An Empire of the Mind

Simon Schama's lively, provocative A History of Britain examines the ideas that outlast monuments

America's appetite for history on TV is simple: if it's not ours and nothing blows up, we're not interested. But we should all make an exception for author Simon Schama's A History of Britain (History Channel, Nov. 4 and 5, 9p.m. E.T.), a densely packed but lively and entertaining documentary that looks at great events as an exchange of ideas more than of artillery rounds.

History is only nominally about Britain. The final installment--like the first two, which aired in 2000 and 2001--is really about themes that shaped the world through the centuries. (The full series will be out on...

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