A six part 2009 BBC documentary series written and presented by political commentator and television presenter Andrew Marr, it covers the period of history between the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 to the end of the second world war in 1945. The series followed his 2007 series Andrew Marr’s History of Modern Britain which covered British history from the second world war to the present day.
We have all six episodes of the series available to watch here on Documentary Vine, navigate between them via the numbered tabs beneath the video player or by using the episode links below. Andrew Marr also authored a book which was published to accompany this series.
Covers the conclusion of the Boer War and the death of Queen Victoria. During this period the population of Britain was enjoying a new type of British theatrical entertainment known as ‘Music Hall’ which led the elites to question the morality of the working classes. The episode also covers the parliamentary power struggles between David Lloyd George of the Liberal Party and Joseph Chamberlain a radical liberal, the woman’s suffrage movement, and the founding of the iconic British brand Rolls Royce.
The women’s suffragette movement becomes violent and a campaign is launched for the independence of Ireland, miners and dockers go on strike for fairer working conditions, and the tabloid newspapers spread fears of a German invasion. Tensions with Germany left Chancellor David Lloyd George with a dilemma in which he had to choose between spending money on pensions or warships. This episode also covers several groundbreaking technological breakthroughs in areas including aviation and cinema and the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.
This episode begins with the outbreak of the first world war and its effects on the country, Marr explores the role of Lord Kitchener and his volunteer army and German gun boat attacks on the North East coast of England. A sex scandal rocks the British establishment, and people at home worked tirelessly on the war effort whilst men of fighting age fought in the trenches on mainland Europe. Marr visits Flanders to film parts of this episode.
Following the conclusion of the war Lloyd George embarks on a major home building project and declares that the country will build “homes fit for heroes”, this stimulus put returning soldiers back to work. The episode also covers the birth of public broadcasting and the BBC, and negotiations over the future independence of Ireland which would see him agree for the country to become a free state but remain part of the British Commonwealth. Those negotiations left to an Irish civil war. The country was also plunged into economic uncertainty over fears that the great 1926 Wall Street crash would have a ripple effect.
As feared, the Wall Street crash did have serious repercussions for Britain and a national financial crisis ensued with very high unemployment. The economic hardship led many towards extreme far right and far left groups including the fascist Blackshirts left by Oswald Mosley and the Greenshirts who advocated for a complete reform of the monetary system. The great house building effort continued, with mock Tudor homes particularly popular, and the rise of fascism in continental Europe was largely ignored by the British public.
The sixth and final episode tells the story of the second world war, beginning with defeat at Dunkirk which led to the British public pulling together to do everything necessary to defeat Hitler. In 1940 Britain, led by Churchill, stood alone as the only country prepared to fight against German forces. The episode also looks at some of the innovation to come out of the war.