A History of Britain is a wonderful but pricey treat for any fan of British history. Some of the negative reviews complain that it is too superficial. How, I would ask, can you give a COMPLETE history of a country that spans 5,000 years? The collection consists of 15 hour-long documentaries starting from Britain's earliest past, five-thousand years ago. We see the still-standing stone communities where the ancient British dwelled.
Of course, Simon Schama must be selective in what he chooses to discuss. Each episode has a theme. Although all the major points of British history are touched upon, Schama will focus on the most interesting bits of each event - how and why they happened and what they meant. He tries to give us a sense of reasons behind historical events and not just dates and places. My favorite episode deals with Henry II - arguably England's greatest and most under-appreciated monarch. We see his troubles with Thomas a Beckett. Schama re-creates, in vivid detail, what the "Murder in the Cathedral" was like: Beckett was not a plaster saint, but a street-wise tough kid from the wrong side of the docks who fearlessly faced down his murderers.
Visually, the series shows some re-enactments with actors. There are many voice-over readings of historical documents. Schama is the only featured performer. He takes you to the various places and narrates in a very distinctive, clipped manner of speaking. Ultimately, it is the shots of the timeless Britain that are the most effective - the hills, the meadows, and especially the sea. These are the bits that have remained the same and convey the greatest feeling of history.
I can't imagine anybody not being fascinated by this program. They are very re-watchable. Having examined them, you will feel a much deeper understanding of British history - and indeed world history. Perhaps no other country has a story as fascinating, as rich, or as varied as Britain's. Watch this and you will know why.