Simon Schama: A History of Britain (Special Edition)
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.Read more ›
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!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
years ago i remember waking up at 6am on Sunday mornings to watch this on The History Channel and was thrilled to find the set for sale. i held back one star.......... Read morePublished 2 months ago by mamaZ
Favorite series ever. I know so much about the history of English kings thanks to this show. Too bad they didn't have this when I was in high school. Read morePublished 3 months ago by J. Robnett
Simon Schama always makes history approachable. I have books re: British history that put me to sleep.Published 3 months ago by babs
If you love History, Archaeology, Psychology, Philosophy, then this is a must see.
Simon Schama takes us back to Britain's past and in so doing gives us a wonderful... Read more
A fascinating and wonderful overview of British history. I have watched many times. This series is sweeping and incredibly well done however; there's a nauseating critical nature... Read morePublished 5 months ago by A. Litten
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