This film tells the story of the last year of the war in Europe, from the D-Day landings in Normandy in June 1944 to the dual German surrender, first in Reims then Berlin, in May 1945. Eleven months of unprecedented combat.
In the first episode, we see the origins of the Celts in the Alps of central Europe and relive the moment of first contact with the Romans in a pitched battle just north of Rome - a battle that the Celts won and that left the imperial city devastated.
This film shows how the Nazis developed a terrifying new military tactic - Blitzkrieg - and how it caught first Poland and then Britain and France utterly unprepared. It charts the fall of Poland and how Hitler then conquered France in just a few weeks, an achievement that had eluded Germany throughout all the four years of World War One. It also reveals how heroic French resistance allowed the British to escape from Dunkirk and live to fight another day.
In the subsequent 65 million years, mammals are part of Europe’s history. Sea mammals conquered the oceans while herds of herbivores crisscrossed the land. It was 600,000 years ago that Homo Heidelbergensis first began hunting. Seen from a geological perspective, human beings have been on the earth for only a few short moments, but within this brief time we have already fundamentally transformed the planet. Rivers have been straightened, forests cleared and roads laid down across the natural habitats of nearly all the earth’s animals.
In Richard Miles's epic story of civilization, there have been plenty of examples of the great men of history, but none came close to the legend of Alexander of Macedon, known to us as 'the Great'. Uniting the fractious Greek city-states, he led them on a crusade against the old enemy, Persia, and in little more than a decade created an empire that stretched from Egypt in the west to Afghanistan in the east. But it was Alexander's successors, the Hellenistic Kings, who had to make sense of the legacy of this charismatic adventurer. By knuckling down to the hard graft of politics, taxation and public works, they created something far more enduring than a mere legend - they built a civilization. Richard traces Alexander's battle-scarred route through Turkey, Syria and Lebanon to Egypt and ultimately to the western Punjab, Pakistan, where he discovers fascinating traces of a city where Greek west and Buddhist east were united in an intriguing new way.
Bettany Hughes' series exploring the lives and teachings of influential ancient philosophers draws to a close with a profile of Confucius, who is credited as the first Chinese thinker to take a systematic philosophical approach to issues of social, political and ethical importance. Born during the chaotic Spring and Autumn period of Chinese history, Confucius believed that harmony could be promoted and achieved through the examples of sage rulers. He was also a innovative teacher, and tried to instill his principles of moral excellence in China's elite, but died without seeing his vision for his nation come to pass. However, his philosophies would eventually form the bedrock of Chinese culture, with many of his principles of tradition surviving to this day.