Controversial historian Professor Niall Ferguson argues that in the last century there were not in fact two World Wars and a Cold War, but a single Hundred Years' War.
It was not nationalism that powered the conflicts of the century, but empires. It was not ideologies of class or the advent of socialism driving the century, but race.
Ultimately, ethnic conflict underpinned 20th-century violence. 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.
- The Clash of Empires. An alternative perspective to the events of the 20th century, offering different explanations for the two world wars and the shifting balance of power as the 1900s progressed. He begins by studying the origins of World War One, arguing that the conflict sparked racial hatred which was exploited by nation states for their own ends.
- A Tainted Triumph. The last years of World War Two, considering the terrible ethical compromises the Allied nations were forced to make to defeat their German and Japanese enemies, and the long-term consequences for the victors.
- The Icebox. How during the Cold War, World War Three actually took place. With the US and the Soviet Union unable to engage in battle with each other directly for fear of the nuclear consequences, Third World nations ended up serving as proxies for the superpowers, causing carnage to rival World War One.
- The Plan. How the US became the envy of the world in the aftermath of World War One, a state of affairs that was shattered by the Wall Street crash. He also considers the effect of the Great Depression on people’s attitudes to capitalism and democracy, and how it led to the rise of totalitarian states.
- Killing Space. How the rise of the Axis powers led to a fundamental redrawing of the world map. He pinpoints 1942 as a pivotal year, and considers how the 20th century might have unfolded had World War Two ended differently, with totalitarian regimes dividing the globe between them
- The Descent of the West. Controversial historian Professor Niall Ferguson concludes the series by challenging the received wisdom that the fall of the Berlin Wall represented ultimate triumph for Western values, pointing to racial conflict in the last decades of the 20th century. He also considers the possibility of a further global war in the future.
Watch the full documentary now (playlist - 4 hours, 45 minutes)