A History of Britain (2000)
by Simon Schama / BBC
Videos in this documentary
A History of Britain is a BBC documentary series written and presented by Simon Schama, first transmitted in the United Kingdom from 30 September 2000. A study of the history of the British Isles, each of the 15 episodes allows Schama to examine a particular period and tell of its events in his own style. All the programmes are of 59 minutes' duration and were broadcast over three series, ending 18 June 2002. The series was produced in conjunction with The History Channel and the executive producer was Martin Davidson. The music was composed by John Harle, whose work was augmented by vocal soloists such as Emma Kirkby and Lucie Skeaping. Schama's illustrative presentation was aided by readings from actors, including Lindsay Duncan, Michael Kitchen, Christian Rodska, Samuel West and David Threlfall. When Simon Schama was approached by the BBC to make the series, he knew that it would be a big commitment and took a long time to decide if it were something he wanted to do. He surmised that if he was to take it on, he would want to "dive in" and be very involved with the production. Besides writing the scripts, which the historian saw as a "screenplay", he also had an input into other aspects, including the choice of locations. He was concerned that even 15 hour-long programmes would not be enough to tell a story of such magnitude. Accordingly, he and the producers determined that to give each king and queen absolute equal coverage was out of the question: "That way lies madness," he said. Instead, he worked out the essential themes and stories that demanded to be related. Schama explained why, at the time of its making, it was right to produce another historical documentary on Great Britain. At that moment, he argued, Britain was entering a new phase of its relationship with Europe and the rest of the world, and where it ends up depends a great deal on where it's come from. He stated that the stories needed to be told again and again so that future generations can get a sense of their identity. Furthermore, he believed that Britain's history comprised a number of tales worth telling:
"No matter how much you tell them, you never quite know … how compelling and moving they are."