1 9 6 9 (UK)
13 x 50 minute episodes
A 13-part documentary series created, written and presented by Sir Kenneth Clark, charting the events from the fall of the Greek and Roman empires – incidents which ultimately led to current 20th-century Western civilisation.
The premise for the series, which was fully titled Civilisation: a personal view by Kenneth Clark, was explained by Clark with a quote from John Ruskin:
“Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts – the book of their deeds, the book of their words and the book of their art. Not one of these books can be understood unless we read the two others, but of the three the only trustworthy one is the last.”
And for 13 weeks he attempted to show how two thousand years of the creative urge had moulded western civilisation.
The series cost £200,000 and took three years to make. In that time, Clark and his crew travelled 80,000 miles, went to 117 different locations in 11 countries, visited 118 museums and 18 libraries.
They shot 200,000 feet of film – enough to make six full-length movies and 66-year-old Clark became an unlikely celebrity.
His smart suits contrasted with what so many were wearing in 1969. He took viewers back to splendid cathedrals and palaces and he showed them beautiful tapestries and paintings whereas they had been used to Vietnam, race riots, protest demonstrations and pop festivals.
Peter Montagnon and Michael Gill produced.