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Civilisation : Complete BBC Series (4 Disc Box Set) [DVD]

Kenneth Clark , David Attenborough    Exempt   DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
Price: 13.50 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Civilisation : Complete BBC Series (4 Disc Box Set) [DVD] + The Ascent Of Man : Complete BBC Series [DVD] [1973] + Ancient Worlds [DVD] (2010)
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Product details

  • Actors: Kenneth Clark, David Attenborough
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Subtitles For The Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 4
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: 2 Entertain Video
  • DVD Release Date: 18 April 2005
  • Run Time: 650 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00077284C
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,405 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



A major piece of television documentary making that’s been allowed out of the archives, Civilisation: A Personal View was first screened on BBC2 in 1969, having been in production for several years beforehand. Its ambition was clear from the off, giving that it was aiming to chart the history of Western philosophy, culture and art since not far off the dawn of time. What’s most remarkable, though, is just how well it did with the task in hand.

Civilisation: A Personal View was presented by the late Kenneth Clark, an art historian, and the programme was commissioned under the watch of David Attenborough. And across 13 episodes, it’s an engrossing piece of work, that remains as relevant and interesting today. Inevitably, the format is nowhere near as groundbreaking as it once was, which is unsurprising given that it established a template that many chose to follow. But the breadth and depth of the content, distilled with real skill by Clark, is what made it one of the most talked about, and popular, television series of its day.

And how lovely it is that the entire show has been remastered in high definition. Originally for the rebroadcasting of the entire series on BBC Four, Civilisation: A Personal View has now found a home it never expected to have on Blu-ray. The added clarity, appreciating the age of the source material, is a real and unexpected bonus, and Civilisation: A Personal View may just prove to be one of the most interesting and vital Blu-ray releases of the year. An astonishing piece of work. --Jon Foster

Product Description

Kenneth Clarke's eloquent and deeply personal documentary series exploring the cultural heritage of the western world, from the collapse of the Roman Empire until the birth of modernism, was groundbreaking television when first broadcast by the BBC in 1969. With its use of exotic locations, and its engaging presenter with his idiosyncratic style, it influenced much of what was to follow. Progressing from the cultural effects of feudalism in medieval Europe to the birth of the Renaissance in fifteenth-century Florence, from revolutionary politics in France after 1789 to the growth of materialism in artistic and scientific discourse, Clarke did not just examine 'art', but wanted to reveal the spiritual and humanistic motives behind its creation. Includes all 13 episodes.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
427 of 435 people found the following review helpful
Kenneth Clark (1903-83) was a distinguished English art historian, and very much a member of the old school. Patrician, cultured, privileged, he saw art as somehow pure, as untouched by the corruption of politics and materialism. 'Civilisation' is not so much a television series as a lecture series, one which represents a fascinating watershed in the history of mass communication ... and an ironic statement about civilisation itself.
Clark admits to influence by the Victorian historian and art critic, John Ruskin: the latter argued that history is written by the victors, literature by the partisan, but that art and architecture alone convey the soul of the age and thereby speak a truth which is inaccessible in the written word. Art, therefore, is an eternal truth which offers a window into the heart and soul of mankind. Clark says he couldn't define 'civilisation', but that he could recognise it when he saw it - consciously echoing the "I don't know much about art but I know what I like" cliché ... in precisely the same way that King's College Chapel echoes the sounds of bubblegum bursting.
'Civilisation' took three years to make, and was released in 1969, only two years after the BBC had ventured into colour broadcasting. Itself made in colour, the series was seen as a taking a huge risk. The BBC had - still has - a responsibility to produce educational and informative work, to stimulate and uplift, but the 1960's was a transitional era.
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65 of 66 people found the following review helpful
By Philoctetes TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
From time to time you hear the name Civilisation dropped whenever the great days of TV are being discussed, so I felt it was about time I had a look at it myself.

Have you ever watched some soap opera or drama series where some twit yells "Don't lecture me!" when their interlocutor offers some well meaning advice? Well, here is the proof of how empty that usage of the word 'lecture' is.

In Civilisation: A Personal View, Lord Clark offers the viewer 13 lectures on civilisation as it is expressed through fine art, architecture, literature and music. Thousands go to university every year in the sincere hope of hearing some brilliant mind lecture in such a way as to warm, invigorate and inspire the listener to want to acquire further knowledge. In the late '60s the BBC was the kind of corp to invite just such a wise man to offer anyone and everyone a guided tour round the great churches, palaces, relics, ornaments and art works of western civilisation, all 'filmed' in glorious colour.

Nowadays, we get some celebrity, some egotistical familiar face for our history and culture shows. Watch this and you'll realise what a falling off there has been. Really, it is the kind of enterprise to return to again and again, because so much is packed into it. They wanted to commission a series about civilisation: they hired an expert to write and present it. So what if he's a lord and not some pleb with a regional accent. So what if he's a dapper gent with a richer command of the language than the kind of vain industry parasites we endure week on week in the new century. Fact is, he's obviously the real thing, obviously passionate about his subject, in possession of a vast knowledge which he communicates candidly, humbly and charismatically.
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144 of 150 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So, what is civilisation? 10 Jun 2006
Kenneth Clark starts, right at the beginning of episode 1, by admitting that he can't define "civilisation". Then he goes on to give his very personal view of what it is, how it came about and was almost obliterated in the "dark ages" and how it was re-established and could again be destroyed by lack of confidence, cynicism, hopelessness and the destructive technology that dominates the modern (1960s) age. It's a wonderful series of programmes that held my attention from beginning to end. Mostly, I completely agreed but occasionally, passionately disagreed with the narrator - almost as though we were engaged in a 2-way discussion all the way through. That's the beauty of a 'personal' view: you don't need to accept anything Lord Clark says but you have to accept that his opinion is backed up by a huge amount of knowledge so he's likely to be right. So, although I happily accepted most of what he said, his account of Roman civilisation and the 'barbarians' that destroyed it seemed slightly skewed. He gave a rather rosier view of the 'civilised' Romans than seems justified and possibly an exaggerated notion of the barbarism of the barbarians. After all, how much more barbarous than the Romans did an enemy of Rome need to be, to be considered a barbarian? And his glowing account of the positive influence of the catholic church on civilisation, completely glossing over the horrors of the inquisition, caused me to chunter with discontent. Even so, over 13 episodes, each of 50 minutes, reasons for disagreement were few and far between. This is an enthralling series, full of beautiful images and accompanied by a fascinating narration.

Highly recommended.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Astoundingly Erudite
The first of it's kind, but barely dated after 35 years. K Clark has just the right tone, the images are exquisite. Colour may have taken it over budget but it was well worth it.
Published 21 hours ago by Piers Nye
5.0 out of 5 stars Real TV!
If you don't like this, you are uncivilised! Excellent presentation. Thought provoking trip through some of the most creative periods in human history. Read more
Published 7 days ago by Michael Holme
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth buying in HD
This is a fascinating series of lectures shot originally in 35 mm cinema grade film stock and it shows. The colour and clarity is superb. Read more
Published 1 month ago by John
5.0 out of 5 stars very recommendable
Truly serious classic series very recommended for the studious.
The images are very inspiring and the way this man speaks makes one to dive into human history.
Published 3 months ago by PatPan
5.0 out of 5 stars Value for money
This was purchased a gift. It provides hours of excellent viewing and is good value for money and well presented
Published 3 months ago by Janice Neale
2.0 out of 5 stars Too old …...
We tend to think that we might still enjoy stuff made many years ago. The truth of the matter is that we become far more expectant and critical. You will not enjoy it.
Published 3 months ago by Aud Marit Foreman
5.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary series!
Kenneth Clark is erudite and fascinating as he puts forth his theories on the cultural forces at work within various ages. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Daniel Grzywacz
1.0 out of 5 stars The sound quality is very bad.
I was looking forward to view this acclaimed production. However the soud quality is so bad I did give up altogether watching he dvd.
Published 4 months ago by c van duuren
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended!
I first saw this series in the late 1960s when, like most people in those days I only had a monochrome TV, although I was aware that it was being broadcast in colour. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Speedygee
5.0 out of 5 stars darling kenneth
i first saw it when I was very young. it always stayed in my memory. i was happy to find it again. I love the deep knowledge
and understanding of things old and new. Read more
Published 4 months ago by paivi henttonen
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