Written by Ellis Ian Fields
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Wednesday, 20 October 2010

image for History Review: Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler And Stalin, by Timothy Snyder Oh look! A programme about the nazis!

Between them, the two dictators had 14 million non-combatants killed in Poland, Belarus and Ukraine. Yale's Professor Snyder sheds new light on the horrors.

Ken Lucid writes...

Oh for crying out loud! More Hitler and Stalin!

Don't misunderstand me - there's not a lot wrong with this effort, and Snyder's got a good track record. But...

... Hitler and Stalin.

You know all I hear about? What the kids here want to hear about? That's right. Hitler and Stalin. Really, it's as if history only began in 1922, with a restart in 1933.

I don't necessarily blame them. There's so little around about anything else.

Just recently, I had a couple of days off, with nothing in the diary (a rare occurrence, believe me). So I looked at the schedules for the channels which are supposed to specialise in history.

It was all Hitler/Nazis this, Stalin that. Or the programmes that weren't about the two dictators were about tree fellers or blokes that drive huge trucks on icy roads.

What has any of that got to do with history?

And then there's the battle programmes. Do you know how many times I've seen docs about Kursk, or Midway, The Bulge, or Guadalcanal? No - neither do I. I've lost count.

And they've got that wannabe-eccentric Yank from Sandhurst hollering at the camera in amongst computer generated shots of planes hurtling towards carriers.

Some very good programmes are repeated so often they lose no longer hold much interest - sadly The World At War, Ken Burns's The Civil War count among these.

I was once lucky enough to catch a programme about the siege of Vienna. How about that? I couldn't believe it - the siege of Vienna. But how often do these little gems crop up? So rarely they must statistically represent zero.

They have so much time to fill on these channels, do they really have to fill very day with Hitler/Stalin-porn? Where's the stuff about the Risorgimento? What about the religious wars in France? Is the story of the Holy Roman Empire so beyond them?

We can only hope. But I'm not holding me breath.

(Ken Lucid is professor of modern history at the University of Thames Valley East).

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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