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on July 30, 2012
This is a fascinating and superb series that very colorfully and entertainingly covers the entire history of England, from pre-Roman times to the 1950s, via the village(s) of Kibworth in the county of Leicestershire. Through various means -- archeological, documents, topographical studies, and local and oral history -- we find out the true story of real and ordinary people. History comes vividly alive in a way that the endless successive repetition of wars, monarchs, and squabbling aristocrats never can.

We are never patronized or asked to indulge in glorious fantasies here. History is told via the words of the people themselves -- through, for instance the amazingly in-depth documents and scholarship that have been preserved throughout the centuries in this uniquely placed village. As it turns out, there's a lot more here than even remotely meets the eye. We get a much fuller and more comprehensive and understandable history of this England than I ever would have thought possible.

The great thing about this series is that it was aimed for a British audience but it's so clearly understandable and tangible that Americans and any other nationality can easily understand it as well.

The series is gloriously and beautifully filmed and scored, and Michael Wood is an unfailingly charming, engaging, charismatic, and knowledgeable presenter.

I promise you will learn much more than you ever thought you didn't know about English history. If, for instance, you are a fan of the films of Ken Burns, or Michael Wood's other programs (e.g., The Story of India), or Simon Schama, you are sure to love this series.

By the way, this is the FULL original UK version, that aired on the BBC. Unfortunately, when it aired on PBS, it was severely butchered to the point of incomprehensibility and was missing missing 40% of the footage (two hours and two episodes) and the timeframes were all mixed up and confused. (The same goes for the streaming video version viewable on pbs.org.) Rest assured that the DVD set, however, is the full thing, and it's definitely worth the purchase price to be able to see the entire unbutchered series, complete with all of the extremely relevant information that was cut when it was televised here.

(The only thing disappointing about this series is the subtitles -- or rather lack thereof. I do not at all recommend it for the deaf or hearing impaired, because the subtitles are so ridiculously incorrect and botched up as to be worse than useless. That's the same case with the Region 2 version, so there's no help there either.)
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As far as non-fiction television programming goes, I think that "Michael Wood's Story of England" is one of the most unique examples imaginable. An exciting and informative trip through history, Wood's and his team seek to recreate a working timeline as it affected one small town. The quaint English burg of Kibworth, Leicestershire is host to this educational experiment. The first recorded instance of Kibworth being recognized was in 1086. So Wood begins with archeological findings, then digs through annotated history, and then wraps with more personal accounts on this world wind journey through the ages. The narrative advances through various time periods up until present day to see just how the different eras impacted this sleepy little town. This is taking living history to its most personal level! Not only do the inhabitants share in the story, they are eager participants in the documentary. Part of why this is so captivating is Wood's appeal, but mostly it is how committed to the project that the locals become. Ordinary folks morph into historical crusaders.

The two DVD set contains all six episodes from the 2010 BBC presentation with over two extra hours of footage to compliment the collection. Included are:

1) Romans to Normans
2) Domesday to Magna Carta
3) The Great Famine and The Black Death
4) Peasants' Revolt to The Tudors
5) Henry VIII to The Industrial Revolution
6) Victoria to The Present Day

While obviously geared toward a British audience, "Story of England" still has overwhelming crossover appeal. It takes an immense history and condenses it into a pretty specific world view. The same approach could be undertaken in any town in any land yielding a unique cross section of drama and intrigue. As Wood himself states (and this really encapsulates the show in a nutshell), "In this one place, you can tell the whole story of the nation. You can watch the great events of the nation through local eyes."

Ultimately, what makes "Story of England" an absolute essential for lovers of history is that it feels so fresh. I learned a lot, was completely entertained, and was oftentimes amazed. This brought out the wonder of it all. And by the time the entire village went excavating for artifacts, I knew that I would always remember this historical experiment. Kudos to the BBC and to Wood. With so much of TV taking a turn for the sensational, this proved that you could retain dignity within reality television. KGHarris, 9/12.
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on September 7, 2012
I really enjoyed this method of telling, in a basic way, the history of England through the experiences of a small town. British history is pretty detailed and extends back many millennia, unlike American history (or the American history most of us know about). Wood veers away from the escapades of kings and queens and various nobility and instead gives us a more populist version, which might be dubbed the "ordinary man's story." We watch as a region and a town is transformed by time and migration, by war and by love. I liked that approach, and I learned as much about the various cultures that crossed that island nation--and possibly more--than I would have learned by the traditional names-and-dates approach.

The videos (CDS or DVDs actually) consist of several episodes and can be watched over several sittings. I enjoyed how he got the local townspeople--of all ages--involved in helping him tell his story. It's "beginner" British history, in many respects. But it provides some ineresting details that will interest people with more specific interests. I was interested in the interview with the Australian couple who had come to the area in search of information about their British ancestor. This caught my attention because I, too, have British ancestors and hope to eventually figure out what part of England they were from and visit.........Anyone with an interest in genealogy will recognize how much you can learn about different eras of human history and various cultures while you are doing your best to trace your ancestors.
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on September 14, 2012
I really enjoyed watching this series. This DVD is the original BBC broadcast program.

Michael Wood (see below) has taken a unique approach to English history in this program. Instead of telling the history of England through the events of monarchs, empires and rulers, he has put together a story based upon the effects of history on common people.

He starts with excavations in back yards of residents in the Town of Kibworth. These excavations revealed Roman pottery and artifacts that date back to the times of the emperor Hadrian. Wood then goes on the explore what effects the Roman invasion had on the people who were living in Kibworth in the Second Century. He shows how the common people lived in those times, and, explores the demise of the Roman empire and how it affected those common people. (He points out that the collapse of the Roman Empire came about because of: (1) ill-advised and expensive foreign wars; (2) climate change; (3) dependance on foreign goods; (4) greedy bankers - Wood poses the question: "Does that sound familiar?")

Wood then covers the world events that followed, for two thousand years, documenting the effects on the people of Kibworth during that entire period.

As an American, I found this series to be an enjoyable History of England. It pointed out to me that the people of England have many, many more similarities to us, as Americans, than there are differences between us.

I highly recommend this series as an excellent overview of the history of England that allows us to understand, not only the history of England, but, also the origins of our own Country as England sought to colonize it.

For those of us who have viewed Michael Wood's documentaries, he needs no introduction. For those of us who haven't, here is a brief summary: Wood has produced over 100 documentaries in this thirty year career as a journalist, scholar and broadcaster. Each of them brings history alive. Much of his focus, in his documentaries, is on dispelling myths and misconceptions about history. His documentaries are scholarly, yet fascinating to even the average viewer. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, the Royal Society of Arts and the Society of Antiquaries. He is a governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company and a Pro- Chancellor of the University of Staffordshire.

Trivia: Wood's charismatic presence on the screen and his looks are appealing especially to women. He was humorously dubbed "the thinking woman's crumpet" by British newspapers.

NOTE: This DVD is the original programming aired by the BBC in the UK. The DVD is PAL Region 2. You won't be able to play it on an ordinary DVD player in the U.S. You will need some kind of region-free DVD player to view it. However, what you save by buying the BBC versions in Region 2 will pay a good share of the cost of a high quality region-free DVD player. PIONEER DV-220V-K 1080p HDMI UPSCALING REGION FREE DVD PLAYER w/ USB Input.

Compare the price on this DVD (including shipping) to the price of the same DVD from PBS. Michael Wood's Story of England.

If the price doesn't convince you to buy a region free DVD player, then, consider that this set, in region 2 PAL format, contains the full broadcast programs from the series. PBS often "dumbs down" Michael Wood's programs for American audiences. In Wood's Shakespeare program, for instance, PBS cut out over an hour and a half of the program to reduce the air time for U.S. audiences and the make the program more palatable.
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on October 22, 2012
Kibworth, Leicestershire, is an English village that presenter Michael Wood believes encapsulates the whole history of a nation. Just dig a hole behind the pub "Coach and Horse," and you'll unearth evidence that people lived in the village for thousands of years; a coin is found that features the Emperor Augustine, dating to the 330's A.D. The Hallaton Treasure from the 1st century is discussed, while an Anglo-Saxon comb dating from 500 A.D. is discovered, along with Rhineland glass beads. Wood ties Kibworth's history to Offa, a Mercian king who was a contemporary of Charlemagne. Wood can be a bit neo-Marxist in his social/historical interpretations at times. He also places an "us versus them" template over the relationship between Normans and Anglo-Saxons that doesn't reflect the social complexities in that these groups were already intermarrying prior to the invasion. Certainly the Norman's dominated the social hierarchy of the Saxons, but the picture is perhaps not as black and white as portrayed by Wood. Outside of Kibworth, powerful Anglo-Saxon families married into Norman hierarchy, even adopting Norman names and culture (such as the Neville family, with ties to ancient Scottish, Anglo-Saxon, Northumbrian, and Norwegian kingdoms), whilst retaining enormous power.

This series shines when Wood carefully explains the connections between villagers and their small shareholdings of land, their lives revolved around the church, the seasons, and their plots of earth. I wish there was more of the fascinating "Interview of an Anglo-Saxon Ploughman," 1000 A.D., featured in the narrative. Even after the Viking invasion, Kibworth's field names were primarily Anglo-Saxon. A neighboring place is called "Crackley," meaning Raven's Wood, (crack = raven) (ley = wood). Aelfric was the Thane of Kibworth, and St. Neot's Ware is unearthed in a woman's lovely kitchen garden. The series most succeeds in specifics, and it's beautifully filmed; the sequence about the ancient tree-meeting place is another evocative piece. Although Wood frequently imposes current emotions and values upon the past, overall the series is worth a look, especially the early portions. It's impressive what extensive research materials are secreted away in various archives, from Oxford, to the National Library. Wood assists Kipworth's contemporary citizens in navigating this wealth of material, so that Kipworth's history becomes part of their own journey.

I also highly recommend the archaeological, in-depth format of Time Team: Unearthing the Roman Invasion. Enjoy!
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Michael Wood is fascinated with the history of England and his enthusiasm comes through clearly in this story. The story is a combination of data gleaned from manuscripts and documents as well as excavation of plots within the village to uncover artifacts that are literally lying beneath their own feet. The first section of the film is about the plots being dug up and an expert explaining what each small piece of pottery is and when it was made. Some of the pieces are smaller than a kernel of corn and it is identified as a piece of Roman pottery. They find clay pipes, bits of pottery and ancient flints.

Wood has inspired the town's citizens to develop an intense interest in the history of their own town. They use magnetometers to determine the locations of ancient foundations buried under the earth. They locate a huge Roman villa on the outskirts of town. It was located on top of an even more ancient village.

As the story progressed I realized that I was watching a story about a village and not so much about the history of England. Yes some of the major details applied to England but the details in the film are highly focused on the village of Kibworth. Interviews with local historians are so centered on the local history that I felt that I was only seeing a small microcosm of the total English history.

Cambridge University analyzed the artifacts of the Kibworth digs. In addition many old documents that still exist are examined and they provided insights into the local history. The plague left only 200 or 300 survivors in Kibworth for example. They continue to dig excavation pits and track the growth of the town, the advancement of technology and of the village's ancient inhabitants.

This set of disks was interesting to a point to watch but to sell this as a Story of England to me is just over the top. Taking one village and basing the entire history of England on it is unrealistic. It was interesting to see an area where they could find so many documents that depict centuries of history or to dig into the ground and find thousands of years of ancient relics. That does not create a basis for the story of England.

In reality, Kibworth was not a major hub of power in England. It was not a sea port or played a role in building of the navy of England that made her a global power. This is more of a look at the history of a village and using the local people to help dig into their town's past. The presentation was 2 DVDs and almost 6 hours long and for me there was too much looking at architecture, scenery and pieces of pottery so small that the expert had to use a magnifying loop to even analyze and properly see them. The exploration into the history of Kibworth was a real and exciting event for the citizens of Kibworth but to watch it for 6 hours was overwhelming.

If you are a real history buff or better yet an amateur archeologist then for you this may be a 5 star documentary but for me it was too much detail and not representative of the history of England as a whole.

Here are the chapters of the disks:
Disk One
* Romans to Normans
* Doomsday to Magna Carta
* The Great Famine & The Black Death

Disk Two
* Peasants Revolt to Tutors
* Henry VIII to Industrial Revolution
* Victoria to the Present

I was given a set of DVDs to watch by BBC America and I promised to provide a fair and honest review.
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on October 18, 2015
Fantastic video. We see the history of England through the lens of one little town. I loved the breadth of this series- and I loved the public involvement. This series makes history more personal, and more relevant. Fantastic beginning- as the people of Kibworth and the associated towns begin to do their own digs- discovering bits of their own history and heritage in the process. I don't normally binge watch history programs- but this one I did. I couldn't wait to see what happened next. If you've no interest in history whatsoever, this might not tickle your fancy, but if you've any love for the subject, I can't imagine you wouldn't enjoy this. I've recommended it to all my friends and family, and they've all liked it.
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on August 18, 2014
This is the story of England as experienced by the town of Kibworth in Leicestershire. I don't think I've ever seen a history done in quite this way. Kibworth has seen its fair share of English history, from Roman times up to the present day, when the town enjoys a population from many parts of the world. It suffered through the Black Plague in the late Middle Ages, was close by to the Battle of Naseby in the English Civil War of the 17th Century, was bombed and strafed during World War II, and lost its share of young men in the Great War (World War I).
The people of Kibworth actively helped in the making of this documentary: digging up artifacts in their own yards and finding Roman, Viking, Medieval, and modern objects in quite a variety. Many of the good townspeople can trace their ancestors back through the centuries. The town has seen good times and bad, and we get to relive them with the town. If you like history, this isn't a bad way to learn a piece of it in a different way, from a different perspective. It's pleasant, informative, and I enjoyed watching it.
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on June 26, 2014
I did not expected to have perfect image in a common DVD, the quality of pictures is wonderful, it is like a blu-ray disc! It has almost 6 hours of wonderful landscapes and nice narrative in two DVDs. Michael Wood presents the story himself. I have wached it several times and never got bored. I bought Wood's paperback book too, it has the same content and some black and white pictures too.
The Story of England is told through modern scenes mixed with old facts in the place where they happened. It's a very interesting point of view, indeed! Ordinary people, kinds, queens, literature, wars, musics, religion, art, historical events and cities, everything is there.
I was so fascinated with the Story of England that I decided to buy more DVDs about the subject, then, I ordered Simon Schama's BBC series which I love too.
I recommend Wood's Story of England as well as Shama's A History of Britain to anyone interested in History.
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on April 19, 2016
The film did not have a good script. Too much time spent in looking through different logs, and papers for the various times in England.
Most of the time when the narrator, Michael Wood was not looking into various logs and papers, he would participate in digging with students or locals looking for objects that would indicate the period of time in England.
This was not a moving film ,I had hoped it would be more interesting in the second disc, but it was not, so I stopped viewing the film. This film would be good for teaching in a classroom in England..

The narrator, Michael Woods is outstanding, in other travels within Europe.
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