If you don’t have 11-odd hours to spare, I have posted up the best clips of Civilisation.
1.) At this point I reveal myself in my true colours as a stick-in-the-mud.
The finale to the series. Sir Kenneth Clark sums up his views on humanity and where our civilisation is heading after the intellectual collapse of Marxism. Watch and admire.
2.) Grandeur and Obedience.
Watch from 5:25. This episode on Baroque-era Italy is worth watching in full, particularly if you are paying a visit to Rome. You can watch it in full here. I happen to know this is Stephen Fry’s favourite scene.
Or you could watch the whole thing.
It strikes me that ours is the first age where works of art, poetry, symphonies and our greatest sitcoms can be viewed or heard at the touch of a button. This is an academic utopia. For all modern civilisation’s flaws and pessimism, it is not too radical to say that ours is the most intelligent age. Most of our youngsters pursue higher education; never before has high-brow culture been so popular; fact-checking and intellectual curiosity have been made ridiculously easy. Before Wikipedia, YouTube, free newspapers and iPhones, are we to believe blokes at the pub resolved light-hearted disputes by saying, “Here mate. You wait an hour; I’ll just nip to the library to prove you wrong.” No.
I know our economic crisis has depressed much of the commentariat. But Western Civilisation has not been lost; in fact, it is more healthy and dynamic than ever. These are Sir Kenneth’s words in 1969:
These inheritors of all our catastrophes look cheerful enough, and not at all like the melancholy late Romans or the pathetic Gauls… In fact I should doubt if so many young people have ever been as well-fed, as well-read, as bright-minded, as curious and as critical as the young are today.
The series can be watched in full here.