In 1914 the first shot of the Great War rang out with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. For the next four years one of humanity’s bloodiest wars raged, with more than 16 million civilian, combatant and animal deaths.
One hundred years later and we have reached a point in our history where we can dissect, reflect and revisit a conflict in startling detail. The Great War is a YouTube channel that promises to follow the conflict for its entire duration, in great detail.
In a new video every week, Indiana Neidell follows the progress of the conflict with stunning archive footage from British Pathé to bring it to life.
A Prelude To War
In order to understand why Europe (and subsequently the world) went to war in 1914, you have to take a look at the political climate of the time. The politics behind the first world war is pretty complicated stuff, there’s a lot of politics involved and many defining events prior that take place hundreds of miles away from the Somme or Passchendaele.
For this reason many of the millions who fought and died during The Great War did not truly understand the conflict or its roots. The first three videos in the playlist above take a look at European politics in 1914, the changes taking place over the continent and the first casualty in the form of an assassination in Sarajevo.
The Great War
The Great War as it was once known spiraled out of control pretty quickly, escalating from a series of tensions to a gunshot and eventually all-out trench warfare in a matter of months. Germany is frequently singled out for being “to blame” for the escalation but as the above video points out, it’s unlikely the government truly believed in the prospect of war when they made their decision to back the aggressors.
In an age where “wireless” referred to radio broadcasts, things just didn’t move quite as quickly as they do now. Telegrams were still the primary form of contact, and they were used extensively at the start of the contact to try and forge alliances and limit the damage. The video above takes a look at a Germany in August 1914, preparing for war on two fronts.
Only three weeks into the conflict and thousands of troops were being deployed, albeit erroneously on the Austrian-Hungary front. Austria’s chaotic, multiple-gauge railway played havoc with its plans to re-route troops to the Russian front as a more-threatening Russia bared its teeth and appeared a more credible threat.
Out of the Trenches
Over the next four years there are bound to be a few questions from viewers, and Out of the Trenches is a special segment in which those questions are answered. The first episode (above) touches on topics like the emergence of airplanes, cavalry, the Netherlands and Mexico’s role in the war.
The questions are good, and though the answers are short there’s strong hints that many of these topics will be examined in full over the course of special episodes.
Who Did What?
Another interesting little segment that’s yet to be fleshed out is a portfolio-like examination of a famous figure from The Great War, starting off with one of the most recognisable names: The Red Baron. Take a look at Manfred von Richthofen’s past and eventual passing, and what made him such a formidable foe.
Subscribe to The Great War
Few channels can guarantee you four years of content quite in the same way The Great War can, so if you’re a history buff then there’s plenty of reason to subscribe – and yes, the producers are receiving requests by the day to cover World War II.
Where do you get your YouTube history fix?