If David Olusoga's first film in Civilisations is about the art that followed and reflected early encounters between different cultures, his second explores the artistic reaction to imperialism in the 19th century. David shows the growing ambivalence with which artists reacted to the idea of progress, both intellectual and scientific, that underpinned the imperial mission and followed the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution.
2018 • History
From Roman marbles and Egyptian mummies to Renaissance masterpieces and African sculptures, in this special accompanying programme to Civilisations, Mary Beard goes in search of extraordinary works of art from all over the world that can be seen here in Britain.
2018 • History
Auschwitz-Birkenau was designed to kill. Four gas chambers murdered thousands at a time, belching out smoke and human ashes. Starvation, thirst, disease, and hard labor reduced the average lifespan to less than three months. More than 1-million people perished in the largest German Nazi concentration and extermination camp. Seventy years after her liberation, Kitty Hart-Moxon makes a final return to Auschwitz-Birkenau to walk among the crumbling memorial with students Natalia and Lydia, who, at 16, are the same age now as she was then.
2015 • History
In the final part of his personal account of Britain's empire, Jeremy Paxman tells the extraordinary story of how a desire for conquest became a mission to improve the rest of mankind, especially in Africa, and how that mission shaded into an unquestioning belief that Britain could - and should - rule the world. In Central Africa, he travels in the footsteps of David Livingstone who, though a failure as a missionary, became a legendary figure - the patron saint of empire who started a flood of missionaries to the so-called 'Dark Continent'. In South Africa, Paxman tells the story of Cecil Rhodes, a man with a different sort of mission, who believed in the white man's right to rule the world, laying down the foundations for apartheid. The journey ends in Kenya, where conflict between white settlers and the African population brought bloodshed, torture and eventual withdrawal.
When Homo sapiens turned up in prehistoric Europe, they ran into the Neanderthals. The two types of human were similar enough to interbreed — and both created artifacts of similar complexity. But as more and more Homo sapiens moved into Europe, the balance of power shifted. Neanderthals were overwhelmed. Ever since, we’ve had Europe and the rest of the world to ourselves.
The Aztecs have built a mighty empire that dominates Central America. But it will be destroyed because of a domino effect. 7,000 miles away in modern-day Turkey, the great trading centre of Constantinople is overrun by an Islamic army. Europeans race to find a new route to the spice-rich East. Instead, Christopher Columbus lands in America – and discovers gold. Within 30 years the Aztecs will be conquered.
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. uncovers the complex trade networks and advanced educational institutions that transformed early north and West Africa from deserted lands into the continent’s wealthiest kingdoms and learning epicentres. In Part 4 Gates explores the power of Africa’s greatest ancient cities, including Kilwa, Great Zimbabwe and Benin City, whose wealth, art and industrious successes attracted new European interest and interaction along the continent’s east and west coasts.