Britain's Great War - Netflix
Opening the World War One commemoration season on the BBC and produced in partnership with the Open University, this landmark new documentary series Britain's Great War, presented by Jeremy Paxman, explores how Britain and the lives of British people were transformed by the Great War. There had never been a war like it. It was the first ‘total war' and it blew apart the certainties on which British society rested. Focusing on extraordinary personal stories to illuminate often cataclysmic events, each episode charts a different stage of the war: from initial optimism; to frustration; to the exhausted, poignant celebration of victory. It was the first war in British history in which men were conscripted to fight, civilians had their homes bombed, and every family feared a knock on the door bringing terrible news. Governments took for themselves powers they would never have imagined.
Runtime: 60 minutes
Britain's Great War - Seven Years' War - Netflix
The Seven Years' War was a global conflict fought between 1756 and 1763. It involved every European great power of the time and spanned five continents, affecting Europe, the Americas, West Africa, India, and the Philippines. The conflict split Europe into two coalitions, led by the Kingdom of Great Britain (including Prussia, Portugal, Hanover, and other small German states) on one side and the Kingdom of France (including the Austrian-led Holy Roman Empire, the Russian Empire, Bourbon Spain, and Sweden) on the other. Meanwhile, in India, some regional polities within the increasingly fragmented Mughal Empire, with the support of the French, tried to crush a British attempt to conquer Bengal. The war's extent has led some historians to describe it as “World War Zero”, similar in scale to other world wars. Although Anglo-French skirmishes over their American colonies had begun with what became the French and Indian War in 1754, the large-scale conflict that drew in most of the European powers was centered on Austria's desire to recover Silesia from the Prussians. Seeing the opportunity to curtail Britain's and Prussia's ever-growing might, France and Austria put aside their ancient rivalry to form a grand coalition of their own, bringing most of the other European powers to their side. Faced with this sudden turn of events, Britain aligned itself with Prussia, in a series of political manoeuvres known as the Diplomatic Revolution. However, French efforts ended in failure when the Anglo-Prussian coalition prevailed, and Britain's rise as among the world's predominant powers destroyed France's supremacy in Europe, thus altering the European balance of power.
Britain's Great War - Strategies - Netflix
For much of the eighteenth century, France approached its wars in the same way. It would let colonies defend themselves or would offer only minimal help (sending them limited numbers of troops or inexperienced soldiers), anticipating that fights for the colonies would most likely be lost anyway. This strategy was to a degree forced upon France: geography, coupled with the superiority of the British navy, made it difficult for the French navy to provide significant supplies and support to overseas colonies. Similarly, several long land borders made an effective domestic army imperative for any French ruler. Given these military necessities, the French government, unsurprisingly, based its strategy overwhelmingly on the army in Europe: it would keep most of its army on the continent, hoping for victories closer to home. The plan was to fight to the end of hostilities and then, in treaty negotiations, to trade territorial acquisitions in Europe to regain lost overseas possessions (as had happened in, e.g., the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (1632)). This approach did not serve France well in the war, as the colonies were indeed lost, but although much of the European war went well, by its end France had few counterbalancing European successes.
The British—by inclination as well as for practical reasons—had tended to avoid large-scale commitments of troops on the continent. They sought to offset the disadvantage of this in Europe by allying themselves with one or more continental powers whose interests were antithetical to those of their enemies, particularly France. By subsidising the armies of continental allies, Britain could turn London's enormous financial power to military advantage. In the Seven Years' War, the British chose as their principal partner the most brilliant general of the day, Frederick the Great of Prussia, then the rising power in central Europe, and paid Frederick substantial subsidies for his campaigns. This was accomplished in the diplomatic revolution of 1756, in which Britain ended its long-standing alliance with Austria in favour of Prussia, leaving Austria to side with France. In marked contrast to France, Britain strove to prosecute the war actively in the colonies, taking full advantage of its naval power. The British pursued a dual strategy – naval blockade and bombardment of enemy ports, and rapid movement of troops by sea. They harassed enemy shipping and attacked enemy colonies, frequently using colonists from nearby British colonies in the effort. The Russians and the Austrians were determined to reduce the power of Prussia, the new threat on their doorstep. Along with France, they agreed in 1756 to mutual defence and an attack by Austria and Russia on Prussia, subsidized by France.
Britain's Great War - References - Netflix