Historian, Archaeologist & Broadcaster

Dr Sam Willis is an award-winning historian, archaeologist and broadcaster. His work takes him on adventures all over the world.

Sam has made ten TV series for the BBC and National Geographic that have been watched by millions of viewers worldwide.

He has made TV documentaries on the Silk Road – travelling from Venice to Beijing; the Maritime Silk Road – travelling from Shanghai to Athens via the coasts of Malacca, India, Africa and Arabia; and the new Silk RailRoad – a railway that now connects London with Beijing.

He has also re-created the first ever voyage down the Grand Canyon, braving hundreds of miles of enormous rapids in a tiny wooden rowing boat. He has made films and documentaries on castles, weapons, pirates, highwaymen, shipwrecks, submarines, Antarctic exploration, invasions, the Spanish Armada, the First World War, the Second World War – a life of history, travel and adventure that began more than a decade ago with the archaeological excavation in Antigua of a mass grave of dead sailors from the time of Nelson’s Navy.

Most recently Sam has made an epic 6-part series for National Geographic called ‘Relics of China’ exploring the most significant archaeological discoveries and what they tell us about the development of life in the east over millennia.

Sam is also the author of more than fifteen books and the presenter of the chart-topping podcast and live show ‘Histories of the Unexpected’ a fascinating new way of thinking about the past which explains how everything has a history, even the most UNEXPECTED of subjects. Did you know that there is a history of courage? Or a history of the smile? Or zebras? Or clouds?

Latest Project: Ancient China from Above

Latest Project: I spent a great deal of last year travelling around China for my new 2-part series for National Geographic – Ancient China from Above, Season 2. We used drones and LIDAR – amazing laser technology – to discover fascinating insights about the tomb of the Qin Emperor and his terracotta army, and an astonishing Bronze Age city called Sanxindui. We also explored an ancient tomb recently discovered beneath a school with painted ceilings; one of the most extraordinary sites I have ever seen. I was also extremely privileged to view and handle ‘oracle bones’ – ancient turtle shells engraved with some of the earliest writing in history.


Histories of the Unexpected Podcast
The Mariner's Mirror Podcast


Shipwreck: A History of Disasters at Sea
The Glorious First of June: Fleet Battle in the Reign of Terror (Hearts of Oak Trilogy)
Fighting at Sea in the Eighteenth Century: The Art of Sailing Warfare
The Struggle for Sea Power: A Naval History of American Independence
Fighting Ships 1850-1950
Fighting Ships: From the Ancient World to 1750
The Fighting Temeraire: The Battle of Trafalgar and the Ship That Inspired J. M. W. Turner's Most Beloved Painting
In the Hour of Victory: The Royal Navy at War in the Age of Nelson
Fighting Ships 1750-1850
The Admiral Benbow: The Life and Times of a Naval Legend (Hearts of Oak Trilogy)
The Spanish Armada
Battle of Trafalgar
The Battle of The Nile
Histories of the Unexpected: How Everything Has a History
Histories of the Unexpected
Histories of the Unexpected
Histories of the Unexpected
Histories of the Unexpected
A General History of the Lives, Murders and Adventures of the Most Notorious Pirates
A General History of the Lives, Murders and Adventures of the Most Notorious Highwaymen
'Enthralling, endlessly enjoyable...' Waterstones.com
'A nautical tour de force ****' Mail On Sunday
'Willis is a magnificent describer of the realities of fighting ships at sea.' The Sunday Times