The World War of 1914-1918, the Great War, was the first of the man-made disasters of the twentieth century. In many ways it was without precedent. Never had the battlefield been so vast, whether in the trenches, in the sky, or on and in the seas. Never had a war reached so deeply into the lives of people so far away from the battlefield. As this landmark series demonstrates, the cataclysmic effects of World War I last to this day. But these epic events are rendered with fresh insights by the interweaving of the cultural history of the time - the hopes and dreams, the ideas and aspirations, the exhilaration and despair, both of those remote from power and of those who led them. This is a journey into the intense personal experiences of people trying to make sense of war on a scale the world had never seen. "The war to end all wars" has influenced the Atomic Age and the Cold War, and is now shaping the conflicts in Bosnia and the Middle East. Period film footage and eyewitness accounts powerfully dramatize the horrors of trench warfare and the chaos of political revolution. History comes alive as The Great War reveals how World War I influenced the rise of communism, witnessed the first use of weapons of mass destruction, and provided a fertile aftermath for the rise of Nazism. Through perspectives from all sides of the war, the series shows how violent events early in this century still cast a dark shadow on life today.
The series won two Primetime Emmy Awards: one for Jeremy Irons for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance, the other for Outstanding Informational Series. In 1997, it was given a Peabody Award.