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A History of Britain: The Complete Collection (2001)

Simon Schama , Michael Kitchen  |  NR |  DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)


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DVD Special Edition $43.60  
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Product Details

  • Actors: Simon Schama, Michael Kitchen, Samuel West, Lindsay Duncan, David Threlfall
  • Format: Box set, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 5
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: A&E Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: November 26, 2002
  • Run Time: 900 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00006RCKI
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #147,626 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "A History of Britain: The Complete Collection" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Simon Schama biography/bibliography
  • Biographies of key historical figures

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

From the dawn of civilization to the 20th century, A HISTORY OF BRITAIN re-animates familiar tales and illuminates overlooked aspects of England's past. Written and hosted by historian Simon Schama (the bestselling author of Rembrandt's Eyes and The Embarrassment of Riches), this monumental The History Channel®/BBC co-production has been hailed by critics for its colorful--and controversial--approach, which discards timelines and tiresome lineages for a lively look at the personalities and cultures that infuse British history.

From India to Ireland, the Norman Invasion to the American Revolution, Schama spotlights the epic themes and towering figures that transformed an island "at the edge of the world" into the greatest empire on earth, examining the impact of this extraordinary heritage on the modern nation.

All 15 episodes of the landmark series are available on DVD for the first time in this extraordinary collector's set that belongs in the library of every history buff. Beginnings, Conquest, Dynasty, Nations, King Death, Burning Convictions, The Body of the Queen, The British Wars, Revolutions, Britannia Incorporated, The Wrong Empire, Forces of Nature, Victoria and her Sisters, Empire of Good Intentions, The Two Winstons.

Amazon.com

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

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
446 of 466 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Buy the original BBC edition, not this A&E version April 10, 2005
By dooby
Format:DVD
Schama's History of Britain is indeed a fine introduction to British History (or at least British History through English eyes). This documentary series is very well made and deserves all the 5 star ratings it get's at this site. However, no one seems to mention that this DVD set released by A&E/The History Channel is actually a cropped version, modified to fit a standard TV screen. This series was shot by the BBC in widescreen, as much to take advantage of the new widescreen medium as to project the panoramic grandeur of British history.

Both the Region 2 (UK & Europe) and Region 4 (Australia & New Zealand) versions are all in the original 1.85:1 widescreen (enhanced for widescreen TV). Only in America are we afforded the singular privilege of watching this show in a crappy Pan-&-Scan format courtesy of A&E/The History Channel.

The best buy right now would be to get the UK edition sold under the BBC's own label. Not only does it have 6 discs (1 disc of special features) compared to 5 in the American version, it is also much cheaper. You can get it through Amazon UK (at a 43% discount as of this date). Just make sure your system is able to play Region 2 discs and has native PAL capability. UK programs are recorded in PAL format rather than standard American NTSC.
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74 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So, What's Not to Like? July 17, 2003
By A Customer
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I am neither a history scholar nor a serious history buff, but I suppose that I am an Anglophile (with an especial appreciation for Thomas More, Charles Dickens, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, and, at the moment, Tony Blair). I rushed out to buy this set after hearing Simon Schama give a talk at Brigham Young University earlier this year. Schama is a very charismatic speaker, and I'd be surprised if he didn't end up selling hundreds of BYU students and faculty on his videos that day.
When I think of this series, a few of the words that come to mind are "beauty", "authenticity", and "solemnity". Schama's narration is spell-binding, and the cinematography (if that's the right word) is gorgeous. These are documentaries that it looks like took a lot of money to make, not because of the scale of historical re-enactments involved (which is relatively modest) but because of the overall quality of the product.
Since Schama can neither be classified as a hagiographer nor an iconoclast, I'd almost include the word "balanced" in my description of his work, but that word might suggest mediocrity or at least moderation, and there's nothing lukewarm about the positions Schama takes. I suppose that there are people out there who might find Schama's dramatic and strongly-opinionated style off-putting. There might even be people who find the British countryside ugly and Britain's historical treasures boring. To the rest of you, I give this set a strong recommendation. As one caveat: there are maybe 2 or 3 spots in the 15 hours of this series in which parental discretion might be advised.
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95 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant series that makes history alive! December 21, 2003
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
There are a lot of history specials out there, but none so brilliantly conceived and realised at this series. I love history, especially the history of Britain, and so it was never dry, stale facts to me. But few bring it into focus, make it so accessible, and cut through the fat, so to speak, to give you a clean, logical, common sense approach to History of England 101 Crash Course as Simon Schama does. Each episode is well-written, fast paced and thoughtfully crafted, with marvellous location work to support his tromp through the corridors of time. He discards dates as the primary input and goes to the movers and shakers, makes you see the Kings and King makers with eyes that are fresh and vital.
After you travel this amazing journey through time, you will be sadden that history is not present this way in the schools and we all did not have Schama as our teacher!
Nirvana for British History lovers!
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Britain, from a certain point of view... December 14, 2008
Format:DVD
This 2008 repackaging of 2001's "A History of Britain", featuring Simon Schama as author and presenter, is not the standard history of Great Britain. Schama is no slave to historical convention and his 15-episode retelling explores British history from a slightly different point of view.

Schama's famous BBC series traces British history from Roman Britain through the death of Winston Churchill in 1965. His focus is not timeline oriented; many prominent players in British history rate no more than passing mention. Even the iconic Churchill has to share the last episode with Eric Blair, better known by his literary name of George Orwell. Instead, Schama seeks to identify the slow, difficult steps by which Britain became a constitutional monarchy with individual freedoms and the rule of law. Those steps are found in Roman Britain, in the endless dynastic and religious wars that defined the powers of the monarchy and parliament, in the disaster of the Black Death, and in the long political and military struggles to build a united British nation and then a British empire.

The episodes feature important archeological sites, castles, ruined abbeys, and other locations where important events took place. We meet the prominent personalities of the narrative through pictures, paintings, sculptures, tomb representations, and, rarely, reenactment. Schama narrates in person, stalking through ruins, landscapes and museums while delivering his rather blunt colloquial commentary.

"A History of Britain" is not for everyone. The thematic presentation may be hard to follow for those not already familiar with British history. Those wedded to a romantic vision of a storied past may find Schama's blunt disection of power politics to be off-setting.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Early England a rather bloody place
I have a crush in Simon Schama - so brilliant, so erudite, so entertaining with his sense of humor. We are only now part way through the first CD. Read more
Published 1 month ago by CAE-PDX
3.0 out of 5 stars To read with lots of benevolence...
Indeed, what happened to many indispensable parts of the English history as how did England get hold of some many territories in France and all the wars that it implied? Read more
Published 1 month ago by fernando
4.0 out of 5 stars This documentary has got to be the best one I've seen regarding...
This documentary has got to be the best one I've seen regarding England's History. I have a DVD player that plays 5 discs and so I was looking forward to watch these especially in... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Shawn Weedman
5.0 out of 5 stars Great intro to British history
An excellent guide to knowing who to look out for in British history. I used this to write my thesis on the different English literary movements and the historical background that... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Nell Greene
1.0 out of 5 stars very boring, the narrator was terrible
very boring, the narrator was terrible, and the 1st 6000 years in 45 mins and not very specific at all
Published 2 months ago by Jay B
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding personal view of British history
Starting with prehistory and ending up in the (near-)present, Professor Simon Schama offers his own view of the history of some soggy islands moored off the coast of Europe, their... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Teemacs
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended. Because of the success of this
Interesting review of British history by a well-versed narrator. Highly recommended. Because of the success of this, I plan to look for other series narrated by Schama.
Published 2 months ago by cdr lawrence
5.0 out of 5 stars Best best best!
When this came out, I'd seen nothing in long non-fiction tv as good--not since James Burke's 'day the universe changed'. An interval of more than a decade. Read more
Published 6 months ago by H. V. Stoughton-ter beek
5.0 out of 5 stars BRITISH HISTORY
AT FIRST...THIS GUY PUT ME TO SLEEP...BUT TOWARDS THE MIDDLE OF THE FIRST DISC I WAS HOOKED. ! MY HUSBAND IS BRITISH AND HE REALLY ENJOYED IT TOO. Read more
Published 7 months ago by bakerstreet
4.0 out of 5 stars Great history lesson
This set has all 15 episodes of the original series on A&E. I think the British series on BBC was better, so I would suggest trying to get a copy of that before this one. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Dr. Oceanfront
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