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WW1 Episodes

Ep 1 Tommies in silhouette 1917

Episode 1

100 Years On    

37 mins 39 secs


The popular British view of the First World War is now very outdated. 

Professor Heather Jones explains how professional historians have developed new interpretations since the conflict's 50th anniversary in the 1960s.

At the centenary, what's emerging is a much more complex and diverse picture of this first global conflict

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Ep 2 Royal Garrison Artillery in action on the Western Front

Episode 2

The Western Front   

35 mins 18 secs

The popular British narrative depicts the war on the Western

Front as wasteful and futile. 

Professor Gary Sheffield shows how this view is misplaced: this was a war that had to be fought by the Allies, and their armies learned the hard way how to cope in such a highly challenging theatre, ultimately overcoming their mistakes to inflict a decisive defeat on the Germans in 1918.

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Ep 3 German machine gun crew in action

Episode 3

Through German Eyes 

30 mins 03 secs

Trans-national and comparative history has deepened our understanding of the First World War. 

Dr Jonathan Boff looks at the Western Front from the German perspective, throwing new light on the major campaigns of this trench-bound struggle and on the final collapse of the German army in 1918. 

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Ep 4 Tommies blinded by teargas 1918

Episode 4

Crossing The Line    

29 mins 02 secs

Despite the existence before 1914 of internationally recognised rules relating to the conduct of warfare, the First World War would see all sides rapidly ignore key red lines as they sought to secure a military advantage. 

Diana Preston shows how, over a mere six weeks in 1915, the world changed forever. 

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Ep 5 Shell-shocked Tommy 1918
Ep 6 Sikhs in WW1 trenches
Ep 7 Yanks on Western  Front  cheer the Armistice
Ep 8 Armed Spartacists in Berlin 1918

Episode 5

Shell Shock    
28 mins 42 secs

Shell shock was unknown before the First World War but, in the appalling conditions of the Western Front, reached crisis levels at the battle of the Somme in 1916.

The medical establishment was divided as to how to deal with it. 

Taylor Downing explains how the British Army saw it as such a threat to its combat effectiveness that it ruthlessly set about suppressing it.

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Episode 6

The Indian Experience    

31 mins 26 secs    

1.5 million Indians volunteered to fight for Britain in the First World War and served in some 50 countries, defining the global scope of the conflict.

And yet, as George Morton Jack reveals, their story has often been ignored and misunderstood. 

For Britain, the First World War was also about defending its huge empire. The Indians played a critical role in this broader aspect of the struggle, despite a complex colonial relationship with the British that was informed by growing nationalist pressures in India..

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Episode 7

Year Of Victory    

25 mins 42 secs  

In the popular British narrative of the First World War, 1918 is almost a ‘forgotten year’ on the Western Front, eclipsed by more tragic episodes in the struggle such as the Somme and Passchendaele.

And yet, as Peter Hart explains, this was a critical year in which, after the Germans failed in their gamble to win the war with a series of huge offensives in the spring, the Allied coalition relentlessly pressed home its growing advantage in men and resources to force a German retreat and final collapse.

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Episode 8

War Without End    

29 mins 36 secs

We think of the First World War as 1914-18 but in fact, as Professor Robert Gerwarth shows, for the defeated nations of central and eastern Europe 1918 did not mark the beginning of peace.

As the borders of new nation states emerged out of the chaos of collapsed empires, violence - in particular against civilians - continued on a huge scale well into the 1920s. 

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Women munitions workers on the British home front

Episode 9


30 mins 46 secs     

Most general histories of the First World War are narrative-driven or told from a largely national perspective. 

Professor William Philpott analyses the conflict as a coherent phenomenon, showing how the combatant nations had to evolve a strategy of attrition in which all the resources of the state were harnessed to support the armies in the field. 

In short, a war for survival where defeat for the losers meant national destruction.

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A bronze statue of a victorious British Tommy coming home

Episode 10

Looking Back    

35 mins 35 secs

Memory and remembrance have played a key role in the way later generations have interpreted the First World War.

But memories of the past invariably mirror the preoccupations of the present. 

Professor Mark Connelly examines how Britain, Germany and other nations have shaped their view of the Great War in response to their own immediate concerns rather than any quest for the truth.   

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Photo credits:

Ep 1 © Imperial War Museum (Q 2978); Ep 2 © IWM  (Q 5818); Ep 3 © IWM (Q23709); Ep 4  © IWM (Q 11586); Ep 5 ©IWM (Q 24047); Ep 6 .©; Ep 7 © US Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division, LOT 8876; 

Ep 8 © IWM (Q 110864); Ep 9 © IWM (Q 30018); Ep 10 © Martin Addison (cc-by-sa/2.0)

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