History Documentary hosted by Michael Wood and published by ITV, NHK in 1991 - English narration
The Legacy series is a search for the first civilizations and their continuing legacies. Each hour-long program focuses on one of the following regions: Iraq, India, China, Egypt, Central America, and the West.
At best, this search for the continuing legacies of past civilizations can help explain how different cultures have developed over time, show how the past greatly influences all our lives, and cultivate a respect for other cultures. At worst, it can send a message that these civilizations have remained virtually unchanged through time, unlike the West, and cultivate a false view of other peoples as less "modern." The negative impact of the assumption that other cultures are not as modern as the West surfaces when Westerners make judgements, business deals, and policy decisions based on this assumption. Although Legacy aspires to the former objective, it often ends up fulfilling the latter. For example, the following statements by writer and presenter Michael Wood exemplify how the language Westerners often use to talk about non-Western peoples relegates them to a space and time outside of a Western view of the universe: "Two conceptions of civilization have fought for the soul of the peoples of the Americas, one foreign and recent, that of the West, the other ancient and native;" "For over 2000 years, China has been sustained by ideas virtually unchanged since the Bronze Age." Throughout the series, comments like the ones above and the relative absence of images of people creating and using modern technology make it difficult for viewers to see the integral roles non-Western peoples occupy in the present.
Each program in the series seeks to outline the "great tradition" of a civilization. Wood's explorations of these various civilizations' great traditions are attempts to delineate some of the broad cultural principles which hold cultures together and distinguish them from one another. However, his efforts serve to create essentialized descriptions of societies that are comprised of numerous classes, ethnic groups, religions, and other types of communities (e.g. agrarian, nomadic, and urban). These descriptions are reminiscent of Ruth Benedict's characterizations of the Hopi and Apache as Apollonian and Dionysian, respectively. Specifically, he characterizes Iraqis as long-suffering, resilient, hard-bitten, and pessimistic people; he states that Indians hold non-violence, renunciation, the inner-life, and the female as pillars of their civilization; he claims that the Chinese are guided by Confucianism, reverence for ancestors, and the quest for harmony; he asserts that the key to understanding the lives of ancient Egyptians was their desire to overcome time, a yearning to live beyond their time on earth and become immutable; he characterizes Mayans as obsessed with time and the mathematics of eternity, Aztecs as war-like, and all Central Americans as possessed of an inner strength that would allow them to bear any burden, even one as heavy as the last 500 years; and lastly, he describes the great tradition of the West as rooted in a contradiction between savagery and idealism. One can only imagine an encounter between a Westerner and non-Westerner in which the Westerner judges the non-Westerner as an inauthentic Indian, Mayan or Iraqi because he/she does not conform to the essentialized characterizations above.
Wood's presentation is also problematic because he does not allow the people whose civilizations he examines to speak for themselves. Even when he does interview people, he does not allow the viewer to hear their words directly or through a translator, rather he summarizes and interprets the meaning of their statements. In short, Wood deprives them of their ability to represent themselves.
Wood is an ever-present guide through the series, perhaps distractingly so. There are several shots focused on him walking through crowds and across landscapes, and of him looking at buildings and artifacts where he obstructs the audience's view of the object under discussion. The scenes in which he observes buildings, art or ceremonies seem like guides for tourists, instructing them how to properly admire these objects and phenomena.
Each video contains a great deal of information on the civilization it investigates, but the presentation of this information is problematic. In addition to its function as a source of information, this series could be useful as a study of the ways in which cultural information is presented, especially in comparison to other films.
6) The Barbarian West
In the beginning of this episode, Wood states that the "history of the West, more than any other, has swung between savagery and idealism, a contradiction apparently deeply rooted in our character and history." This episode explores the history of this contradiction and the development of individualism, based on the ownership of property and a free marketplace, as a guiding principle of Western civilization. This exploration starts in ancient Greece and moves to Rome, Barbaric Europe, the rise of Christianity, the Reformation, the age of exploration, the conquest of the New World, the early United States, and the drive for unification in Europe.
Wood's presentation of the history of the West is heavily focused on its outward movements rather than on internal developments. He asks the question, "how was it that such small countries came to dominate other peoples?". The conquests of Alexander the Great and the colonization of much of the world by Western nations are discussed at length and with a disturbing enthusiasm as the destruction and long-term oppression produced by these conquests is often glossed over and the West is held up as a champion of uniting the world into "an organic whole" and creating a world economy. For example, Wood exclaims that "Greek conquests liberated tremendous historical energies" and opened great trade routes, but he does not discuss at length the cost many Westerners and conquered peoples were forced to pay in order to make these conquests and trade routes viable.
In contrast to the other episodes, this one shows modern technology and culture as an integral part of present-day Western civilization. Instead of giving examples of how many Westerners carry on the traditions of their ancestors, parallelling the examples on the other episodes, present-day Westerners are shown in a fully modern context. That is, the modern expression of the great tradition of the West is presented whereas ancient expressions of other great traditions are emphasized. The difference in the style of presentation of Western and non-Western civilizations throughout the series creates the following set of oppositions:
West / Non-West
Material / Spiritual
Modern / Ancient
These oppositions are apparent in the series closing segment in which Wood concludes,
the great traditions speak to us now with growing urgency at the end of our destructive century. And they speak on behalf of the vast majority of the people on the planet, their insights as valuable to life now as the rain forests, for these are the rain forests of the spirit.
* Video Codec: DIVX
* Video Resolution: 528x400
* Audio Codec: mpga
* Audio BitRate: 160000 BPS and 44100 Hz
* Audio Channels: 2
* RunTime Per Part: 51:32 mins
* Number Of Parts: 6
* Part Size: 460 Mb
* Subtitles: Not Available
* Ripped by anurag
* VHS Rip
1) Related Documentaries
* Lost Cities of the Ancients
* Secrets of Lost Empires
* The Ascent of Man
* Ancient Voices
* Lost Worlds