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... Himself - Narrator
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Documentary | War

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4 August 1998 (USA)  »

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Revolution, Generously Defined.
30 December 2013 | by See all my reviews

Colorful episode deals with the American War of Independence, the Napoleonic wars, and alludes briefly to other conflicts -- the Seven Years War between France and England (known in America as the French and Indian Wars) and World War I.

There is only one genuine talking head and that's the sympatico Andrew Keegan, a military historian whose attitudes towards war is that of a doctor's attitude towards disease. It's fascinating, but ultimately very sad. In certain other war documentaries, there are moments when the talking heads get excited and lose their cool, as they might at a high school football game. "I'm always touched when I see photos of those dead horses," said one commenter about a Civil War battlefield. "Those innocent animals." The horse corpses are surrounded by heaps of dead human beings.

The narrator is the avuncular Walter Cronkite. And this episode is written sometimes vaguely (the American revolutionary soldiers were the first to fight for an ideal -- what does that mean?) but sometimes very informative.

I've sometimes wondered how France could produce an Emperor Napoleon only a few years after getting rid of a king. The answer is less complicated that I'd thought. Following the French revolution, exile and the guillotine eliminated all the aristocracy, which included the generals and other upper-class military leaders. Thereafter, military skills were the main determinants of promotion in the Army. Napoleon rose from the ranks. His lieutenants were working-class men who'd been bakers and sergeants.

Generally, nicely done documentary, with some arguable points but no outlandish errors, as far as I can tell.


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