PBS The Civil War: Episode 1 – The Cause 1861

Every time I watch the Ken Burns miniseries I find some inaccuracy.  Still, it’s an excellent introduction to the Civil War and is compelling television, an example of how powerful this medium can be in teaching people.

 

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12 comments

  1. I recall fondly watching the entire series with my dad, a disabled World War II vet. Like many of my generation, it reawakened a long dormant interest I had in the war. It also gave me a great shared experience with my father.

  2. My cousin gave the set to me for Christmas a few years ago. I watched it with my daughter over a couple of weeks—doing one episode most nights. That was fun.

  3. It has its limitation, but just think how much good, scholarly work has come from folks whose interest, like Pat’s, was sparked or rekindled by it. It’s hugely influential.

  4. Jimmy Dick · · Reply

    It is a real attempt to interpret and portray actual history and not some waste of film like Sons of Liberty which is a complete and utter abomination of history.

  5. The Burns series generally holds up well, but it does suffer from an outdated “reconciliationist” interpretation of the war that recent scholarship has effectivly called into question. Of course, it gets most of its drive from McPhereson’s “Battle Cry of Freedom,” a book that, while still great, reflects some of the outdated pro-nationalist themes of its author and his generation and needs to be replaced with a new standard.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Jarret. Certainly history books and documentaries tell us at least as much about the people who made the documentaries and wrote the books and their times as they tell us about their subjects. A historian who would be at a comparative level that Professor McPherson was when he wrote BcoF, writing a BcoF today, would have some differences in interpretation and presentation, as well as would make different choices as to what to include and what not to include, based on how he or she perceives things and based on some of today’s prevailing notions. As a pro-nationalist myself, I don’t see anything wrong with pro-nationalist themes, personally. 🙂

      1. All very true. Ironically, writing my dissertation on Confederate nationalism (among other things) ended up souring me on the whole concept of nationalism in general, so I guess I’m one of those grouchy new interpreters.

        1. More fiber in the diet? 😉

          1. Maybe, but I suspect that more coffee would have more immediate effect 😉

          2. Just think of what all that caffeine will do to your nervous system though. 🙂

          3. I’m willing to take my chances. It’s really my only chemical vice.

          4. Mine is Diet Coke with Lime. I limit my intake to an average of one per day during a week, though. Hopefully that never means seven on one day on the weekend. 🙂

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