What tv shows would you recommend for learning about history and evolution of human society and connections across times and places and disciplines ?
June 29, 2006 1:23 PM   Subscribe

What tv shows would you recommend for learning about history and evolution of human society and connections across times and places and disciplines ?

For example, I would highly recommend the following tv series :

Eugen Weber's "The Western Tradition" at http://www.learner.org/resources/series58.html . Best analysis of history of Western civilization I have ever come across. I cannot recommend it highly enough. This website has some really excellent stuff. You can watch many of them online.

James Burke's "Connections" and "Connections II" and "Connections III" and "The Day The Universe Changes" --- fascinating history of science.

The 20th Century: A Moving Visual History (1999) ---- left wing perspective , but hey, I did learn something I did not know ---- http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/6305830479/ref=dp_return_1/102-2692199-2242557?%5Fencoding=UTF8&n=130&s=dvd&v=glance

You can say I am studying from history in order to learn to predict the evolution of the human species.

So I am looking for historians and anthropologists and social commentators who are NOT afraid to editorialize in their tv shows and who can connect the dots across times and places and cultures and disciplines and synthesize the vast human knowledge to venture a prediction of their own.

I prefer watching tv shows because I am a visual learner. But if the radio shows or books are great I will study them.

Thanks a million.
posted by studentguru to Education (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There's the TV adaptation of Gun, Germs and Steel. The original book was a fascinating, if somewhat contentious, sweep of macrohistory -- taking an geographical and anthropological view of the evolution of societies based upon the land, climate and resources that they had available to them.

It's not a TV show, but Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything is a recent science history book that comes closest, in my mind, to surpassing the spirt of Connections and The Day The Universe Changed.
posted by bl1nk at 1:31 PM on June 29, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestion.

Another DVD / tv show that just came to mind is Commanding Heights - The Battle for the World Economy (2001) ----- pretty right wing. But I have learned something too. --- http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00006HAZF/qid=1151614386/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/102-2692199-2242557?s=dvd&v=glance&n=130

So anything about history of science, of economy, of politics, of culture, of society is what I want.

Right wing left wing doesn't matter. I am open to suggestions.

I will study the history of salt or the society of ants if it can help me make connections.
posted by studentguru at 1:57 PM on June 29, 2006

Terry Jones' Mideval Lives.
posted by boo_radley at 2:13 PM on June 29, 2006

studentguru -- actually, I wouldn't consider The Commanding Heights to be all that right-wing. It's a record of the expansion of global capitalism during the 80s and 90s. Its focus on the free market certainly makes it seem to be a booster for conservative ideas, but keep in mind that the biggest expansion of capital markets in the age of globalization happened under Clinton's presidency, and his Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin, gets significant screen time. If anything, the goal of Rubin, Jeffrey Sachs and other well-meaning economists of the age was the use of fiscally conservative instruments to achieve socially liberal aims -- privatizing inefficient government bureaucracies to provide greater prosperity to the overall population.

In that sense, the Commanding Heights is a creature of its time, when significant portions of the population (from both halves of the political spectrum) believed in the "rising tide lifts all boats" justification that Clinton used to argue for giving China full trading rights to the US market. That was a bipartisan delusion, and not some conservative scam. If anything, the documentary deserves credit for putting a focus on anti-globalization dissenters and alternative economists like Hernando De Soto.

Besides, if you want shamelessly blinkered globalization boosterism, you'd be better served reading Thomas Friedman's The Lexus and The Olive Tree. A TV documentary made from that would probably seem so endearingly quaint nowadays.
posted by bl1nk at 2:14 PM on June 29, 2006

Without a doubt, Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth. It's probably the most exhilarating and compelling examination of societal development ever recorded for any medium
posted by Neiltupper at 2:15 PM on June 29, 2006

oh, yeah. Power of Myth is great, too.
posted by boo_radley at 2:24 PM on June 29, 2006

The Secret Life of Machines is good stuff.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:44 PM on June 29, 2006

Previously: I want to watch some good documentaries. And I happily add that Vietnam, the 10,000 Day War is available here and there now. Vietnam A Television History is just as good, also available. Also, Documentaries? And a whole bunch of other suggestions that you could hunt down with a search for Documentary.
posted by Chuckles at 6:33 PM on June 29, 2006

That last URL should be Documentary.
posted by Chuckles at 6:34 PM on June 29, 2006

Two classic British documentaries, made in the '60s but that have worn very well.

Kenneth Clarke's Civilisation, focussed on the History of Art and rather too 'Western' for my taste, but still extraordinary in its ambition.

Jacob Bronowski's "Ascent of Man". This is the finest documentary series ever made, focusing on the History of Science. It really is a work of genius and it's just what you are looking for.

You might find these and some other suggestions on the boards at the MV Group
posted by grahamwell at 8:46 AM on June 30, 2006

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