Simon Schama explores the elixir of rebellion and the idea that imaginative passion can conquer mechanical logic.
He examines works by Delacroix, William Blake, Mary Wollstonecraft, Shelley and Gericault.
The series features contributions from Harriet Walter, Christopher Eccleston, the hip-hop artist Testament and the French street artist PBoy.
Simon starts by looking at the great icon of popular revolt created by Eugène Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People. Painted after the July Revolution of 1830 in Paris, which finally brought an end to the Bourbon Monarchy in France, Simon unpacks the legacy of this universal image of popular revolt across the ages.
In particular, he sees how it had its greatest impact in the Youth Uprisings of 1968, which Simon witnessed as a young Professor in Paris.
This was a revolution in culture, politics and morals that put that deeply Romantic idea – the power of the imagination – at the centre of a renewed ‘Romantic’ battle to change the world.
This idea – the faith in the power of art and the human imagination – began with one of the forefathers of Romanticism, the visionary poet and artist William Blake; so Simon then follows his trail in his native city of London.
Production credits: BBC Studios.