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Simon Schama: A History of Britain: Special Edition
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Simon Schama: A History Britain: Special Edition (DVD)
What do you get when you combine the resources and ethos of the BBC with the literary panache of one of the world's best narrative historians? The answer is Simon Schama's History of Britain television series. In this well-written and thoughtfully crafted survey, Schama, the bestselling author of books on European cultural history such as The Embarrassment of Riches and Citizens, has managed to be both conventional and provocative. He tells the official version of Britain's story--Roman Britain, the Norman Conquest, the struggles of the Henrys and Richards, Elizabeth I, Scottish rebellions and the English Civil Wars, the American Revolution, the growth of the British Empire, Queen Victoria, the industrial age, and Winston Churchill. But while sticking to a script familiar to anyone who sat up and listened during history class, Schama brings it all alive with memorable prose and presence--Simon de Montfort's rebel parliament is described as inaugurating the "union between patriotism and insubordination"; with Henry VIII, Schama says, "you could practically smell the testosterone." Schama is also particularly enlightening on the symbolism of buildings, memorials, language, and ceremonies, and on the complex relations between England and its Celtic and Catholic neighbors. If history must have gloss, then let it be presented like this. --Miles Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
Overall if you want a better understanding of British history in chronological order - this is it.
The only negative I can think of is that it really doesn't describe a lot about pre-Roman Britain. I also wish it was longer so that it could further explore some of the events and themes that are glossed over (by necessity) in this series.
But overall a fascinating series that gives me a new appreciation for the Old Country.
I understand that there is, of course, no archival film footage of medieval England, so the visual aspect of these programs had to be created from nothing, but some of the choices are questionable. Yes, we get a lots of landscape pictures (sped up Koyaanisqatsi-style so we can see all the clouds go zooming by, over and over again), but we also get closeups of hawks flying, wolves fighting, etc--images that just don't fit with the content we hear.
About the DVD:
There are neither captions nor subtitles. This is unacceptable, especially for educational material.
There are no extras. The box has to list chapter selection and interactive menus to cover up its lack of bonus materials. The only actual extra is some biographical text screens on historical figures. This sounds better than it is. The first disc, containing the first three episodes, sports but one biography--hardly enough when many important figures are featured in the first three installments.
I might find this lack of extras forgivable (the series itself is quite well-done afterall, despite my annoyance with the visuals), except that the British version of this title has a whole 'nother disc filled with bonus material. I wish I had gotten that one, and, if you play region 2 DVDs and PAL, you might want to look at amazon.co.uk.
Most recent customer reviews
An excellent series, professionally presented and well balanced. The only problem with such a project is that a lot of important information is left out due to the limited length. Read morePublished 12 months ago by GKB
Schama is an amasing historian. He starts with the history of Britain 3000 BC and after 2 DVDs we are only at the 13th century AD. Read morePublished on July 20 2012 by Rene
D.V.D. was a gift for a friend who is struggling to master a good working knowledge of The United Kingdom and this product turned out very well and filled the bill... Read morePublished on July 3 2012 by purdy44
A History of Britain: The Complete Collection
A fasinating account in dramatic fashion, of a powerful nation's past. Read more
Like others, I was hoping that I had found a definitive, unbiased and honest history of Britain here. Read morePublished on May 3 2005 by R. McMullen
I really don't understand the one-star reviews and their complaints about the series. Saying that the series focused on the gory details and sex is a plain exageration. Read morePublished on July 5 2004 by Javier Bouzas
With anticipated glee, we bought this DVD series as a Christmas gift for our family; however, as we went through each of the 5 DVD's, we became increasingly disappointed in... Read morePublished on June 25 2004 by Barry Burrus
I purchased this series with high hopes and I found viewing it to be very disappointing. The host was annoying the images added nothing to the presentation and there was way too... Read morePublished on June 7 2004 by Amazon Customer