A History of Britain II - The Wars of the British (1603 - 1776) ... Cover Art

A History of Britain II - The Wars of the British (1603 - 1776) [VHS]

Simon Schama (Writer and Conception)


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Review

British historian Simon Schama narrows his focus considerably in this second part of his A History of Britain. The first six episodes covered thousands of years from the Neolithic age to the reign of Elizabeth I, but here he devotes five hours to a crucial period of less than two centuries, when Britain was utterly transformed.

The series describes the painful birth of Great Britain as a world power between 1603 and 1776, moving from Scottish rebellions and the English Civil Wars to the American Revolution and the growth of the British Empire. Schama devotes little time to social history--with the exception of a wonderful sketch of Hannoverian London—concentrating instead on the shift of power from kings to politicians and the growing importance of trade. This allows the narrative to proceed quickly, and makes the key personalities of a turbulent period come alive.

Schama is a compelling storyteller, and his presence helps The History of Britain avoid the twin traps of dryness and excessive gimmickry. Judicious use of cleverly filmed reconstructions and superb music (including a song from Elvis Costello) help keep the story moving, but it is Schama himself who makes the hours fly by. His complete confidence in the importance of the past to our understanding of the present makes The History of Britain both fascinating and thrilling. --Simon Leake


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