1969, History  -   46 Comments
Ratings: 7.51/10 from 41 users.

CivilisationIn 1966 BBC Television embarked on its most ambitious documentary series to date.

The eminent art historian Lord Clark was commissioned to write and present an epic examination of Western European culture, defining what he considered to be the crucial phases of its development.

Civilisation: A Personal View by Lord Clark would be more than two years in the making, with filming in over 100 locations across 13 countries. The lavish series was hailed as a masterpiece when it was first transmitted in 1969.

From the fall of the Roman Empire to the Industrial Revolution and beyond, Clark's compelling narrative is accompanied by breathtaking color photography of Europe's greatest landmarks.

This 'history of ideas as illustrated by art and music' remains the benchmark for the numerous programmes it inspired.

Civilisation was one of the first United Kingdom television documentary series made in color, commissioned during David Attenborough's controllership of BBC2.

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46 Comments / User Reviews

  1. William

    @facebook-100002397446885:disqus Oh dear, another bell-end! Just because someone with a vast knowledge of history and culture has been conferred a title under the English/British parliamentarian system, you decide that this fascinating documentary is not for you. So you won't even watch it - good man, that's what we call constructive criticism. Um, perhaps the problem is that you have really already decided that culture is not for you - fine, but please don't make excuses. I'm sure there's a good game of footy to be watched somewhere! Don't let culture stop you.

  2. kiran bhanushali

    Bookmarking for later.

  3. Stephen Carey

    Watching this changed my life; thank you Kenneth Clark. I hope others enjoy it as much as I did.

  4. Chaz Ed

    @ Lord Newfield! What a pom-pas know it all!

  5. Chaz Ed

    Lord? That alone and the previous comments will keep me from watching this doc! Lord of what? I know it's an old school term for some semblance of respect! Whatever! I would think by now they would have done away with the term! I was once addressed as Master as a lad! Was that meant to give me ups? I didn't see myself as a master of anything but my toys then! Stop living in the past and look to the future! Lord help us!

  6. Paul Creasy

    One of the best documentaries every made. Highly recommended.

  7. Si Belsi

    something missing in the should be civilisation from the English's point of view
    a doc made with the free association method ..neither chronological nor wholistic..on the 30th minute yawning and leaving

    1. Leofwin

      There's nothing missing in the title. It's called "Civilisation: A Personal View By Lord Clark". That's very specific. Lord Clark doesn't necessarily speak for all English people. He's one man.

      Given that it's a series about Western European culture, an English perspective seems perfectly appropriate. Because the English are a Western European culture.

      If other cultures want to write, film, present and produce a 10-hour television documentary about Western European culture, then they can go right ahead. The English aren't stopping them. Let's see them do it. Where are all the Pakistani documentaries? The Afghan documentaries? The Rwandan documentaries? The Somali documentaries? The Tunisian documentaries? Do these cultures even make documentaries?

    2. mo

      If you look around I'm sure you would find some you small-minded f***.

    3. Leofwin


      In what way am I small-minded? The OP was complaining that the title of the documentary didn't specifiy that the presenter was English. My point was, why the hell should it? And I challenge you to find me a similar documentary made in Rwanda. Heck, even the whole of Africa.

    4. Guest

      I think you might be placing a bit too much importance on the creation of documentaries in judging the worth of other cultures. I can't think of a single reason why a Somali filmmaker would even care about creating a documentary on the history of western Europe...

      I believe @Si Belsi was referring to views from other Western European cultures such as France, The Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Spain, etc., since each would have their own very unique version/view of how the exact same time period in history played out from their own perspective.

      There are two sides to every story: It's ignorant to think one country has the only correct version of it's own history... history is written by the winners, simple logic.

      There is no logic in saying "this is an English documentary so it's perfectly appropriate to only use the English side of the story for each event" - It is, however, logical to say "This is how each nation/person viewed/was involved in the battle/expedition/government/etc..."

    5. Leofwin

      @ Dustin Manduffie,

      It says that it's Lord Clarke's personal view. You're saying that art historians from other Western European cultures will probably have a different perspective, and whilst you're correct, it's their responsibility to produce their own documentary giving their perspective, like Lord Clarke and the English have done here. I don't think the English have any obligation to include Germany's opinions in their documentaries, just as Germany doesn't have any obligation to include England's opinions in theirs.

  8. Misa Amane

    Ugh, it was narrated by the Nazi news correspondent. Not even worth a watch.

    1. Thomas_Newfield

      Kenneth Clark oversaw the preservation of the many priceless works of artistic genius of which the (London) National Gallery is custodian, during the Blitz (the mass bombing of London by the Luftwaffe). He insured British artists were not conscripted into the army - not killed - and so could continue to work. He lived through the Blitz.

      Who are you? Get back in your hole.

    2. Cindy Duncan


  9. spectator

    egyptians,greeks,romans,spanish,english n americans all thrived materially on the labours of slaves. ughhh.still they call it a "civilization'..the words shame has no meaning for these barbarians... man made mountains made to serve no purpose..gow they feel proud to associate themselves with these worthless stones... some day man will be civilized still a long way to go...

    1. Leofwin

      Name one culture that didn't have slaves.

    2. David Bruce Powers

      Aleut/Eskimo and Tibetan/ Nepalese just off the top of my head, but I 'm fairly sure there are others.

    3. Bruce Wilson

      Tibet was also home to a massive abused serfdom that was tortured by their cruel feudal monk overlords before the Chinese invaded. China was seen as a great liberator at first. Pretty sure that's not the case anymore though...but, landless serfs that are not allowed to leave is certainly a form of slavery.

  10. Lary Nine

    @Joseph de M~ "The whole documentary is simply a series of value judgments glued together by snippets of facts and delivered by what is now no longer credible –"

    I've assumed that's what 'history' is, more often than not. It's always being revised by human beings--- those darned subjective primates!

  11. Whatitis

    To add - its a pretty good doc overall, just keep in mind it was made in the sixties and dude was old then so he might have a little incidental old man, old man racism.

  12. Whatitis

    I agree with waldo in the sense that the dude is kind of pompous and makes several sweeping generalizations and unnecessary value judgments.

  13. wayne

    This was one of them documentary that help shape and mold them in to what we know to day I thank Lord Clark for that. The real person to thank is David Attenborough who continues to make some of the best doc I have ever seen. There is not one by him I did not like. Lastly we still don't know where the first civilization was and may never be known. We have not found it yet and who know when we will but when we do it will not shock or surprise me if it some place no one ever thought it would be. We learn more each year and I think we are at a point where we now know that each civilization had a sister one that it traded with which help build wealth and power. Stepping stone to civilization agriculture, mastering one environment, trade, and religion are the few thing they all seem to have in common. We should pay tribute to what each one has done instead of fight over who was 1st or better. Lets keep searching for to look at are past can teach us about the future for with out knowing the mistakes of history we are doomed to keep repeating them

  14. Desdemone

    I've commented before about the narration, and it's not the accent that bothered me. One can narrate with any sort of accent natural to one's upbringing, it's the dramatic reading overdone in a monotoned passion that drove me off. I would LOVE to finish the whole documentary - the information is valuable to me - if I wasn't so tired down by it. I literally had to take a break and listen to something more soothing to the ear after an hour. I TRIED to come back to it, but then decided there must be other history docu's out there that won't hurt my ears. No offense to the producer of this film. But it's the same with any public speaking: pacing, tone, and attitude make or break a presentation, not just the eloquence of content.

  15. HHV

    All y'all chill. Lord Clark was one of the greatest art historians, evah. It *was* 1969, and he was the first person to admit this series didn't begin to cover the whole of history. But, for it's time and place, and the clearly "A Personal View", it's BRILLIANT. It stands the test of time as a critique, and I loved it. They're coming out with an HD version. His "patrician" accent is the accent of a proper educated British gentleman. Deal. What he SAYS with that accent is clearly worth hearing, and more than once. And, if you didn't spot Captain Picard in episode 6, shame on you!

  16. Ron

    A rather narrow definition of civilization, but typical for the time. That in of itself is interesting.

  17. lee

    only trouble with this site is the comments...i come to watch a doc but i end up reading a book hehe :)

  18. MFC

    please people, try to see this documentary in context of it's time. this is obviously a view of the patrician elite that ruled britain, hence the bbc, at that time. it's an historical document per se and shows how much our perception of the world changed.

    1. Thomas_Newfield

      What post-modernist tripe.

      If the dude's posh - so what? And what is so reprehensible about this Clark's view anyway? Just too 'boring' for all you Simpsons-watchers out there?

      And by the way, Britain is currently ruled by a gaggle of Old Etonian Oxbridge millionaires - which it wasn't in 1969.

      Read a book!

    2. Thomas_Newfield

      And if you want to learn English, I suggest you study Mr Clark, for he both spoke and could write it, which it appears you can not.

  19. Vlatko

    Yes right @M, @Zatarra it's 1966.

    1. Thomas_Newfield

      No, it's 1969.

  20. Zatarra

    can we limit waldo to one comment per video pls, and im sure u ment 1966 and not 1996.

  21. yapxingguan

    after watching togas in tv, i have this rather low view of lord clark :/

  22. Joseph de Maistre

    The BBC doing a documentary on Western Civilization, even in 1996!!! What a joke! It's like having Stalin write the history of the Third Reich ... for the Third Reich (which btw, is more or less what we have today on the 3rd Reich - but that’s another issue).

    The whole documentary is simply a series of value judgments glued together by snippets of facts and delivered by what is now no longer credible - British, or, to be more specific, English, reasonableness and 'objectivity'. What is joke!

    1. Thomas_Newfield

      Ahh hindsight is a wonderful thing. As is the 'knowledge' that it is US who ride the crest of the wave of progress as it rages onward... hmm.

      What I think we have here is a thoughtful, well-made, no doubt flawed documentary - it explicitly does not pretend to objectivity - which is too much for the mind, or attention-span, of what pass for 'intellectuals' in our modern wiki-age, who are DUMB!

      But then, it's also not only ENGLISH - but also REASONABLE!!! Must be utter trash then.

  23. Waldo

    whoops, that was suppose to read "documentary's assertions."

  24. Waldo

    In fact in light of the mistake I made, it is rather off of topic. If it were up to me I would remove it. Besides, I don't feel like having to explain over and over that I mistook the context of this documentaries assertions.

  25. Waldo

    Excuse me, I suppose I took it the wrong way. It seemed to me he was saying that these happenings were the beginnings of civilization period, not only the beginnings of Western european civilization. The rest of my statement followed this mistake, if you think it is irrelevant erase it- by all means.

  26. Shane

    Ive not even watch this yet but Waldo, the first paragraph says....

    The eminent art historian Lord Clark was commissioned to write and present an epic examination of Western European culture, defining what he considered to be the crucial phases of its development.

    Its nothing to do with east versus west. The guy was asked specifically to examine Western Europe, nothing more.

  27. M

    uh ... i think it 1969 not 1996 ,,, Mate ;)

  28. Waldo

    Kind of pompous and boring, if you ask me. Maybe its the narrators proper British accent, and the way he drones on and on never changing pitch or emphasizing any particular syllable or word. Besides, I think it must be rather offensive to those in the East to think of the West as the home of civilization. In reality the East is where the first settlements started taking on the trimmings and air of civilization. This guy says he can't really define civilization, which I agree with, but then he goes on to say that maybe it implies a sense of permanency found in the west. That's ridiculous there are cultures in the East far far older and thus more permanent than our western culture.

    Don't get me wrong, I have harped over and over on this site about the misplaced hatred of those in the East toward everything Western. To me it's far past time for us to drop the old hate of East versus West or vica versa. But, it is documentaries like these that represent the supremist attitude of the West that help perpetuate that hate. Of course the recent actions of the US against Eastern nations certainly doesn't help either. I would argue that the self affirmation that goes along with the condemnation of the East made those wars much more likely. And that self affirmation is reinforced by documenatries such as this.

    1. Vlatko

      Relax @Waldo, this is a documentary made in 1996. It's an examination of Western European culture, defining what the author considered to be the crucial phases of its development.

      The alternate title is Civilisation: A Personal View by Lord Clark.

      I wonder what East and the recent actions of the US against Eastern nations have to do with this documentary?

      You say "Don’t get me wrong", but most of the people will get you wrong.

    2. Thomas_Newfield

      Yeah, cos he is wrong. Watch Episode 2 dude! Just the 1st 2 minutes! lol