There are too many World War II documentaries, not enough World War I documentaries. It seems the most popular historical documentaries today are ones filled with colorized footage with very little historical substance.
If the Department of Education did not block Youtube out of fear that children might spend some time doing something other than preparing for a test, I’d be able to bring my laptop in and show clips of classics like this.
I prefer World War I to World War II, thank you very much. No WWI documentary touches this one in my opinion even though it certainly is not perfect. This was pretty much what I watched throughout my Christmas vacation, how cheerful:
PART I – EXPLOSION (Covers the European balance of power system up until the outbreak of general war in the Summer of 1914):
PART II – STALEMATE (Covers the initial enthusiasm of mobilization and its descent into bloody trench warfare.)
PART III – TOTAL WAR (Covers the development of new war technologies and the mobilization of the colonies that made it into a true world war. The Gallipoli Campaign begins in this episode.)
PART IV – SLAUGHTER (Covers some of the major land battles like the Somme and Ypres to illustrate the desperation of trench warfare.)
PART V – MUTINY (Covers the development of shell shock, the first Russian Revolution and the collapse of the Eastern Front.)
PART VI – COLLAPSE (Covers the entrance of the United States into the war and the collapse of the German war effort.)
Part VII – Hatred and Hunger (Covers the Paris Peace Conference, the rise of the Bolsheviks, Russia’s bloody civil war and the collapse of Woodrow Wilson’s hopes for world peace. The videos are broken into smaller episodes.)
PART VIII – WAR WITHOUT END (Covers the aftermath of the war, including the break down of the old European world and the rise of a new, scarier, uncertain and modern world. Shows how the Great War would set the stage for World War II.)
Overall this is a wholly satisfactory series about World War I for beginners and history buffs alike.
My only criticisms are that they did not spend enough time on the Armenian Genocide. They sort of tucked it away in an obscure part of the series and never mentioned it again. The sea war was also only sort of half-covered, merely touching on the Battle of Jutland.
On the other hand, their treatment of trench warfare is stellar. The individual stories were very instructive and there is just a ton of great original footage. Their treatment of the Russian war was also very good. I can’t really fault them for glossing over the Bolshevik Revolution because that wasn’t their focus. There is a very nice section on America’s involvement in Russia’s civil war that sowed the seeds of the Cold War.
Bookmark this page for when you have the time to see this documentary so you don’t have to chase down the Youtube links.
This film is also a great companion to John Keegan’s The First World War. Keegan really highlights the larger war tactics, strategies and aims on both sides that led to some of the great battles of the Great War.
I really miss teaching 10th grade Global Studies because I don’t get to cover World War I. There were so many interesting characters here, so many present and past icons crossing paths and so many institutions that rapidly died without much to replace to it. More than most wars, even World War II, WWI was the crucible where the old world died and the world in which we live today started its long painful birth.
The advent of flight, tanks, poison gas, mechanized war, Hitler’s career, the Soviet Union, America as a world power, modern psychology and much more are discussed in this movie.
At the same time, the death of European dynasties, balance of power politics, Napoleonic warfare and other long-standing institutions are also discussed.
Check out PBS’ The Great War.