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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
History of Britain, A-The Complete Series (2000)

History of Britain, A-The Complete Series (2000)

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Released 2-Dec-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Simon Shama's Promotional Message
Featurette-Interview Taken From The Rest Is History with Mark Lawson
Featurette-Television and The Trouble With History
Audio-Only Track-Original Score (6)
Featurette-Tempus Fugit
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 872:25 (Case: 960)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL
Multi Disc Set (6)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Martin Davidson

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Simon Schama
Case Gatefold
RPI $149.95 Music John Harle

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Dutch for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Simon Schama's 15-part series, A History Of Britain, is quite simply, in this reviewer's opinion, the best documentary series to appear on television in the last few years.

    A History Of Britain is written and presented by Professor Simon Schama, a redoubtable historian with excellent credentials. Schama has studied and taught history at Cambridge, Oxford and Harvard Universities. Schama is currently a professor in art history and history at Columbia university, but far from being a knowledgeable and dry historian, Schama is also an award winning author. A former art critic for the New Yorker magazine, Schama has also won many literary awards for his work as an essayist and journalist. This is Schama's third foray into television, (the other two were as BBC documentaries as well), and again he's come up with a winner.

    I always find that one of the distinguishing features with any documentary series is the writer/presenter, whether it be Dr. Robert Winston in the brilliant The Human Body, or Sir Richard Attenborough in the amazing Trials Of Life. Some presenters not only boast an incredible knowledge, but also a knack for sharing it. Like the aforementioned two series, A History Of Britain is both fascinating and very accessible. Schama, like Winston and Attenborough, is blessed with a passionate and infectious enthusiasm for his subject, which makes watching this series, and absorbing its content, a most enjoyable experience. Sometimes violent, and often touching, A History Of Britain is thoroughly researched and illuminating. Schama imbues the history with an intense, passionate, theatrical presence, with larger-than-life characters that range from "crowned criminals" to thieving Popes. Schama has an incredible grasp of the English language, and his beautiful and gifted use of language results in a series dripping with compelling drama and imagery.

    A brief summary of the DVD's contents follows:

    Disc 1 (174:56)

    Episode 1: Beginnings: The series begins by looking at Stone Age Britons, and how these people were displaced over the next 4000 years by the arrival of Romans, Saxons, Vikings, and Normans.

   Episode 2: Conquest: How Britain's history was inextricably altered one day in 1066, with the successful invasion of William the Conqueror.

    Episode 3: Dynasty: Following the Norman Conquest, a new royal dynasty is established. Few are as fascinating as the warring Dynasty that gave rise to King Henry II.

    Disc 2 (176:04)

    Episode 4: Nations: How the nation of Britain rose under the domineering rule of "Longshanks" (King Edward I)

    Episode 5: King Death: The plague devastated the population of Britain and Europe.

    Episode 6: Burning Convictions: The war between Protestants and the Catholic Church becomes increasingly dramatic as a King becomes the leading Protestant.

    Disc 3 (170:53)

    Episode 7: The Body Of The Queen: An examination of Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots.

    Episode 8: The British Wars: The turbulent civil wars of the seventeenth century culminated in two amazing events, the execution of a King, and Britain becoming a republic.

    Episode 9: Revolutions: Oliver Cromwell's oppressive rule of the British republic is examined.

    Disc 4 (172:41)

    Episode 10: Britannia Incorporated: A new Britain emerges, built on the rules of economics, not the rules of the Church.

    Episode 11: The Wrong Empire: Through exploration and war, a small island came to dominate the planet.

    Episode 12: Forces Of Nature: In the age of revolution, the late 18th century, winds of political change sweep through Britain and its neighbours.

    Disc 5 (177:51)

    Episode 13: Victoria And Her Sisters: A look at the mind boggling advancements in technology and industrialization during the Victorian age.

    Episode 14: The Empire Of Good Intentions: The British promise to her dominions of civilization of a better life is compared to the delivery of coercion and famine.

    Episode 15: The Two Winstons: A look at Churchill and Orwell's Winston, and their impact on British history.

    Disc 6 (Special Features)

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Transfer Quality


    There are some very, very disappointing features with the transfer, but none impacted on my enjoyment of this brilliant series.

    The transfer is beautifully framed in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced.

    The sharpness is usually good, but the shadow detail is often poor, for example at 10:10 Episode 1.

    The colour is good, with accurate flesh-tones.

    By far, the most disappointing feature of the transfer are the MPEG artefacts. While there are only about three hours compressed onto each RSDL disc, the transfer seems to have been poorly handled. This transfer has quite possibly the worst pixelization that I have ever seen on a review DVD. There appears to be a low bit-rate throughout, which results in an MPEG smear whenever something moves too quickly onscreen. A good example of this appears at 29:40 Episode 3.

    Film-to-video artefacts appear in the form of mild aliasing, such as the shimmer on the stone fences at 12:43 Episode 1.

    Film artefacts appear throughout, but they are mostly small, such as the smattering of flecks that appear at 54:07 Episode 1.

    Only English subtitles are present, and they are accurate.

    These are RSDL discs. The layer changes are usually very smooth and not disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is only one audio option, Dolby Stereo, which is perfectly adequate for a documentary series.

    The dialogue quality and audio sync are excellent.

    The original music is credited to John Harle, and it is gloriously foreboding and ominous.

    There is no surround presence or subwoofer activity.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are plenty of interesting extras.


    An animated menu, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo audio.

Simon Schama's Promotional Message (6:47)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo. An explanation by Schama as to why he felt this new series was timely and relevant.


    Text-based information about Simon Schama.

Schama interview from The Rest Is History (6:47)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo, an interview from a British television show.

Original Score

    Six pieces taken from the original score can be selected and listened to against a static screen.

Television and the Trouble with History (48:55)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo, a lecture presented by Schama, discussing the limitations and advantages of television in presenting history.

Tempus Fugit

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo, Schama discusses the problem of deciding which events to cover in the series.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    A History Of Britain has been released on DVD in Region 1.

The Region 4 DVD misses out on:

The Region 1 DVD misses out on:


    A History Of Britain is both fascinating and informative, and the DVD box set is well worth purchasing if you have an interest in history, as these discs will get plenty of play over the coming years.

    The video quality is disappointing but did not affect my enjoyment of the series.

    The audio quality is good.

    The extras are plentiful.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Tuesday, December 17, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

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