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In his most personal project to date, historian Simon Schama looks back at the dramatic history that has played out in the decades of his lifetime.

Simon is best known for writing history, but he has lived it too. Born in 1945 on the night of the bombing of Dresden, he grew up as part of a generation determined to rebuild the world from the ashes of war.

Across three films he reveals the vital role of artists, writers, and musicians - many of whom Simon has witnessed first-hand - in fighting for the values that it was hoped would define the post-war world: democracy, equality, and the dream of plenty.

From George Orwell and Vaclav Havel to Nina Simone and David Hockney, Charlie Chaplin, Ayn Rand and Rachel Carson, Simon will explore how artists have issued warnings about assaults on democracy, acted as powerful shamers of intolerance, and opened our eyes to the perilous trade-off between capitalism and the fate of the planet.

Accompanied by a stellar cast of contemporary artists whose work also engages with the vital issues of the present - Margaret Atwood, Ai Weiwei, Nadya Tolonnikova, Armando Iannucci and Edward Burtynsky - the series reveals the extraordinary power of art to shape the world, and the immense personal cost of creating work that dares to speak truth to power.

In our own turbulent times, when so many of the values we have taken for granted are once again hanging in the balance, the series is a hopeful reminder of what great art is for.

Simon Schama’s History of Now (w/t) 3x60’, is an Oxford Films production for BBC Two and BBC iPlayer.


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