wikipedia | Civilisation—in full, Civilisation: A Personal View by Kenneth Clark—is a television documentary series outlining the history of Western art, architecture and philosophy since the Dark Ages. The series was produced by the BBC and aired in 1969 on BBC2. Both the television scripts and the accompanying book version were written by art historian Kenneth Clark (1903–1983), who also presented the series. The series is considered to be a landmark in British Television's broadcasting of the visual arts.
Civilisation was one of the first United Kingdom television documentary series made in colour, commissioned during David Attenborough's controllership of BBC2. For technical reasons, colour television was to come to BBC2 before BBC1 and, as a channel aimed at a more highbrow audience, it was appropriate to commission a major series about the arts. It was Attenborough who prompted the title, but due to time constraints the series only covered Western Civilisation. Clark did not "suppose that anyone could be so obtuse as to think I had forgotten about the great civilisations of the pre-Christian era and the east", though the title continued to worry him.
The series won many awards and was sold to over sixty countries. The book which accompanied the series became a best seller in both the United Kingdom and the United States. The American sponsor Xerox paid $450,000 for a single film compilation of the series. Clark earned a peerage on the strength of the series; taking the title Baron Clark of Saltwood; he was sometimes referred to facetiously as "Lord Clark of Civilisation".
Some[who?] have criticised the series for using the title "Civilisation" when it dealt more narrowly with the civilisation in of Western Europe. In this context, the series was considered by some to be Eurocentric, with African works of art acknowledged but seen as the products of superstition, rather than rational thought, and not evidence of civilisation. In the first episode of the series, "The Skin of Our Teeth," Clark acknowledged the vitality of Viking art and the dynamism of Viking society, but found that these were not enough to constitute what he meant by 'civilisation'. In the same episode, Clark made it clear that the series would be concerned with Western civilisation. Furthermore the series' subtitle, "A Personal View by Kenneth Clark", reinforced the subjectivity of the thoughts he expressed.