Kenneth Clark’s 1969 BBC series Civilisation is perhaps the most celebrated documentary ever made for television. But it was entirely of its time: focused exclusively on Western art, patrician and glaringly unconcerned with the art of women.

Nearly half a century on, BBC2 will broadcast a major new series, Civilisations, inspired by Clark’s landmark documentary but with a much broader scope and inclusive approach. Civilisations will introduce a new generation to the extraordinary visual culture of societies from around the globe – from the landscape scrolls of classical China and the sculpture of the Olmecs to African bronzes, Japanese prints and Mughal miniatures. Civilisations will be presented by Simon Schama, Mary Beard and David Olusoga and is scheduled to air in March 2018.

We are delighted to announce we have acquired the only books tied with the series: a book by Mary Beard and a book by David Olusoga based on the episodes of Civilisations they are presenting, to be published in March 2018.

Both books are extraordinarily ambitious, exploring different themes in the universal histories of art and culture. Mary Beard will investigate ancient representations of the human body across the world and will look at the often problematic interface between art and religion, from idolatry to iconoclasm. David Olusoga will examine what happened to art in the great Age of Discovery, when different civilisations encountered each other for the first time. He will also assess how artists dealt with the epochal changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution.

Mary Beard says: “It has been exciting, and slightly daunting, to follow in the footsteps of Clark. My approach is dramatically different, and the reach of our programmes and books much wider. All the same I have often felt myself in dialogue with that rather posh man in his tweeds who opened my eyes, when I was a teenager, to such a lot of art and architecture I had not thought about – or even seen – before.”

David Olusoga says: “The chapters of the past to which I have always been drawn are those in which different cultures came into contact with one another. Some of the most eloquent records of those ages of encounter and empire are those bequeathed to us by artists. As a historian who’s also a documentary producer I hold Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation in great reverence. Yet despite his own protestations Clark was never the ‘stick-in-the-mud’ he pretended to be, and I suspect he’d approve of our new series and its more global approach.”

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