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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sir Kenneth Clark's Civilisation: "The Skin of Our Teeth"

In our estimation, Sir Kenneth Clark's 1969 made-for-TV documentary, "Civilisation," is the finest program of its kind ever produced. In the first segment, "The Skin of our Teeth," Clark examines Western Civilization in the six centuries following the collapse of the Roman Empire. From the Byzantine world's Ravenna to Iona, the Holy Isle of the Celtic Hebrides, and Charlemagne's chapel at Aachen, he unravels the extraordinary story of how European thought and art were saved by 'the skin of our teeth'.

The program is timeless, and its insights seem even more poignant in our own day. Clark saw civilization threatened by a new barbarism in 1969. That threat is more imminent now; the barbarians are inside the walls and live among us. Christianity can and will endure in civilizations other than our own, but this brilliant and beautiful documentary distills the essence of all that is worth preserving in the civilization of the Christian West.

We hope to post future episodes when they become available on YouTube. A superb book which accompanied the series is available from Amazon.


Anonymous said...

I just unearthed this book from my self given to me by my parents in the early 70's. It will be a blessing to watch the You Tube videos and follow along with the script. Please post more episodes as availble. Thank you.

Steven H. Newton said...

I notice that the clips you run here are the later, edited versions, which leave out Kenneth Clark wryly commenting on the fact that the primitive negro imagination in Africa could evoke powerful emotional connections, but not civilization.