Publication Date

October 1, 1990

Perspectives Section


Those AHA members who enjoyed the Ken Burns’ eleven-hour series The Civil War on PBS in September as well as those who missed the opportunity to see this monumental production will be pleased to learn of the availability of a companion book, tapes, and telecourse.

Educational institutions may purchase The Civil War series set that includes nine VHS videotapes; a Teacher’s Guide (which includes program synopses, reproducible student handouts, a list of student activities, discussion questions); a Civil War map; a timeline poster; and an index of people, places, and events, for $450.00 from PBS Video, 1320 Braddock Pl., Alexandria, VA 22314; 1-800-424-7963.

The telecourse for the series may be obtained by licensing it through your local PBS station for $250.00 in the winter/spring 1991 from PBS Adult Learning Service, 1320 Braddock Place, Alexandria, VA 22314; 1-800-257-2578.

The companion book to the series is being published in hardback by Alfred A. Knopf for approximately $50.00 and can be obtained by writing Alfred A. Knopf, 201 East 50th St., New York, NY 10022. The book has been advertised in the AHA Annual Meeting Program and should also be available through the Knopf exhibition booth at the AHA Annual Meeting in New York City this coming December.

Individuals may order videotapes for $24.99 each plus $3.23 for postage and handling from Time/Life Entertainment, 450 E. Parham Rd., Richmond, VA 23280-9977; 1-800-621-7026.

On Saturday, December 29 at the AHA’s annual meeting in New York, Ken Burns will direct a workshop focusing on the series’ development.

Before taking on the Civil War series, Burns (writer, director, producer) had already established himself as an important historical documentary film producer/director of such projects as Brooklyn Bridge; The Shakers; The Statue of Liberty; Huey Long; The Congress; and Thomas Hart Benton, all of which have appeared nationally on PBS. Burns is the recipient of two Erik Barnouw Prizes that are given annually by the Organization of American Historians for outstanding television programming in American history and of a Guggenheim Fellowship.

On the Civil War series, Burns wore many hats including that of director, of producer with Ric Burns, and of co-writer with Geoffrey C. Ward and Ric Burns.

The series featured thousands of photographs, taken from a total of one million pictures of the Civil War, along with period paintings, lithographs, and headlines, combined with moving newsreel footage of Civil War veterans, and film footage of the battle sites as they are today. There were twenty-four historical consultants, many of whom are leading historians, as well as twenty-four voices representing Civil War figures. The series was narrated by David McCullough, with Southern novelist Shelby Foote as the principal on-camera commentator.

As might be expected, the production of this eleven-hour series was costly. As the largest foundation sponsor, The National Endowment for the Humanities contributed close to $1.4 million; other foundation sponsors included The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, The Arthur Vining Davis Foundation; and The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The sole corporate sponsor was General Motors, which also contributed over a million dollars in funding for production as well as publicity costs. The series was produced in conjunction with PBS station, WETA of Washington, D.C.