I have started to rewatch Civilisation by Kenneth Clarke (The Lord Clarke if you are that way inclined). It is a fascinating programme for two reasons: Firstly it is now 50 years old and so is a social history document in its own right. The opening sequences shows a number of cities including New York, Rome, Paris and London as they were in the 1960’s. From this sequence the city that appears to have changed the most is London. Secondly, the views expressed by Clarke himself are very much of his time and his class. He has a patricians view of the world which really has dated. Today we celebrate many things which he wouldn’t consider civilised. I am only halfway through the first episode but his view of post Roman history of western Europe was very much that of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Today this has been replaced by a much more nuanced view of how the Roman Empire disappeared and the world it left behind. There is seen to be far more continuity than change. This is a view not shared by Clarke but then again why should it be? He is a man of his time without the accumulated knowledge of the past 50 years.
Given all these problems it is still a masterpiece of television and one I am will consume at my leasure.