The Century of Warfare (1994)

TV Mini-Series  |   |  Documentary, History, War
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The Conflicts That Shaped A Century
31 January 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Between two World Wars, the Cold War plus numerous other conflicts, the twentieth century proved to be perhaps the most violent in terms of armed conflict. Towards the end of the century Nugus/Martin Productions set out to create a unique visual record of the conflicts that defined the century so much. The result would be The Century Of Warfare, first aired in 1993 and finally released on DVD last year. It is a mammoth twenty-six part documentary series that at, twenty-two and half hours, covers virtually every major and even minor conflict in some detail and is a fine documentary series as well.

The first part of the series is"The Violent Century", which is very much both an overview and introduction to the series. It covers the lead up, fighting and aftermaths of both World Wars plus the Cold War as well. After that it primarily it looks at the advancement of weapons technology including the evolution of submarine--warfare and air-warfare. This first part also looks at the rise of weapons of mass destruction and unconventional warfare and how they changed the face of warfare forever along with the conflicts that rose up in the back half of the century (or at least up until 1993). This episode alone is well worth the price tag as it gives a fine overview of the wars and weapons of the last century.

The heart of the series therefore lies in the nineteen parts that act as its coverage of the two World Wars. Parts two through seven cover World War I in virtually every imaginable detail from the lead up to the war, both the Western and Eastern fronts, the war at sea and the beginnings of air-warfare. Moving on from World War I parts eight through twenty (nearly half the series) is spent on World War II in much the same way though the placing of the parts about the sea and air parts of World War II after the episodes on the war itself seems like odd placing. All of these parts are well produced, full of excellent footage, maps and narration by Robert Powell that make them intriguing looks at the two major conflicts that dominated and shaped the century so much.

The final six episodes of the series look at the conflicts that filled the back half of the twentieth century. This begins with part twenty-one "Iron Curtain" which, much like "The Violent Century", serves as a one episode overview of The Cold War which means that perhaps it does not get as much coverage as it deserved, especially in light of the amount of coverage given to the two World Wars which proceeded it. This is somewhat made up for in parts twenty-two and twenty-four which cover the rise of communism in Asia (including the Korean War) and the Vietnam War respectively which means that both of those conflicts are given plenty of coverage. Part twenty-three "Wars In Peace" looks at many of the other conflicts that occurred including various wars for independence and the Falkland Islands war amongst many, many others and this part is perhaps the most intriguing of the series as a consequence. The final two parts, "War In The Middle East" and "Gulf War And Beyond", are of course somewhat dated some decade and a half on, but these episodes over an invaluable look at the events that would give rise to the conflicts that have shaped much of the conflicts that have so far filled the first decade of the twenty-first century. These parts help to round out the series rather well.

The Century Of Warfare is as good a documentary series as you will probably ever find. By covering both World Wars, the Cold War and numerous other conflicts as well this series goes a long way to show the as many conflicts as possible, no matter how big or small. While some areas may not be covered it as much depth as possible, the series is nonetheless well produced, full of excellent footage, maps and narration by Robert Powell. The result is that the series may very well be the definitive look at the conflicts that not only shaped the last century but continue to have repercussions today.

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