TV Quickfire: Eric Monkman and Bobby Seagull on their new genius adventures series
University Challenge's Eric Monkman and Bobby Seagull are back on the road for yet another 'genius' adventure, this time through British history. We quizzed them about it
WHERE DID YOUR LOVE OF HISTORY BEGIN?
Seagull: After lunch every Saturday afternoon, my father would take me and my brothers on our weekly pilgrimage to a beautiful early Edwardian red brick building that housed East Ham Library. We spent several hours sprawled on the floor, voraciously absorbing books on topics spanning from the Aztec Empire to Victorian engineering to the fiction of Roald Dahl. It was here that my love for reading and history began.
Monkman: When I was around six, with an educational computer game called Challenge Of The Ancient Empires. It is an adventure game that teaches children about artefacts from ancient civilisations such as Egypt, Mesopotamia, Rome and early Dynastic China. I showed a fair bit of curiosity, so my parents introduced me to Greek mythology, children's books about history and other age-appropriate information about the past.
WHICH INVENTOR/SCIENTIST FEATURED IN THE SERIES ARE YOU MOST INSPIRED BY AND WHY?
Seagull: Michael Faraday contributed significantly to the study of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. He was on the old £20 note and I really admire him because he taught himself. He was from a poor family and only received a basic education. But through hard work, persistence and some genius, he changed the world. He shows that despite humble beginnings, you can make a difference.
Monkman: I was most inspired by Charles Darwin. He was able to use the financial and social resources available to him to develop one of the most revolutionary ideas in human history. He did so in spite of mental and physical illnesses and the tragic loss of three of his children.
WHAT MODERN INVENTION DO YOU WISH YOU'D COME UP WITH?
Seagull: Tough question. Wouldn't we all like to be Steve Jobs and the Apple team? How cool are they?! Science and tech is sexy!
Monkman: I have been very impressed by online collaborative encyclopedias. I find it amazing that people from all over the world have worked together to produce a compendium of knowledge that is constantly updated and easily available. Of course, I would rather be the brains behind something new than wish I had accomplished the work of others.
WHAT DO YOU THINK WE CAN GAIN FROM LOOKING BACK AT THE AGE OF INVENTION?
Seagull: Society always thinks that they are in a unique and special era and at the forefront of technology. But things keep changing. When we look back at 1750-1900 we think of how far we have moved on. In 100 years, they'll look back at our time and think how far they have moved on from us. So I think watching the show should give us a bit of humility with regards to thinking that we're at the leading edge of development.
WHAT SETS GENIUS ADVENTURES APART FROM OTHER HISTORY SHOWS?
Seagull: I remember watching the new BBC series Civilisations with the wonderful trio of Simon Schama, Mary Beard and David Olusoga. They are world class trained experts in their fields, as are the presenters of many BBC history shows. Eric and I have different specialisms. I am a school maths teacher. We are not trained formally in advanced history but we are enthusiasts who are very curious about the world. It is this enthusiasm that means that we can learn on our journey together with our audience.
:: Monkman And Seagull's Genius Adventures starts on BBC Two today.