Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"The World Wars" on the History Channel

"The World Wars" focuses on the first and second world wars, and the linkages between them.  It is a three part series that began last night and continues tonight and Wednesday.  For those with an interest in history, it is well worth watching.

When analyzing wars, the focus can be on the clash of cultures, the devotion to competing ideologies, the stages of civilization of competing forces, or on individual leaders, among no doubt many other approaches.  This series focuses most intently on leaders, famous and infamous.  In the first segment, the WWI experience of Churchill, Patton, MacArthur,  Hitler, Roosevelt, Lenin, Mussolini, and Stalin are most prominently focused on.  The Japanese experience at Versailles is covered briefly as well.  All of this is meant to show how WWI, the Versailles peace accord, and the experiences of future antagonists set the stage for WWII.

That thesis is accepted common wisdom but the way it is approached here, at a personal level, is compelling.  While the broad brush of these events is well known here for the most part, individual details were at times new.  The impact of the ongoing battles between Mexico and the U.S. on the ability of the U.S. to focus seriously on Europe at first, and then on the U.S. decision to join the fight was not front of mind knowledge here.

It is apparent at first glance that this series will be a boon to high school history teachers for years to come.  There are regularly shown maps detailing the progress of the fighting and the countries of the combatants.  Geography is not second nature to young people these days for reasons that we could all guess at, right or wrong.  A story line that is based on individuals rather than bigger picture historical trends is much more watchable and attention grabbing for many.  While looking at that bigger picture still has great value, "The World Wars" approach was entertaining, informative, and meaningful as well.

We look forward to two more nights.


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