Friday, July 06, 2018


Civilisation by Kenneth Clark 1903-1983 (or Lord Clark of Civilisation as he latterly became known) is one of those landmark series that gives you access to the cultures, art, architecture and artefacts - which none of us could ever dream of encountering in entirety, in person, in our lifetimes.

That said it's a very Western Europe perspective on civilisation - from 50 years ago. It was first televised in 1969!

It's also a great trot through very many of the celebrated artists in art history (again - the Western European version) and an opportunity to see their artwork in situ.

To my mind it's important that it remains accessible in terms of what it can teach us - even if it now seems dated in style and perspective.

The BBC have done the decent thing and Civilisation is now permanently(?) accessible via the archive of BBC television programmes within BBC iPlayer

There are also very many copies of the BBC series Civilisation on YouTube - and the fact they exist means that the entire series is accessible to everybody who does not have access to BBC iPlayer

So this post is by way of signposting how the series is accessible to all
  • on iPlayer
  • on YouTube
Explanation of what each episode covers can be found in the Wikipedia article about the Civilisation Series. (click first link above)

Civilisation on iPlayer

Civilisation by Kenneth Clark - on BBC iPlayer
These are the links to the episodes:
  1. The Skin of Our Teeth - about the Dark Ages, the Norsemen and Charlemagne, after the collapse of the Roman Empire
  2. The Great Thaw - covers the reawakening of Europe in the Early Middle Ages (12th and early 13th centuries) and great architecture
  3. Romance and Reality - about the later Middle Ages in 14th century France (Loire) and Italy (Tuscany and Umbria)
  4. Man: the Measure of all Things - looks at the notion of the Renaissance Man and centres of Renaissance civilisation (Florence, Urbino and Mantua)
  5. The Hero as Artist - takes a look at a look at individuals of genius, notably Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci and focuses on great art in the Vatican
  6. Protest and Communication - about the upheavals of the Protestant Reformation in northern Europe. He looks at Holbein, Thomas Moore, Erasmus, the printing press and Durer.
  7. Grandeur and Obedience - the Counter-Reformation—against the Protestant north and the development of St Peter's in Rome.
  8. The Light of Experience - new realism and observation of human character in Dutch paintings
  9. The Pursuit of Happiness - how the works of Bach, Handel, Haydn, and Mozart in the architecture of the Rococo churches and palaces of Bavaria.
  10. The Smile of Reason - the Age of Enlightenment
  11. The Worship of Nature - the decline of religion in the middle of the 18th century and the emergence of Rousseau, the romantic movement and the picturesque - being 'at one with nature' and the landscape paintings of Turner and Constable
  12. The Fallacies of Hope - traces the progressive disillusionment of the artists associated with the Romantic movement
  13. Heroic Materialism - a discussion of the materialism and humanitarianism of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Civilisation on YouTube

The most viewed and best quality version of Civilisation on iPlayer can be found in this Civilisation Playlist (in HD) by Rich9881 - which contains links to all 13 episodes (in HD).

Like I said the fact it has not been taken down I guess means that the BBC recognises this is a programme which deserves to be accessible to all for educational purposes only.


  1. An excellent series, I also have the book and would love to see the series again. There is a PBS Series in the US that is playing now. But I'm still a very big fan of Lord Kenneth Clark. Thank you for this post.

  2. I truly appreciate this information, Katherine.
    Thank you.



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