk 

Geraldine James
Flora Beniform 

Isla Blair 
Henry Beamish 

Paul Brooke
Annie Callendar 

Laura Davenport
Felicty Phee 

Veronica Quilligan
Miss Ho 
Zienia Merton
Michael Bernard 

Lloyd Peters
Professor Mangold 

Steve Plytas
Myra Beamish 

Maggie Steed
Beck Pott 

Julia Swift 
Martin Kirk 

Jonathan Bruton
George Carmody 

Peter-Hugo Daly
Celia Kirk 

Charlotte Enderby
Professor Marvin 

Michael Hordern
Hashmi Sadeck 

Arthur Lugo
Melissa Tordoroff 

Miriam Margolyes
John McIntosh 

Graham Padden
Moira Millikin 

Elizabeth Proud