Andrew Marr’s ‘History of the World’

As I said before, I was supposed to finish with my thoughts on the recent history programme by Andrew Marr. Now, as my last post shows, I was not quite favourable inclined towards it due to not being quite certain in the veracity of everything it said, but I guess I can also shed some more light on that now.

Because indeed, the final episode might have been a clearer indication of what Mr Marr was aiming for than anything before that. And while I am not a fan of simplifying the facts there is a certain limit to what can be said — though my question always remains that if something is not being represented properly, why represent it at all. Leave it out and dedicate a few more minutes to the other items. But, I digress…

Now, the last episode made me think that the author himself knows this to be a half-hearted attempt at history while a full attempt at psychology. We see people who are supposed to make us think : some of them can inspire confidence and courage while others… fear. It does not even matter who these people were in history or what they did, but say by portraying Mr Zimmermann by a power-crazed minister with the only goal of expanding the Great War, or by making Saigo Takamori into a confused reformist who regretted his actions, or again turning Hitler into a man who was evil and confused by nature, or by giving us Edward Jenner who had no other goals than a vaccination, by doing all of these things we are given a one-sided picture of a very complex story that is meant to intimidate us in some way.

And now, while I as a person with an appreciation of history would say that it is wrong to represent anything without a thorough look into it and by evaluating all of the relevant topics — something which would allow us to find mistakes in the conduct of Mr Jenner and good things in the conduct of Herr Zimmermann — then as a method of comment for potentially getting people off their arses and doing things, this could even work.

I say that because in my mind somewhere, some section, decided that the underlying goal for Andrew Marr was to find something that would be relevant for that person who went to his job after watching any one of those episodes, so that that man could say “I’ll rather be a Jenner than Zimmermann”. Even if we get no new smallpox-cure out of it, I am pleased to say his depiction of Mahatma Gandhi went into this category as well: peace and benevolence.

However, and while I have endorsed the psychological aspect of the series, I have to say that the historical accuracy which seems to have been ground into dust is a bit unsettling. And the balance… where is the balance? It sometimes made me think that before recording the scenes he thought of how people would expect some things to be shown to them.

Lastly, I would add that I found out new things while watching the series, and I enjoyed that : new information is good information. But, as with any new knowledge, I am a bit wary about what was told, and I will be reluctant to believe that what I gained was a thorough look. It was Mr Andrew Marr’s look, and we’ll have to be happy with that. We’ll have to be happy with that because in the end, Mr Marr’s look is better than no look at all for I would not be surprised if a lot of people found some of the things being said very interesting.

So, maybe, our collective knowledge increases… and maybe the next ‘History of the World’ will build on that. =)

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  1. I really enjoyed the history of the world it kept me watching and I always new that mankind cannot see the wood for the trees and is a stupid ape and yes we will be taken over by a super computer but please not befor my time !!!!! Thank you Andrew marr brilliant program lets have more like this… Jan tempest

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