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Review: The War of the World

The War of the World
The War of the World, a 3-part series based on historian Niall Ferguson's best-selling book of the same name, challenges the notion that World War II was a triumph of good (us) over evil (them).

The first part of the series gives an excellent work up to the 20th century in conflict. Spanning Asia and then through Europe it portrays the human cost in the struggle for power and control. Of all three parts that I previewed the first gave the best historical viewpoint without much bias. It was a very educational and insightful piece.

As the program moves into the second and then into the third series the author and host Niall Ferguson builds the focus of the series into his viewpoint of "seeing the 20th century through new eyes." While the series is in the end aimed toward a particular viewpoint there are a lot of historical and factual perspectives that aren't always highlighted in traditional history, such as the suffering and persecution of the common people throughout the various nations.

Stephen Segaller, Executive Producer of THE WAR OF THE WORLD and Vice President, National Production for Thirteen, says, "The series challenges our assumptions about a century's worth of brutal conflict. In light of the ongoing crisis in the Middle East and eastward shift of global power toward China, Ferguson makes a case for looking deeply into the past to achieve insight into the future. By looking beyond individual wars or regions, he enables us to see the larger, and more powerful historical trends of our volatile age."

The series considers the unparalleled stretch of violence as a single, unrelenting "war of the world" that began with Japan's invasion of Russia in 1904 and continued through the Korean War all the way to an ongoing "Third World's War."

Episode one, The Clash of Empires, posits that economic volatility, ethnic conflict and empires in crisis combined to spawn the 20th century's bloodiest conflicts, leading to the rise of the brutal regimes of Germany, Japan and Russia, the "age of genocide" and a preoccupation with racial purity. Episode two, A Tainted Victory, cites the horrors of World War II to show how, in order to win, the Allies acted with the same savagery as their enemies, thus attaining a "tainted victory."

Episode three, The Icebox, describes the Cold War as a continuation of the "war of the world" in which millions died in proxy wars conducted by the two superpowers. The end of the Cold War led to great new dangers and challenges, and presaged the rise of East.

War of the World airs on consecutive Mondays -- June 30, July 7, July 14 -- at 10 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings).

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