A study of the 20th-century change in ancient power structures and class hierarchies that resulted in a democratization of culture, as artworks came off gallery walls and became an instrument of individual self-expression. Among the influential personalities profiled: Damien Hirst; Tracey Emin; Anish Kapoor; and Gilbert and George.
The story of the British Empire from 1750 to 1900 is traced through its art and treasures, among them William Hodges' paintings of the voyages of Captain Cook, and Sir Hiram Maxim's machine gun and relics brought back from the Sudan. Also: Philadelphia is visited for a look at William Penn's utopian Old Town and the Liberty Bell; India is visited for a study of the colonial architecture of Calcutta, along with frescoes in a Rajasthan village that re-create British customs and personalities.
The impact on science and culture in the aftermath of the country's civil wars during the 17th century is discussed. Included: studies of portraits of the royal court that were painted by Rubens and Van Dyck; peeks at Hooke's microscope and Micrographia; a survey of Wren's architectural plans for London and the Cathedral of St. Paul.
A study of the influence and impact of the Tudor Dynasty and how they were able to use art as an instrument of power and propaganda. Included: the gilded tomb in Westminster Abbey; Hans Holbein portraits commissioned by Henry VIII; and his daughter Elizabeth's more subtle portraits and miniatures. Host David Dimbleby also inspects at artifacts of the Reformation that include the wreck of the Mary Rose, armor worn by Henry VIII and Sir Francis Drake's drum.
Examining the stained-glass creations in Canterbury Cathedral, Edward III's ceremonial sword at Windsor Castle and the tomb of the Black Prince. Also: a study of the artistic influence of Richard II, whose patronage was responsible for the timber roof of Westminster Hall, Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" and the Wilton Diptych altarpiece. Host David Dimbleby visits Munich to see the sole surviving English crown from medieval times.
Series about British art history opens with a study of the period between the Roman invasion and the Norman Conquest. Among items examined are mosaics of Bignor Roman Villa, the burial treasure of Sutton Hoo and the Alfred Jewel. On a trip to Turkey, host David Dimbleby observes the oldest image of Britannia; in Florence, he marvels at an illuminated Bible made in the 8th century by Northumbrian monks.