The War of the World

The War of the World

Ratings: 8.11/10 from 65 users.

The War of the WorldControversial 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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
  6. 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.

More great documentaries

69 Comments / User Reviews

  1. R.A. Dutton

    Ferguson has always concocted theories on the basis of peculiar ideology and contrarianism versus fact. He enjoys being the odd man out and getting the resulting public attention. This does not mean that he is a good historian nor a good theorist of history.

  2. Hedge Witch

    I read the book twice, and was told of these documentaries on You Tube. The book left me feeling hopeless and bleak. The documentaries are a little brighter, but Fergusson himself seems almost angry throughout. I would love to talk to him.

  3. tazmo

    Good Ole Wall Street

  4. Bockstensmannen

    No no. It was a rasit war. It was aginst to defren system. Stalin was not a russien. He was what we will call a communist.

  5. bGreenInnes

    About to start. Fatalistic WW3 comments very discouraging, like 'bring it on'. Can environment withstand new WW ie depleted uranium ammo, etc? Many comments on banks/Fed so... did NF wish to divert our attention onto something else like a good academic lapdog? Hmm...


    I've made it to the beginning of Episode 3 and while I do think it is very well done for what it does - there is absolutely NO MENTION of the bankers, their banks, and corporate entities that made it all happen.

    I do find that bizarre - but it is nice to fill in the event gaps left by my censored US 1970's public education. I will watch it to the end.

    Maybe Niall Ferguson's efforts were paid for by the Ford Foundation or one of those other evil family foundations...

  7. WinstonCN


  8. Pythus

    the world, and particularly europe (for it had been the power center of the world in the most recent centuries) had been in a perpetual state of conflict for hundreds, even thousands of years. the only periods of peace had been during periods of balance in power between ethnic groups and later nations. humans have always been in conflict, and will always be in conflict. one could deduce that the relative period of peace we are currently experiencing in the world is due to pax americana and the american hegemony. this would be the view of the american neo-conservative movement. human nature and adversarial tendencies compounded upon economic interdependence will make the 21st century very interesting.

  9. mark enriquez

    this seems like such a "no **** Sherlock" thesis...i would postulate that ALL wars, going back to homo sapian extincting the Neanderthals, have a race component to them. its totally natural that humans distrust other races...we have been at war with each other for 4000 years!!

  10. manfruss

    The world has not known peace. We've lived with thousands of years of continuous warfare. Even action today in Afghanistan and Iraq/Iran are merely a continuation of old ideologies. If we want a world of peace, we must move forward, and not cling the the habits and thinking of the past.

  11. Jose Davila

    There was a tango call "Cambalache" (the translation would be: mess), and describes how the XX century: a cambalache. "If you don't cry, you don't suckle"

  12. Paul Krugman

    ferguson is a cheat

  13. batvette

    This concept that the 20th century was an anomaly of violence is absurd, it ignores Napolean's conquests, the Crimean Wars, the US Civil, Indian and Spanish wars and many others of the 19th century. It ignores 21st century events like the Russian conflict in Chechnya, the US Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    Anything can be focused on and singled out if we need to magnify it to prove a point. Look at the way US soldiers were portrayed at Abu Grahib to make them look brutal, ignoring the realities of the way Saddam ran the same facility.
    I'm sure one could vilify a bunny rabbit's treatment of a clump of grass as brutal and sadistic if one wanted to forget about the wolf who came along later and ate the rabbit- or someone shooting the wolf and skinning it for a trophy for their wall. Or that hunter dying a painful, protracted death by cancer that ravages their body, suffering far more and longer than the wolf or rabbit ever did.
    The point to all this is the existence of everything- be it humans, animals, even plants- is full of adversity. Without pain we don't know pleasure, without hate we don't know love, without hunger we don't know being full.
    If man ever ends his desire to wage war, to argue, to prove who is best, he will no longer be human at all.
    Mankind's greatest technological leaps also come as a result of those desperate times when self preservation is his motivation, as well some of the greatest artistic works also are born.
    This is not to say we should embrace or encourage war, but stoically accept it for what it is, and not pretend we could eliminate it, just because we were born and we wish it to be now that we are alive. War existed in every single one of hundreds of generations of man, how silly are we to think ours might be different?

    1. C H

      Yea. Just like slavery, right?

  14. Steven Schroeder

    So apparently "Money Changers" is just code for Jews it seems. Wow. The comments here are riff with references of so-called Money Changers.

  15. Glen Hale

    Sad The Allies did not keep going and take out Russia but then again USA would have found some one else to attack like they have been doing for the last 70yrs. Much to the joy of the Federal Reserve Bank so the banks can keep making money.

  16. yazantak

    completely disregarded the presence of Muslims and the effect of the wars on the middle east until today!

  17. David

    We are all, as Jesus said, brothers. The Human Genome Project proves this. 200,000 years ago the human race almost died out. We were reduced to nearly 2,000 members. How can we not realize this in light of modern (21st century) knowledge?

    1. mark enriquez

      i think it was 50,000 years ago..right after a large meteor hit the indian ocean...many think this event is the reason so many cultures have a flood-myth...

    2. DirtyDenis

      The genetic bottleneck David refers to is a period, as revealed by analysis of mitochondrial DNA, when the global population of homo sapiens was reduced to fewer than a thousand breeding couples.

      The generally accepted theory is that this was caused by the eruption of the Mount Toba supervolcano on Sumatra in Indonesia 74,000 years ago which produced a prolonged severe seismic winter. Layers of ash fall up to 5 metres thick have been located as far away as India.

      This has given rise to arguments for two waves of migration 'out of Africa', homo erectus by at least 200.000 years ago followed by homo sapiens at about the time of Mt Toba.

      This also raises the question of regional evolution which some paleo-anthropologists suggest may help explain the many different hominid species, a number of which actually co-existed with homo sapiens.

  18. David

    Epidode 5: Fighting Dirty. Yes we did. Many people disappeared. Mayan genocide happened. But the United States was not the main perpetrator in this genocide. The governments of Guatemala and Mexico had their own reasons for removing the Native Maya population. The Maya people were caught between modernization (land) and development (more land) and were once again defeated by their spanish conquerors. If you think this is American Propaganda, ask the Maya. They will tell you exactly what is going on, and the oppression of the Espanol.

  19. David

    And he's wrong. The atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not a dereliction of morality. The casuality count for American troops estimated in a coventional invasion were 300,000. The casuality for Japanese (they were arming and training schoolgirls with bamboo staffs) was estimated at more than 1 million. It was most certainly a victory: We rid the world of the Bushido Code. Having been Truman, which would you have chosen?

    1. C H

      So any brutality is justified as long as the numbers add up?

    2. Micah Dufresne

      The point of the atomic bomb however was not to spare a full inavsion of japan but instead to end the war before the advancing russian army did. As far as the japaese were concern the atomic bomb just destroyed a city as did so many other fire bombings. The massive russian army however was tearing through manchuria and on its way to japan.

  20. David

    You youngsters, are any of you even approaching 60?, don't know what the world was like then. Don't know what it's like to fear for your way of life, your life itself, the life of your mother, your father/wife/children. I have sworn, SWORN that if you do not agree with me I will come into your house and KILL you and your entire family with the LAW to back me up. Are you beginning to understand?

    1. Hodd

      At what age does dementia usually start setting in?

  21. David

    We who lived through the twentieth century know the meaning of FEAR. Stalin, Hitler, Yamamoto, Hirohito, Mussolini, people who want to come into your living-room with bayonnets and force you to live according their Fuerher, Emperor, Duce, whatever. The fall of the Soviet Union. You are all so spoiled with complacent peace I guess we won. God help your complacency at home. You WILL have to live with it.

  22. ButteredBread

    lol ummm anyone else see the alien face on the guys face just above the neck at 1:35 - 1:40? Kinda creepy that it comes right at the time the narrator says "they were not martians, they were human beings".

  23. adilrye

    Just a quick re-review, having watched all six of the episodes. I know his theme is racial conflict explains the 20th century...but the docs don't really play out that way. It seems to be an afterthought. In fact, this just seems to be looking at the 20th century with a different lens and challenging Western commonly held notions about it. For example, WW II as good vs. evil, the fall of the USSR as being a result of American defense policy, the "end of history" idea. He inserts race as a basis...but it really isn't that way. In fact, in episode 5, he basically makes two mentions of that idea.

    Still, it's a fine documentary and very worthy of the long time it takes to watch. An interesting recap of the century.

  24. Stevo Macg

    Episode 3 and 4 seem to work ok in the UK...

  25. Simple Simon says

    Tells me that channel 4 wont let me watch it, ok I will spend a week boycotting channel 4, I will do that every time I see that message.

  26. GoughLewis

    Lazy documentary. Not historically accurate. Missing the geo political grand chess game that was going on by global power elites. I agree with the point of the documentary that there is racist, eugenics, xenophobia in play in the world...but it is to simple an analysis as the progenitor for global control.

    For illumination of the geo politics read "Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time" By Carroll Quigley. Excerpt below:

    ""...[T]he powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences. The apex of the system was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basle,Switzerland, a private bank owned and controlled by the world's central banks which were themselves private corporations...."

    The private money masters from the Rothschild and Morgan lineage control England and the U.S. through their privately held central banks (Bank of England & The Federal Reserve). New York Wall Street Morgan banks (agents of the Rothschild banking family) financed the Communist Revolution for example. The motive is power, money, resources, control of currency. "Race" is the simplistic analysis put forward in this series that motivates global power plays, which is not really accurate. Money does not care what race you are.

    Ok AGahool, I updated my comment. My Avatar Eye kind of looks Illuminati... yeah, I see what you mean.

    1. AGahool

      Okay, thanks for sharing,

    2. PaulBraveheart

      Well said! Could not have said it better!

  27. bluetortilla

    DARN DARN DARN! It's no longer embedded. I think the rise of the digital imperialists should be included in this doc. I really hate YouTube! They just keep getting worse and worse. More and more villainous!
    Also, I'd like to point that property has been an extremely alien concept to many societies throughout history. The absurd notion that someone has 'intellectual' or 'copyright' property is just as unintelligible to me. Do we really have to line the pockets of others just to share information?
    The control of information is a dangerous and extremely oppressive tool. That's why the notion of legislating Freedom of Speech was enacted in the first place. Thought is free. Anyone who tells you different is a liar.
    As for the 20th Century, very sad, very sad indeed.

    1. adilrye

      You really don't believe people have ownership of ideas? If you come up with something, it should be allowed to be stolen from you in the name of egalitarianism?

    2. bluetortilla

      Exactly. I do not prescribe to that 'belief.'

      Intellectual property is a very recent 'idea' and was not a even a phrase until the 20th C.

      In the name of egalitarianism? I'm not sure what you mean by doing something "in the name of" something else. Sounds very leagalistic. Why not just 'be' egaltarian and act accordingly? Ideals often seem to be things we know to be right yet end up being plattitudes to defend our selfishness. I'm sure that deep down what we all want in common is harmony, and that fighting 'for what's mine' hasn't worked out well for us. Give what you're good at, benefit others, and graciously accept what's offered to you. The fallen fruits are free.

      Greed abhors me, and greed is why you can't watch this on TopDocs and instead are forced to watch it on the growing ever greedier Google's YouTube.

    3. adilrye

      Yeah, but what does that mean if you put time and money into an idea, you work hard to bring it to fruition, yet it's okay for someone to go and steal it? That's not fair to the person that worked hard to create something. Why is it wrong to have ownership of something YOU or YOUR ORGANIZATION created? And then, what's the point of creating something if you will never benefit? It doesn't only take goodwill and spirit to make something, it takes money and resources.

      And so what if it's a 20th century idea? What does that even mean? Does that discredit it or make it less important? As our landscape has gotten more complex, so have ideas.

  28. RileyRampant

    he's got a pretty solid thesis, since the events of history bear it out.

    ethnic / tribal / imperial conflict has steadily eaten away at security, especially for any country outside of europe, north america and the UK which
    an, in any way unsettled, political situation

    absolutely no mention of israel, that i noticed. also, his treatment of reagan as a mere partner of thatcher was cute.

    but in the main, looked to me like solid history. we can say that race isnt real, doesnt matter - but then, what is that thing we keep tripping over, eh?

    dont be weak in this world. you will get jobbed.

    1. adilrye

      There are many different ways to look at the 20th century and explain why it was so violent. It could be a clash of ideologies, a power vacuum left open by the fall of the British Empire...he just chooses to look at race and racism as the dominant factor. It is a pretty solid thesis.

  29. Pauline Carr

    Yes, utterly pathetic that you cant get to see it in the UK.
    Not impressed.

  30. PavolvsBitch

    I was 'denied access' to this film as I live in England and apparantly, this infringes copyrite laws as it contains footage from C4 or BBC. This excuse is being used to block so much content from the inhabitants of the country in which it was made. Censorship.

  31. Maciej

    I really liked this doc. Especially that it focused on the concept of alienating ppl and killing those 'aliens'. Once I thought it was a fashion of its times but it reoccures all the time in different places.

    Also it delivered plenty of facts I didn'n tknow before in one timeline.

    One can get to the conclusion that since ruling class received ways to communicate between themselvs (like telegraph and phone) and means of transporting soldiers/civilians (rail) they wanted to try it out. Just like boys with new toys.

  32. Joey Foo

    Hey Vlatko,

    i m just curious, whats with your name! Vlad III the Impaler ?

    i hope its the Vlad III the Impaler of lies and deceits !

    1. Maciej

      Joey ... probably you will never grasp the whole stupidity of your questions.

    2. Nwttp

      Uuuh what? If something has to be up with it, it should be, "Vlat - knock outer of illogic"

    3. adilrye You guys don't understand?

      Vlad the IMPALER of lies and deceits. As he IMPALES (i.e. kills) lies and deceit?

      It's a compliment. Duh.

    4. Maciej

      Yep, my bad. Dont know this language much.
      Good to know I can get help from a Hitler of English language like you.
      (and yes... thats a compliment too ;D)

    5. Guest

      You scared a few with your Dracula!

  33. Kyle Worlitz

    Interesting ideas, but his delivery style was distracting in its flamboyance.

  34. oddsrhuge

    well It takes awhile to watch, but it's quite startling. I see the modern societal blueprint in this account of history.

    well researched and a fine doc. jmo

    1. adilrye

      Very worth the time.

  35. adilrye

    Love him or hate him, Niall Ferguson makes some pretty interesting documentaries. This is a pretty epic one...

    I've always found the 20th century to be the ultimate paradox. Consider the world in 1900 and the world in 2000. In 100 years we changed (and this time, I truly mean we as a world) so much, in every aspect from advancements in science and technology to major social, political and economic changes. It is truly the most important century in human history. It was a century of progress and achievement.

    Yet, at the exact same time, it was the single most brutal century of human history as well. Wars, genocides, totalitarianism, nuclear weapons, terrorism, famine, colonialism...

    Our most amazing century is also the most brutal and violent. Kinda sums up the human story, doesn't it?

    1. RileyRampant

      we bask in the progress, and avert ourselves from the carnage. many millions have died in my own lifetime.

      it aint right. to the extent our governments are implicated in it and we benefit, we aint right, either.

  36. Justin_Funski

    This doc makes some very sweeping generalizations which don't hold up and could be considered deceptive.


      I find your opinion absolutely amazing. After World War 2, Winston Churchill called World Wars 1 and 2, "The Second Thirty Years War." Have you heard of the Thirty Years War? Are you fairly knowledgeable about the 1st Hundred Years War? Do you know much about history? You are living in the history that students will be studying 50-100 years from now, if there is anyone left to study anything. What we do now to control the greed of The Money Masters will determine if there is anyone left alive in 50-100 years. But of course, I'm just making sweeping generalizations that don't hold up and could be considered deceptive.

      Mistah Kurtz he dead
      A penny for the old guy . . .

      We are the hollow men
      We are the hollow men
      We are the hollow men
      This is the way the world ends
      Not with a bang but a whimper.

      --- T.S. Eliot

    2. adilrye

      Yeah, the whole "New Hundred Years War" or "European Civil War" idea has been bounced around a lot. It's nothing radically new.

    3. noahracheljohnson

      I became a T.S. Elliot fan way too young by reading 'The Stand' way too young. Has nothing to do with the doc, but the poem brings back fond memories I didn't -and perhaps do not still- understand...

    4. fonbindelhofas

      I found some stuff what i do not believe in here 2, generaly i agree with most things author speaks of but... Was it racial hate the driving force? imo it was just a machine to drive masses to war, Who created those reasons? The key individuals and financial groups who still rule today... Non speaks of them. Who made profits from all of this? The principal of power is power.
      And finaly the history books are worthless peaces of toilet paper, writen for dumb western consumer, he do not need (or willing) to know the history so he can continue to make the same horrors for his pupet masters.

    5. Monk

      Your 'Heart of Darkness'/'Apocalypse Now' perspective/ analogy works well!!

  37. AGahool

    Besides a few minour, but intentional mitakes, I agree with most of it. Also being British he down graded the roles of Britania in the wars.

    But most importantly, It is now a common knowledge amoung most people that the polititions and the heads of states are pupets to their Money Changer Masters. And yet there is no mentioning of them. Its like he wants to cheat us to believe that the regular people are flawed and hatered is the main reason.

    These Money Changers (banker Families) have been behind every war, revolution, assasination and genocide, and for the past 3 hundred years or so. And, as long as these families are alive and manipulating the world freely and safely, there will be no peace and tolerance on Earth. We need to come together informe each other and un-root these evil remains.

    I recommend every one to watch" The Money Masters " (1996), if you have not seen it already. It will sweep you off your feet.

    1. oddsrhuge

      I'm a Brit, but never in the Elite...which is why I find it easier to see the same attitude of arrogance, with Britain and all Empire Builders....

      Some of the most caustic criticisms toward the States these days are from Citizens... of that very country.

    2. AGahool

      @oddsr, Thanks for your reply,

      As I am growing older, I more and more appreciate the people of Britain and all other nationalities. We all are in this together. Even our good leaders are on our side, at first, until the Money Changers either intimidad them or bribe them or Assasinate them. Just who the he11 think they are? they are just a bounch of cowerd parasites who need to be pestesised. They change their family names to hide themselves. But anybody could find them, if look for them.

      But the truth is that People in the western countries have had a good life up until the past couple of decades. Now, the Money Changers are even greedier and they do not even care for their own people. The rest of the world however, has been suffering from these corrupted Money Changers for a very very long time.

      I am glad that The Westerners are standing up for their rights. But I fear that they are going to have some very tough times ahead of them. I mean that there will be more violance in Europe and the USA. But we need to focus and do our best. After all no pain no gain.

    3. Monk

      I am English and my forefathers were duped into becoming cannon fodder for the rich and wealthy who have never been brought to book for the genocide they initiated during any and all wars which they created for control, for greed and power. Rothschild being but one criminal amongst many!!

  38. SaintNarcissus

    embedding disabled...

    1. Vlatko

      Yeah... bummer. Click "Watch on YouTube".

    2. jurica

      tried but problems - boycott ch 4!
      I must admit though I spent most of the time watching shaking my head so much so my neck hurts -
      and yet the killing and atrocities continue