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Simon Schama - A History of Britain : The Complete Series [DVD]

 Exempt   DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (144 customer reviews)
Price: 28.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Simon Schama - A History of Britain : The Complete Series [DVD] + David Starkey: The David Starkey Collection [DVD]
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Product details

  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 6
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: 2 Entertain Video
  • DVD Release Date: 18 Nov 2002
  • Run Time: 940 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (144 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00006JI1X
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 25,300 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



Stretching from the Stone Age to the year 2000, Simon Schama's Complete History of Britain does not pretend to be a definitive chronicle of the turbulent events which buffeted and shaped the British Isles. What Schama does do, however, is tell the story in vivid and gripping narrative terms, free of the fustiness of traditional academe, personalising key historical events by examining the major characters at the centre of them. Not all historians would approve of the history depicted here as shaped principally by the actions of great men and women rather than by more abstract developments, but Schama's way of telling it is a good deal more enthralling as a result.

Schama successfully gives lie to the idea that the history of Britain has been moderate and temperate, passing down the generations as stately as a galleon, taking on board sensible ideas but steering clear of sillier, revolutionary ones. Nonsense. Schama retells British history the way it was--as bloody, convulsive, precarious, hot-blooded and several times within an inch of haring off onto an entirely different course. Schama seems almost to delight in the goriness of history. Themes returned to repeatedly include the wars between the Scots and the Irish and the Catholic/Protestant conflicts--only the Irish question remains unresolved by the new millennium. As Britain becomes a constitutional monarchy, Schama talks less of Kings and Queens but of poets and idea-makers like Orwell. Still, with his pungent, direct manner and against an evocative visual and aural backdrop, Schama makes history seem as though it happened yesterday, the bloodstains not yet dry.

On the DVD: The Complete History of Britain extras are generously packaged on a separate disc and include the original score and a Simon Schama biography. There's an interesting "promotional message" to camera in which Schama explains the role of a cab driver, Wally, in inspiring the series, along with an interview with Mark Lawson in which Schama stresses the deliberate subjectivity of these programmes and an inaugural BBC History lecture in which he defends TV's ability to transpose history to camera. --David Stubbs

Product Description

Simon Schama's epic, fifteen-part history of Britain begins around 3000 BC, looking at what life would have been like in the Stone Age village of Skara Brae, and draws to a close in the year 2000 AD, considering the nation's attempts to find a sense of its future. The series also covers the Norman conquest, King Edward I, the plague, King Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I, the civil wars that wracked the country in the 1600s, the appearance of Oliver Cromwell, the union with Scotland, the rise and fall of the British Empire, and Britain's role in the 20th century's two World Wars.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great! 21 Aug 2010
By Eva
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Really interesting and a great overview - after all, Schama has had to condense Britain's history into 15 hours. Hence, it does not claim to be a complete account of the country's past... (If this is at all possible - I would say it is not). So viewers should not expect this! Liked how it did include the Irish, the Welsh and the Scots, as well women's history. Not just the history of the male poltical elite. Found some episodes at the beginning a little bit hard to follow because I had zero prior knowledge of the period and the episodes were dealing with substantial chunks of time... But nonetheless it gave me a flavour of the how things were and hopefully next time I watch I will take more of the details in! All in all, I would throughly recommend it, Schama is charming and eloquent!!
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162 of 168 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful series to spark further interest 15 Jan 2010
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Simon Schama presents here a compellingly personal take on British History, full of colour and drama, so that characters like Edward Longshanks virtually leap into the room. It makes no attempt to include all the kings, queens and battles, and doesn't aim to provide an exhaustive account of British history. I think he succeeds well, though, in finding threads of real significance through the two millennia covered, and brings it all to life with great panache. Various vital themes: the coming together of Norman and Saxon, the economic consequences of the plague and birth of the middle class, the Act of Union - the now questioned cornerstone of a once global empire -, the wonderful summing up of William of Orange, constitutional monarch, as 'chairman of the board' - it is all vividly presented and illuminates fascinatingly our own age.
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197 of 206 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and Influential 6 Aug 2007
A History of Britain by Simon Schama was a pivotal work in television history. It, almost single-handedly, began the `historical documentary revival' of recent years. The seemingly endless series of popular history programs, particularly on Channel 4, owe a debt to this series. However you feel about those programs though, watching A History of Britain makes it is perfectly clear why this revival has been so popular.

Schama and the BBC planned A History... to be a return to the epic, fairly, high budget documentary series such as `Civilization'. They hoped it would receive a reasonable share of the audience. It became a runaway success popularising British history like no series had before. Applications to read history at university went up dramatically; it became the BBC's highest selling factual series on DVD.

So why was it such a success? It has to be down to Schama. His knowledge and intelligence are obvious. His passion for his subjects leaps of the screen. The series has been criticised for its sidelining, even omission, of many events and periods such as the Hundred Years War and the Norman kings after William the Conqueror. These criticisms, while not unfounded, are fairly silly. If the series had been a list of major historical events it would not have been so successful, in fact it would have been nigh-on unwatchable. To make it entertaining as well as informative it needed to be subjectively edited; and Schama did an excellent job of it.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why hold back any longer! 2 Aug 2010
Given the compellingly low price for this 6 DVD box set, I could no longer resist adding it to my collection, and I'm very glad that I finally made the move! Given that Simon Schama complied this historical tour-de-force some ten years ago now, the programmes haven't dated in the least, as other major series have, such as Olivier's `Second World War'. Although this is a personal perspective on British history, from a self-confessed cultural "outsider", there is still much raw history here, which can be entertaining as well as informative. And the film settings are gorgeous too, all topped off by John Harle's stunning soundtrack. Given this set's extraordinarily good value, there is no longer any need to search for the edited repeats of these shows on TV; just switch on, lay back and let Schama's extraordinary achievement enrich your life. And there's a bonus disc too; why delay any longer!
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent 24 Dec 2004
By Gadfly
I have just finished watching the entire series of Simon Schama's History of Britain which I thought magnificent. Through a marvellously evocative use of language, images and sound the series illustrates many of the key figures, forces and themes of British history from ancient times up to the modern era. One of Schama's great gifts is to make remote people and events seems startlingly fresh and contemporary with his insightful commentary and analysis. This is surely one of the best series the BBC has ever produced in any genre and I found the cumulative effect to be deeply moving. If you love history, you will not regret buying this series which will afford many hours of education and entertainment. Congratulations Simon Schama and the BBC!
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93 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every home should have this 28 Mar 2008
The only thing better and more informative than this superb piece of quality BBC tv is the enormous audio book version. Take the Victorian era - you get 12 hours of fascinating history read by Timothy West in place of a couple of hours of tv time, and the whole series takes forever to listen to! The audio series is vast, detailed and even more enlightening and shows Simon Schama's depth of knowledge is even more immense than the tv series indicates!
But the tv series is good to start with and takes you through the history of the isles in a way that schools don't appear to. This is so important because if you don't know why the UK is the way it is, and how it got like that, you can't know where it's going. A History Of Britain ought to be repeated once in a while, but until it is I say buy this and learn what made this country the way it is.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A nice introduction to the History of Britain
People complain that this series is patchy and jumps about a bit, well, yes, but it's 2000 years into 15 hours WITHOUT the narrow focus of Starkey's Monarchy, which is almost... Read more
Published 5 days ago by Zob
3.0 out of 5 stars too shallow for me
I enjoyed the first 1-2 episodes, but now I've grown very tired of this. It feels more like a monotonous monologue now. Read more
Published 11 days ago by Joel
5.0 out of 5 stars British Expose
An eye opener to those that wish to comprehend the history of this special nation. Good value for money indeed
Published 16 days ago by The Calvinist Reformer
5.0 out of 5 stars A Big Hit
Had to lose my Video set of this BBC series, can't live without it so bought on DVD! Hours of interest.
Published 1 month ago by Patricia Short
4.0 out of 5 stars Great presentation.
Simon Schauma has the gift of making facts that would normally be as dry as dust very interesting without appearing to be didactic. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Rodders
2.0 out of 5 stars Not my cup of tea
Boring. I never have got 'into' it. The stories seem to jump about a lot. It will be moved on - that is, if anyone is interested in it?!
Published 1 month ago by Harry Fisher
5.0 out of 5 stars Good viewing.
Exactly as I expected. Hours of good interesting viewing. Well narrated. Good photography. Would like the time for a single sitting.
Published 1 month ago by irskine riddle
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful series for any history buff...
Before watching this, I had never been to the British Museum. Now, every time I visit London, I find myself drawn to this history, and I want to rewatch this series again and... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jon Gibson Mcgill
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I purchased the set of DVDs expecting a systemic presentation of history by a historian. I found it a patchy presentation of historical highlights by a Narrator.
Published 2 months ago by Craig Raynold Carlson
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
I was already familiar with this series. I saw it on TV, recorded it on tape years ago and watched it over and over. Read more
Published 2 months ago by naama enosh
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