The First World War

The First World War

2005, Military and War  -   83 Comments
Ratings: 7.51/10 from 296 users.

The First World WarAlthough the First World War gets less attention than its successor, it was really the watershed event of the 20th century.

This conflict shaped the world that came after to this day. It was the catalyst for the rise of soviet communism in Russia, whose unraveling less than a decade and a half ago continues to affect worldwide diplomacy and economics.

Germany's defeat provided the opportunity for fascism and Hitler to come to power there, causing the Second World War and its greater destruction.

The defeat of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War and the diplomatic and political morass that followed was the precursor for the reconstitution of Israel and eventually brought the Middle East into center stage today.

This series is based upon the books and encyclopedic knowledge of Professor Hugh Strachan. It examines every aspect of the war, from its causes to the conduct of the war on and behind the front lines to its aftermath.

In doing so, it covers the diplomatic, political, military and social aspects, each of which played a role in shaping what happened and why. It does not just present the summary facts but goes in depth in its explanations.

For example, instead of simply depicting the spring 1918 German offensive on the western front, it gives detail about how they accomplished it, the attitudes of the troops on each side and the thought processes of the respective high commands.

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83 Comments / User Reviews

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  1. Anonymous

    Is only the first episode available here? I see at least one reference to the second episode in the comments here; could it be that viewer saw that episode elsewhere but is commenting on it here, and this website offers episode one more or less as a "tease" or advertisement, given as a sample here hoping will purchase on another site? If that's what's happening, not sure I like it or that it's particularly fair. Yes, I'm getting a great documentary for free, but I legitimately thought this might be an educational site and that funded by the BBC or some other tax-supported institution, the documentarians who produced it might be sharing it for educational purposes without necessarily monetizing it. Seems a bit manipulative if that's what's happening.

  2. AlexN

    7.5/10 good documentary overall and if your interested in this period of history definitely worth a watch. The footage is outstanding. The subjects covered episode by episode is well developed. I do feel, however, that too much is trying to be covered in so little time. Although 8 hours/10 episodes it jumps from one subject to next too rashly. Also, I do not deny British involvement in the war but very little is covered commonwealth nations and their involvement in the conflict. A few historical fallacy

    1. AlexN

      Ya-I dont understand why this was posted...

  3. AlexN

    7.5/10 good documentary overall and if your interested in this period of history definitely worth a watch. The footage is outstanding. The subjects and themes covered episode per episode is well presented . I do feel, however, that too much is trying to be covered too quickly. The episode themselves do not have a sound flow. Also, I do not deny British involvement in the war but very little is covered from the perspective of commonwealth nations. A few historical fallacies can also be identified when watching this documentary. For example, to say that WWI was the first global conflict is flat wrong. In my opinion, not enough is covered from the French perspective. Finally, the attempt to portray Franz Ferdinand as a modern sophisticated monarch is misguiding.

    Besides it’s British centric perspective and few bold historical statements the doc is great! Enjoy the watch...

  4. Aistė

    In the second episode some information could have been included about Germans fighting Russian I and II Armies in 1914 on the East Front as only the map has been shown with no further references.

  5. Barry Colbert

    Such an Awesome Doc. Top 5 for me, honesty, forthcoming for both sides. Just GREAT !

    1. Catherine

      Hi, hope you don’t mind me asking but I’ve only been able to watch episode 1, how did you watch the others.........I can’t find them? Thanks

  6. Jeff

    British propaganda still going strong. Disappointing.

  7. William

    I watched this series after listening to an excellent six-part podcast series on the war entitled Blueprint for Armageddon. The podcast is offered under the auspices of Hardcore History by Dan Carlin. Google it. Just amazing, and offers a great deal of information not presented here.

  8. Micah

    Best ever

  9. Robert Smith

    quite brilliant

  10. Annie Stone

    I had to watch these documentaries for school since I got sick for a month and this was my makeup assignment. I had to write a report on each one. I didn't like doing it.

    1. CriticalThinking

      Did your report consist of you writing about how you hate writing reports and what you had for breakfast

    2. chris

      nobody cares

  11. DC

    I really enjoyed this documentary, I watched all ten parts. There was so much footage of the war I had never seen before. What also stood out was the use of primary sources - letters home from soldiers, memoirs of great leaders - to explain what and why things happened, as opposed to interviews with historians. This gives the documentary a very non-biased feel. I highly recommend it to anyone who is willing to watch all ten parts.

  12. guest

    Also Hitler fought in ww1 so he hated the jews many went trough staveation diet sorry for spelling really late at night

    1. docoman

      So you're suggesting that everyone that fought in WWI on the German side hated Jews?

      No, that's wrong. There were quite a few Jewish soldiers on the German side in WWI, (both sides to be accurate), it had nothing to do with anti-semitism in WWI.

    2. Jim

      Adolfs second war decoration was recommended by his Immediate superior a Jewish lieutenant. That man and another Jewish officer that served with Hitler survived Arrest and eventually the war possibly do to hitlers intervention.

  13. Bradley Morin

    A great documentary. Doesn't address the whole Rothschild and international bankers role in it all because most people would write that off as ludicrous. Aside from the always interesting banking aspect of war, this series is the most in-depth and well rounded WWI documentary out there. Concise yet detailed, informed yet objective. I have watched about 10 times over the past 4 years. Fine piece of work

    1. Jon

      Wasn't JP Morgan the US banker who financed the end of World War 1? This was his legacy and in fact there was an attempt on his life by a German assasin.

  14. Guest

    Is there a better documentary on WWI out there? This one is crap.

    1. Alex

      They shall not grow old

  15. lex lexich

    trixie nasty little Brit hobbits... no dignity in foolin' them u-boats

  16. Jeremy Parkison

    A very good documentary. I wanted to learn about WWI and that's exactly what I got.

  17. Justin Gregory

    New Zealand didn't "steal" Samoa. We were requested to seize it from the Germans by Britain. What else did you get wrong in this documentary?
    Having said that, what New Zealand did to Samoa after that until independence in 1962 could easily be described as a crime.

    1. Josh Wytaske

      that is a very minor should be overlooked, not scrutinized, this documentary is exposing a lot of knowledge, it doesn't have to be linguistically accurate........

  18. Heidi-Lynn Borter

    Very interesting and beautifully portrayed! I wish I had a copy to call my own.

  19. Chris Rogers

    No @csnski12, to mention in-depth all the soldier groups from various nations would be gratiuitous and pointless. There were far too many such groupings - and incidentally, each earnestly believes that their own soldiers were the very best.
    I could name multiple countries that still hold the belief that "their boys" were the elite and were punching well above their weight (but will not, since I'd hate this to degenerate into an argument of the merits of each). This is a pretty dangerous view to harbour in my opinion.

    BTW - this series is simply the best WW1 doc I have seen. Focusses on many under-investigated aspects of it all. Especially loved the episode on Revolution.

    1. Jordan Ryan

      Mr. Rogers csnski was just stating a fact, I have herd a quote from Winston Churchill stating the similar. He or she is obviously a Canadian who wants to know more about the country where he or she is from and its contribution to the war. Not very dangerous at all in my opinion. Check out Norm Christie's "For King and Empire" great Canadian war documentaries.

  20. MickeyWool

    Serbia didn't started the war, don't be ignorant.

    1. Devah Sofia Lucus

      They certainly had a large hand in why it came about.

  21. Rafael Perez

    Any truth to the statement that WWI was caused because Germany wanted to build a railroad from Turkey to Iraq to get some of the the newly found oil?

    1. JVHREH

      Checkout "The History of the Baghdad Railway".-JH

    2. JVHREH

      Check-out "The History of the Baghdad Railway"

  22. Sarcastic_Drew

    WW I was sparked not by the killing of Franz Ferdinand but of his ignorant driver. That d-bag should have studied the city's transportation system Ad nauseam, hindering the chances of taking a wrong turn. What a noob... ;)

    1. TankDriver

      That is the stupidist take on causes of the 1st World War I've ever heard

    2. Sarcastic_Drew

      You sir, have no sense of humor, or sense of sarcasm for that matter.

    3. Devah Sofia Lucus

      The driver wasn't responsible for his government posting the route Ferdinand would take. It was foolishness. You have no proof that he didn't study the city's transportation system. Why would a driver a driver of a high official not? Does that really make sense?

    4. Sarcastic_Drew


    5. WiseGapist

      He was joking...

  23. Michael Samirich

    There are those who wish to scapegoat the Balkans for the first world war and spread their psycological virus. One of the greatest examples of a small truth being turned into a big lie is that the assassination of Franz Ferdinand was the reason for this war, closer to the truth was that it was the excuse.
    For four and a quarter years a large part world went on killing each other in unprecidentented scale, and then like little children having a fight in the playground would say, some want to say to the Balkans you started it. For the love of humanity this stupid war should not have been allowed to go on so long. Bring it on bigots and smart alecs.

    1. RileyRampant

      its certainly true that Serbia had a legitimate grievance against Austro-Hungary, and can only be taxed with an act of rebellion.

      Also, as noted in the doc, Serbia paid the higest per-capita casualty rate of any nation in the war. So it can't be said they didnt pay a steep price in any event.

      there is this small consolation - mano-y-mano, the Serbs kicked the fat, dumpy, spoilt Austro-Hungarian ass into the dirt. ;)

    2. James Orth

      Serbia got what they deserved for starting the war in the first place, too bad the rats won.

    3. serbiansoldier123

      Ha! please don't make me laugh. it wasn't the Serbs who started it it was one person and besides he was Bosnian.

    4. Kapetan Esid

      Bosnian nation did not exist back then. It was the Bosnian Serb. Anyway, assasination of Franz Ferdinand was just the excuse for Austria-Hungary to attack on Serbia. War was planned way back by Germans and Austrians, especially general Von Schliffen.

  24. aaroncalgary

    so the Irish were 2 days late to get their guns. figures. just pissed

  25. Placeboaddict

    Amazing series, and supplements "War of the world" nicely.

    At a glance, this conflict like uncountable following it, boils down to a manifestation of economic interests of the major players. Every time the blame is passed to the nearest and most obvious of scapegoats, who goes down in popular history as villains. While unnamed bankers/investors can claim their prizes, and reinvest has they see fit. War is business, and a rotten one at that.... this century's revolutions are likely to be very different, hopefully.

    It's really troubles me, that even now, the lending habits of nations and major banks are not subject to mandatory publication prior to the loans being issued. How are we ever supposed to know, who we are actually fighting for?

  26. djc200

    I could only get through the first episode, from which I've gathered that during this time in human history, religion and just plain ignorance played a huge role in bringing mankind at arms against each other. It's clearer to me - now more than ever - that peace on earth is truly evolution for humanity. I cannot wait for the day when all nations cease to build objects to destroy one another.

    1. magarac

      The most important reason for that tiny Serbian/Austro-Hungarian conflict to grow out of proportion in the way that it did was by far politics.
      And you are absolutely right about peace. War is just a huge waste of lifes, resources and time.

  27. kchief58

    Amazing Doc. The best on WWI, Excellent

    1. Guest

      Derrick Thomas. One of my all-time favorite Chiefs.

    2. kchief58

      Yep, thats why i wear his number Proudly,,Thanks

  28. panthera f

    Humanity= FAIL.

    1. adilrye

      Did you get to the part where they talked about the lulls in combat in the Western Front? Where, between 1916 - 1918, fighting was really sporadic? And then you see the soldiers enjoying themselves and having fun and not shooting one another if they don't need too...and my heart was warmed.

  29. 0xDeadBeef

    Yes, it was Thanksgiving here in Canada. Great, great doc but I wish it had a little more Canadian content. Not enough people are aware of our own history in this horrible conflict.

    1. cdnski12

      No mention of the terrific effort Canada put into WW1. Even British Generals admitted the Canucks were the best Commonwealth Soldiers at the end of WW1.

  30. magarac

    Can´t help but wonder what Gavrilo Princip would thing of being responsible even if not directly for the death of 77 million people.
    The whole shooting Franz Ferdinand idea might not have been one of the best ones ever, but at least he did "something".

  31. mb.herbert

    Who is this Professor Hugh Strachan? Do you mean Professor Hew Francis Anthony Strachan?

  32. bbga

    Excellent documentary on WWI

    A must for any student of history

    1. murphmobile

      I was just a bit thrown off by some of the comments. For instance, it's mentioned that the assassination of Ferdinand was conspired by a group of Soviet officers. Is there any truth to that? I know that there were Soviets pre 1917, but were the officers secret Bolsheviks and part of a Soviet? Or did the documentary just use "Soviet" interchangeably with "Russian"?

  33. greyspoppa

    Very good doc have owned for about 4 years.

  34. Guest

    For we Americans observe Thanksgiving a little later.

    1. Guest

      i know, i lived in the us for many years and in Europe, was my bad. I get tired of war this and that...i guess some people like that kind of history.

    2. Guest

      Only those who make tons of money off of it, if I understand you correctly.
      But maybe I'm too optimistic...Lots of flag-waving rednecks all over this country.

    3. tomregit

      It's not a question of liking "that kind of history". History without warfare omits a large part in discovering who we are and how we got here. This applies to modern and ancient history and all parts between. No one needs to watch or study warfare if it is uninteresting to them, but totally ignoring it leaves one somewhat willfully ignorant.

    4. Guest

      or willfully following the (hi)story of the winners.

    5. tomregit

      No argument there, one should not believe everything told. Be skeptical and as I said, study history. Investigate.

      Thanksgiving? No,don't remove your comment. Unlike some of our American cousins you are worldly enough to know that Americans and Canadians celebrate the same holiday at different times.

  35. Philio

    What a great doc, there is finally a source for a true historical perspective of the elements of WWI viewed without prejudice. It contains the subservice devices of all sides. No wonder they don’t teach this kind of history any more.

    Some of the rhetoric sounds like today’s news. There has got to be a handbook for it somewhere. And we think we have evolved beyond such claptrap. Same old propaganda attacks, same division of the masses, all with the same hopes of a workers paradise, I wonder who’s behind all the protest movements today? I wonder who will spring the trap this time around.

    I’ve always wondered why Lennon was so despondent over the revolution. The film clearly shows why he expected a world wide revolution. It was right there for the taking. What a shame but we have the seeds

  36. morgmorg

    I hate prequels.

  37. Anthony Williams

    This doc gives one the best and most accurate portrayals of the first world war I have ever seen.

    It reminds me of the Novel "Bomber" written by Deighton.

    I think the test of any piece of film, Literature,entertainment that is focused on history, is how well it can transport you into the shoes of the people of the time.

    This one does that perfectly, if you have the stomach and the patience!

    surely a future classic.

    1. Guest

      Everything is a conspiracy. Do you not think that things could just happen of their own inertia?

    2. Hodd

      Assassination equals conspiracy, and it's naive to ignore power and monetary interests in world events regardless of whether or not things can happen of their own intertia.

    3. Guest

      No assassination does not equal conspiracy. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. It is naive to assume otherwise.

    4. Anthony Williams

      I do believe events have their own inertia, but that we seek our own benefit in-spite of this and throughout it, is perhaps why such manifestly small tragedies can be magnified so grossly, until all sense and perspective is lost.

      I think you may be seizing on an ambiguity in my comment that arises from my failure to read the synopsis, I though it was going to be a short doc that dealt with the conspiracy to assassinate Ferdinand, as though this where some new aspect of things we had just discovered.

      With regards to that, I was totally wrong and may explain why my comment seems a little off base.

      So I will amend my comment...

  38. Guest

    A War doc on Thanksgiving is not appropriate in my mind. I'll pass. Too many boys at the top. lol

    edit: i was tempted to take the comment off, but i will leave it here so people can see why i think it was a stupid comment on my part. It was inconsiderate to people of all cultures that come here and do not celebrate or know about Canadian Thanksgiving, it was also inconsiderate to Vlatko who can post as many War docs as he wishes.
    AND if you came to watch this doc it was not to read and comment on my view but to comment on this please do so.

    1. BuzzBeak

      To be fair, the majority of us on this side of the Atlantic do not even know when Thanksgiving is!

      but Happy Thanksgiving

    2. Guest

      You are right.

    3. MMELT


    4. Guest

      Ok i've said already many times i was wrong...should i take the comment off?

    5. magarac

      How could you ever consider everyone who could possibly read any comment?
      That is simply impossible.
      I know just about nothing at all about thanksgiving, but still very much get your point.

    6. Guest

      I don't think you did...I said people of all cultures, not everyone.
      Also, read the last phrase.