In this series, Professor Niall Ferguson visits some of the key sites in 20th-century history, amongst them: (clockwise from top left) the ruins of the White Palace, Brest Litovsk in Belarus; the ‘A-Bomb Dome’, Hiroshima; the Killing Fields memorial in Phnom Penh, Cambodia; the walls of Nanking in China.
From the Russian Revolution in 1905 to the massacres in Bosnia in the 1990s, we see that the world was at war almost continuously throughout the last century. In fact, historian and presenter Niall Ferguson argues that there weren't two world wars and a Cold War, but rather a single Hundred Years' War.
Professor Ferguson explains that it was not nationalism that powered the conflicts of the century, but empires. It was not ideologies of class or the advent of socialism that was the driving force of the century, but race. And finally, it was not the West that triumphed as the century progressed; in fact power slowly and steadily migrated towards the new empires of the East.
As would be expected, Niall deals with the two World Wars. However, rather than list battles, he tells it through the eyes of those who suffered the most – the Jews and other ethnic minorities. Other major events all have a part – the Great Depression, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the fall of the Soviet State, brutality in Cambodia and Guatemala – being used to stress the common themes that run through all 20th-century conflict. Finally, Niall encourages us to learn from the century's mistakes in considering future racial and political tensions.
The topics and themes covered in the programmes are:
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