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A History of Britain: The Complete Collection (2008 Repackage)

4.2 out of 5 stars 172 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

From the dawn of civilization to the 20th century, A COMPLETE HISTORY OF BRITAIN re-animates familiar tales and illuminates overlooked aspects of Englnd s past. Written and hosted by historian Simon Schama (the bestselling author of Rembrandt s Eyes and The Embarrassment of Riches), this monumental BBC production has been hailed by critics for its colorful--and controversial--approach.

Discarding timelines and tiresome lineages, HISTORY provides a liveley look at the personalities and cultures that infuse Britain s past and examines the impact of this extraordinary heritage on the modern nation. 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.

All 15 episodes of the landmark series are available on DVD in this comprehensive collector s set.


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

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: History of Britain
  • Directors: The History Channel
  • Format: Box set, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 5
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: A&E Home Video (New REleaset)
  • DVD Release Date: July 29, 2008
  • Run Time: 900 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (172 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0016OKR34
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #122,307 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "A History of Britain: The Complete Collection (2008 Repackage)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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By A Customer on July 17, 2003
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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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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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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