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: Maritime Silk Road Reborn

Latest Project: I spent a great deal of last year sailing around the South China Sea and Indian Ocean in the wake of the famous Chinese explorer Zheng He, exploring how modern Chinese maritime trade is being built on a tradition centuries old.

My travels took me all over the Chinese coast, to Singapore, Malacca in Malaysia, Kochi in India, Malindi in Africa, Dubai, Egypt and, finally, to Greece. And it’s going to be shown on National Geographic.

Podcasts

Histories of the Unexpected Podcast
Sam Willis Podcast

Books

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
Histories of the Unexpected: How Everything Has a History
Battle of Trafalgar
The Battle of The Nile
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'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