Simon Schama begins Civilisations with this premise: that it is in art - the play of the creative imagination - that humanity expresses its most essential self: the power to break the tyranny of the humdrum, the grind of everyday.
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Simon Schama explores one of our deepest artistic urges - the depiction of nature. Simon discovers that landscape painting is seldom a straightforward description of observed nature - rather it is a projection of dreams and idylls, as well as of escapes and refuges from human turmoil, the elusive paradise on earth.
2018 • History
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
March 1953. Stalin is dead. Following many long hours of agony in his dacha, the Little Father of Peoples is now no more than an embalmed corpse. His potential successors eagerly flock to pay their respects. In East Berlin, a wave of hope swept through the German workers who rise up against the Party. This hope is swiftly crushed by Soviet tanks... In Asia, the hot conflicts are coming to an end. After the Panmunjom truce, the US ingloriously leaves Korea. The few remaining troops impatiently await a visit from Marilyn Monroe. In the meantime, in Indochina, another army prepares for a far less exciting event. The French hope to stop the Vietminh in Dien Bien Phu, a village surrounded by mountains 300 km from Hanoi... But the French generals do not suspect that at the same time, General Giap of Vietminh and his Chinese advisers, are developing a plan battle that will take the form of a trap: let the French forces settle in the basin of Dien Bien Phu, then surround and destroy them. The French army soon evacuated the country, terribly bruised and humiliated, but Ho Chi Minh only partially triumphed: during the Geneva negotiations, his Chinese and Soviet comrades disappointed his expectations, for fear of an escalation of the conflict. Ho Chi Minh got North Vietnam, but the South is still in Western hands. What will Ho Chi Minh do?
From the 15th to well into the 20th century, Europeans conquered and dominated the world. On behalf of Spain, Christopher Columbus sought a new sea route to India and instead found a "New World". His discovery was the starting signal for the "Europeanization of the Earth".
The new treasure map leads Albert Lin to discover lost pyramids at the ancient city of El Palmar and beneath the site of a sacrificial ball game. Hidden treasures reveal the epic scale of the ancient Mayan civilization.
The numbers will favoured one side, then the other in 1918. When the Bolsheviks took Russia out of the war, millions of German and Austro-Hungarian troops were freed up to attack Britain and Belgium, France and Italy. But across the Atlantic, America was training an army of two-million men.
Mankind is a building species. Inspired by the divine we create monuments to its power (Stonehenge, the Great Pyramid). New challenges create new sciences and when the Romans mixed volcanic ash with water they created a new super-material: concrete.