Jonathan Conlin


2009 marks the 40th anniversary of BBC2's landmark series Civilisation, an epic 13-part history of western Europe from the Dark Ages to Concorde's first flight. An embattled figure in television history, Kenneth Clark's runaway success is a milestone to fans who fondly recall the impact the series had in 1969 - and a millstone to others wanting a less patrician take on art. Love him or loathe him, Clark played a pivotal role in broadcasting history, from wartime propaganda through the birth of ITV and the arrival of colour. His series created a new format - the authored 'pundit as hero' documentary series - subsequently exploited by Alistair Cooke, Jacob Bronowski and David Attenborough. It's the series everyone in the UK and the US remembers, but which has never been the object of sustained critical attention - until now.

This book reveals complexities beneath the familiar caricature of the pompous man in the sharp suit: a rich and often paradoxical series that combined nostalgia and cutting-edge technology, confidence and pessimism, continuity and dislocation. Forty years on, its time to go back to Civilisation and find out what it meant in 1969, and what it means today.

Book Details:

  • Author: Jonathan Conlin
  • Published Year: 2009
  • Rights Sold
    • UK: BFI/Palgrave Macmillan
Jonathan Conlin

Jonathan Conlin

Jonathan Conlin was born in New York and later moved to Britain, where he studied history at Oxford. He went on to do graduate work at the Courtauld Institute and Cambridge, becoming a Fellow of Sidney Sussex College in 2002. During this period he spent long periods in Parisian archives, developing an interest in the history of Anglo-French relations. Since his appointment to the University of Southampton in 2006 he has taught courses on a unusually wide range of topics, from the moral philosophy of Adam Smith through the history of cemeteries to the impact of evolution on Victorian society...
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Book Reviews

  • "...succinct and elegant...a fascinating account of the series’ intellectual background...What is most fascinating, however, is Conlin’s treatment of the series as a watershed in television coverage of the arts."
  • "The first of a new genre – a fascinating assessment of a television series made soon enough to record the intentions and experiences of its makers yet distant enough to assess its place in cultural history."
    Sir David Attenborough