Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Civilisation: A Personal View” as Want to Read:
Civilisation:  A Personal View
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Civilisation: A Personal View

4.23  ·  Rating Details  ·  925 Ratings  ·  65 Reviews
Historical & cultural synthesis of Western art, its buildings, books & great individuals. Prepared for the author's tv series.
Color Illustrations
Black & White Illustrations
The Skin of our Teeth
The Great Thaw
Romance & Reality
Man-the Measure of all Things
The Hero as Artist
Protest & Communication
Grandeur & Obedience
The Ligh
Hardcover, 379 pages
Published August 10th 1969 by Harper & Row (NYC/Evanston) (first published 1969)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Civilisation, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Civilisation

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,043)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
May 28, 2013 Trevor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, art
I started watching this and then bought the book. This is sumptuous. It was made in 1969 by the BBC to encourage people to buy colour television sets, I believe. As an introduction to the arts it is quite conservative. But it gives an interesting overview of the history of art and some notion of the main periods. What he calls civilisation covers a remarkably slight and slender portion of human civilisation, you know, apart from the occasional bridge, it really seems to amount to art. Nothing wr ...more
Mar 20, 2016 Lotz rated it it was amazing
Shelves: artsy-fartsy
I wonder if a single thought that has helped forward the human spirit has ever been conceived or written down in an enormous room

I must admit immediately that I have never read nor even laid eyes on this book. I’m sure it’s lovely. This review is, rather, about the television series, which I’d wager is twice as lovely.

Civilisation is the best documentary I’ve ever seen. Kenneth Clark takes his viewer from the Dark Ages, through Romanesque, gothic, the Renaissance, the Reformation, baroque, roc
Brian Gatz
Dec 30, 2011 Brian Gatz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
God, if this were newer...Here's an incredible survey of what happened in art, philosophy, and (most importantly) architecture from ~1000-1915. It's not entirely optimistic, but looks up enough. Paths, rights, and wrongs don't much play into it. We're creating piles of architecture, sweet paintings, effortless sculpture--or we're graceful in proportion, famed in ideas, moderate in wealth, and subtle in human appreciation. If there's a pattern, it's cyclical, short, and ecstatic. Some of the best ...more
May 19, 2015 Marc rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art
This book is more than 50 years old, and only the paper version of a BBC-TV-series. As a young man I saw some parts of it and was very impressed by the erudition of Clark and his strong vision. So many years later, that vision obviously is very outdated; the narrow Western focus today would be completely out of the question; moreover, Clark did not venture into the twentieth century art, though we do have the impression that he has a not so flattering opinion about it. Some of his remarks, we wo ...more
Jan 14, 2015 Pieter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kunst
Although both the book dates back to 1969, I enjoyed the reading very much. To be honest, I read the book and watched the related DVD-series simultaneously. The DVD offers the opportunity to see also the buildings, pieces of art, paintings to which Sir Kenneth Clark refers. The book covers a history of civilisation covering more than a millenium of European history. Focus is rather on the Low Countries, Italy, Germany, France and the Isles. Little or no attention to Spain and Eastern/ Middle Eur ...more
About two-thirds of the way through, Clark makes a statement that to me sums up the whole point of the narrative: "[A]lthough one may use works of art to illustrate the history of civilization, one must not pretend that social conditions produce works of art or inevitably influence their form." This is exactly what Clark does: the progress of art is discussed in parallel with the progress in civilization, of which art is simultaneously herald, inspirator, and mirror. At times I feel that Clark d ...more
Oct 05, 2014 Sasha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-books
Verbatim of classic TV series where Kenneth Clark discussed civilization of Western Europe from collapse of Roman Europe to recent times.
I am not familiar with original TV program so for me this was the first introduction with Clark and I loved it,his way with words is very classy and he surely and swiftly moves from one subject to another,in fact there were so many interesting side-stories that I started to note everything down for future research,absolutely loved his style and often would re-r
Мартин Касабов

"Цивилизацията" на Кенет Кларк е едно пътуване през човешката история в търсене на това толкова неизмеримо понятия "цивилизация". По самите думи на автора можем да съдим колко трудно е то да бъде систематизирано в едно или две изречения.

"Какво е цивилизация? Не знам. Не мога да й дам абстрактно определение-все още не. Но мисля, че мога да позная цивилизацията, когато я видя."

Този цитат хвърля най-ясна представа за съдържанието на книгата. Отказвайки се от
Dec 23, 2010 Alins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
John Sutherland
Jun 21, 2012 John Sutherland rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a fitting companion to the excellent videos of the same name. Kenneth Clark was one of those delightful english gentlemen with an impeccable education, and who use english properly and to whom it is a pleasure to listen, and to watch (other than for seing his english dentistry). It traces the precarious survival of christian civilization in the last thousand or so years, through the accomplishments of that time that--unlike history--cannot easily lie: its Art; its Books; and its Arc ...more
David R.
Jul 28, 2014 David R. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art
I read this many years ago and recall being mesmerized by the late Sir Kenneth Clark's erudition and lucid delivery. This time around I saw something else. And a lot of it irritated me. I must have missed the snarky tone of an art elitist. I definitely missed the cherrypicking. To be sure there are limitations in television and only so much material can be used. To that end, I am not sure Clark picked all of the right material. But he had his point to make (way back in 1969) and that was everyth ...more
Czarny Pies
Nov 04, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one. This wonderful book has clearly been superseded.
Recommended to Czarny by: My mother.
Shelves: european-history
This book is essentially the script from Kenneth Clark's magnificent BBC Televison series on the history of Western European art. Clark makes it very clear that his goal is to help the person with a casual interest in art appreciate the great works of France, Italy, Germany and England. For this reason the examples that he used for every period were taken from museums, places, churches and cathedrals that granted easy access to the general public.

The TV series then provided an excellent preparat
Mar 03, 2015 Douglas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: civilization
From what I know of the current generation of 0 to 30+ somethings, Kenneth Clark is probably all but forgotten and perhaps, to the few who do know him, a bit off putting. The latter because he speaks as a civilized man, as a gentleman; which they are likely to assume is a form of elitism or snobbishness. They have been taught the race, class, gender perspective of history and Western history and civilization in particular. They know about Rigoberta Menchu, Western racism, "inequality," and would ...more
Dec 02, 2013 Lora rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a fantastic book. Big, fat, and full of full page color pictures as well as smaller pictures, and a rambling, personal, humane, story- telling prose to fill in every space in between. Clark's humor is fun. His perspective is clear eyed. And I feel as if I'm back in college sitting in class looking at slides of ancient European art while a professor who obviously loves what he does stands there going on and on about it. I slowly fall in love with each and every piece, dream of touring Europe ...more
Erik Graff
Feb 11, 2014 Erik Graff rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: art
Kenneth Clark was an historian of art who wrote and narrated the first color BBC documentary, Civilisation, and produced a lavishly illustrated book along the same lines. The film was shown at Grinnell College during my freshman year. Thereafter I picked up the book.

Both book and documentary are not so much histories of art as they are histories of (primarily western) civilization earmarked to great and illustrative works of art.

Grinnell College is not the place to go if one enjoys the spendors
Sep 24, 2015 Branimir rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ограмотих се доста относно различните стилове и течения в изкуството и архитектурата на Западна Европа за последните 1500 години, както и причините и обстоятелствата около възникването им, и вече мога да правя много по-фини разграничения от: скулптура, картина, гравюра :) Разказът е едно плавно пътуване във времето, а увлекателността на изказа ми напомни много за начина, по който разказва Карл Сейгън. Явно ще се гледа и едноименната телевизионна поредица на Кенет Кларк.
Feb 06, 2016 Fishface rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history, arts, tv
Incredible overview of the art and architecture of Europe, starting with the Vikings and bringing us all the way to the present day. Clark takes us on a guided tour through the most beautiful and powerful examples of human culture and explains what the artists were trying to capture for the viewer. Never, ever boring or dry. Full of gorgeous photos.
May 10, 2010 Kaye rated it really liked it
Shelves: znon-fiction, history
I wonder if this isn't the original "go-with" book for a TV series? I've been reading it while watching the series (on DVD). The book is a more-or-less literal transcription of the series. Clark is wonderful. Do we have anyone of his caliber writing or doing TV series these days.

The series is visually rich and the book can only be a pale copy. Nevertheless it's nice to be able to read and stop and think about the points being made.

Small criticism of the book: The plates are not very well labelle
Feb 13, 2013 Coyle rated it really liked it
Kenneth Clark may not know what civilization is, but he darn sure knows it when he sees it. Specifically, he knows it when he sees it in art and architecture.

A Confession:

This was a textbook I was assigned in high school. Specifically, by Ms. Scott for our Humanities class. I... may have read significantly less of it than I should have. (I did read everything assigned from our American Lit book, as well as all of Oedipus Rex and Beowulf, so it's not like I was a total slacker.) Apparently it is
Peter Jakobsen
Nov 11, 2014 Peter Jakobsen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really a compilation of scripts for a television series, this book, much ridiculed and parodied over the years (remember Monty Python's Are You Civilised? Have You Been Civilised Recently?), is a wonderful, personal, informed view of humankind and culture from classical times to the then present (1969). Elegiac, nostalgic, pessimistic; almost everything in the arts since has borne out Clark's view that "we can destroy ourselves by cynicism and disillusion, just as effectively as by bombs".
Mar 21, 2016 Nickl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Students/others, of whom are taken with books on the subjects of Art History and Western Peoples
Jan 20, 2010 Joe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
2000 years of cultural history in about 350 pages can only result in a high level of generalisation, but Kenneth Clark is an affable if reactionary guide. Fluid and well written, it is an enjoyable read from the man in the tweed jacket. There are inevitably omissions and you need to anticipate the personal perspective of the author rather than expect a definitive account. This now feels quite dated in parts, but there is also some well grounded sense and passion in the writing that contrasts nic ...more
Mar 19, 2016 Randal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anybody
Recommended to Randal by: Dick Lonsdale
Shelves: nonfiction
The text for the best high school course I ever took ...
Everything a backwoods kid from Hickville, British Columbia, ever needed to know about kultcher, with pictures.
May 28, 2013 Sue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have owned this beautiful book for so long that I can't recall if I bought it before or after watching the TV series. I read it in 'nibbles' but have finally tackled it as a sumptuous, leisurely banquet. Such an eloquent writer and presenter, Lord Clark might have added another chapter, one for the Internet Age, had he still been around after this paperback edition (1971). What would he have made of Western civilisation of the past 40 years, and who would he have held up as 'moving humanity fo ...more
Dwight Tompkins
A disjointed, rambling discourse on art and its effect on Western Civilization -- disappointing, and hard to read because of its style. Beautiful photos.
Mar 03, 2014 Whoknew? rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Just don't ask Sir Kenneth about the Spanish....funny how he could present an overview of European art without so much as a word about them. Hmmmm.
M. D.  Hudson
Dec 14, 2009 M. D. Hudson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read this in high school or thereabouts and dig into it every decade or so since. This last go around was still worthwhile. Clark is refreshingly non-doctrinaire, opinionated, and prejudiced. Really, I mean this as a compliment. His prejudice, for instance, is completely understandable for somebody of his generation – he is very suspicious of Germans (he says somewhere that the lack of a clear German prose is one of western civilization’s greatest tragedies). He may not always be “right, ...more
Mar 27, 2015 Jacki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My husband and I read it to each other, great. Made you proud to be of Irish blood.
Christopher Earl
Like the series a masterpiece
Mar 28, 2012 Scott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art-architecture
There are very few books that stop me dead in my tracks because of its beauty and simplicity. Civilisation is one of those books. Sir Kenneth Clark's sweeping knowledge of art and architecture provides a survey of the visual arts with such clarity and force that one can only bow down to a master with no equal. This should be required reading for every person on the planet who aspires to have a feel for the history of art and its affect on culture, society, language and politics. A book of the hi ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 68 69 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Western Intellectual Tradition: From Leonardo to Hegel
  • Grover Cleveland (The American Presidents, #22, #24)
  • Connections
  • A History of Civilizations
  • Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery
  • The Civilization Of Europe In The Renaissance
  • Hemingway: A Biography
  • From the Fires of Revolution to the Great War (A History of Private Life, #4)
  • Passions of the Renaissance (A History of Private Life, #3)
  • The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy
  • American Wop -  Beaver Buffalo Buttons Brass Boxing and Beer: That's why you're here!
  • Managing the Non-Profit Organization: Principles and Practices
  • The Bridge at Chappaquiddick
  • Andrew Jackson (The American Presidents, #7)
  • Culture Counts: Faith and Feeling in a World Besieged
  • Shackleton's Boat Journey
  • Essential Pre-Raphaelites
  • Arts and Ideas
There is more than one author with this name

Kenneth McKenzie Clark, Baron Clark, OM, CH, KCB, FBA was a British author, museum director, broadcaster, and one of the best-known art historians of his generation. In 1969, he achieved an international popular presence as the writer, producer, and presenter of the BBC Television series, Civilisation.
More about Kenneth Clark...

Share This Book

“I believe order is better than chaos, creation better than destruction. I prefer gentleness to violence, forgiveness to vendetta. On the whole I think that knowledge is preferable to ignorance, and I am sure that human sympathy is more valuable than ideology. I believe that in spite of the recent triumphs of science, men haven't changed much in the last two thousand years; and in consequence we must try to learn from history.” 25 likes
“At this point I reveal myself in my true colours, as a stick-in-the-mud. I hold a number of beliefs that have been repudiated by the liveliest intellects of our time. I believe that order is better than chaos, creation better than destruction. I prefer gentleness to violence, forgiveness to vendetta. On the whole I think that knowledge is preferable to ignorance, and I am sure that human sympathy is more valuable than ideology. I believe that in spite of the recent triumphs of science, men haven't changed much in the last two thousand years; and in consequence we must still try to learn from history. History is ourselves. I also hold one or two beliefs that are more difficult to put shortly. For example, I believe in courtesy, the ritual by which we avoid hurting other people's feelings by satisfying our own egos. And I think we should remember that we are part of a great whole. All living things are our brothers and sisters. Above all, I believe in the God-given genius of certain individuals, and I value a society that makes their existence possible.” 23 likes
More quotes…