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Simon Schama - A History of Britain : The Complete Series [DVD] [2000]

4.7 out of 5 stars 284 customer reviews

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(Nov 13, 2006)
(Nov 18, 2002)

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Product details

  • Actors: Simon Schama, Michael Kitchen, Samuel West, Lindsay Duncan, David Threlfall
  • Format: PAL, Anamorphic, Widescreen, HiFi Sound, Colour
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: 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: 4.7 out of 5 stars 284 customer reviews
  • ASIN: B00006JI1X
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 49,738 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)
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Product description

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.


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

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