Currently in production

Project details

A major new nine-part series telling the story of art from the dawn of human history to the present day, for the first time on a global scale.

It is now nearly half a century since Kenneth Clark’s series Civilisation thrilled audiences with its authoritative interpretation of the glories of Western art. Inspired by that groundbreaking project, the new series of Civilisations on BBC Two will introduce a new generation to the great masterworks of beauty, ingenuity and illumination created since the dawn of civilisation itself.

This new series will explore the visual culture of societies from around the globe revealing, alongside the magnificent objects made in the West, the wealth of treasures created by other cultures including the extraordinary landscape scrolls of classical China; the sculpture of the Olmecs; African bronzes; Japanese prints; and Mughal miniatures.

Civilisations will have three presenters, each bringing their own skills and perspective to the series:

  • Simon Schama, an art historian with a breadth of experience and authority second to none, will present five programmes, reflecting the wide-ranging nature of his expertise and his extensive knowledge of global art.
  • Mary Beard, the well-known Cambridge classicist, will present two programmes, putting the art and culture of ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt into a much wider context using early material from China, India and Mexico.
  • David Olusoga, historian and writer, also making two programmes, will call upon his expertise in Empire, military history and the relationships between global cultures.

Tony Hall, Director-General of the BBC, said, “I remember the impact Civilisation had on me when I was in school: it was the start of a lifelong passion for the arts. Inspired by that great programme of the past, we want to excite a new generation. We want to show them the power of art and creativity across the world – from the dawn of civilisation to today. I’m thrilled that Simon, Mary and David, three outstanding broadcasters, have accepted the challenge."






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