The story of Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union, of Rommel's war against the British in North Africa and of the horrors of the murder of Russian Jews - sometimes known as the Holocaust by Bullets.
Simon Sebag Montefiore charts the rocky course of Rome's rise to become the capital of western Christendom and its impact on the lives of its citizens, elites and high priests. Rome casts aside its pantheon of pagan gods and a radical new religion takes hold. Christianity was just a persecuted sect until Emperor Constantine took a huge leap of faith, promoting it as the religion of Empire. But would this divine gamble pay off?
Some just counted tanks, others stole blueprints for bombs. The Cold War was the battleground for thousands of spies and spotters. Even the Allied Military Missions in Germany doubled as covert observers in the spying game.
Alastair unpicks the reasons behind the dazzling revolution that gave birth to classical Greek art, asking how the Greeks got so good so quickly. He travels to the beautiful Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, and to the island of Mozia to see the astonishing charioteer found there in 1979, and marvels at the athletic bodies of the warriors dragged from the seabed - the Riace Bronzes. It was a creative explosion that covered architecture, sculpting in marble, casting in bronze, even painting on vases. Perhaps the most powerful factor was also its greatest legacy - a fascination with the naked human body.
In 1943 the British and Americans plan the opening of a 'Second Front' in Northwest Europe. Huge numbers of troops, aircraft and ships begin to assemble in England for the invasion of France. They train relentlessly for what will prove the largest amphibious operation in military history. Meanwhile across the Channel the Germans also gather their strength. Hitler sends one of his best generals, 'the Desert Fox' himself Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, to supervise the construction of coastal defences known as 'the Atlantic Wall'. But the Allies retain one crucial advantage that even Rommel's genius cannot compensate for – only the Allies know where and when they will strike.
Americans mobilize for total war at home and overseas. Factories hum around the clock, while in North Africa and then Italy, inexperienced GIs learn how to fight. Meanwhile, in the skies over Europe, thousands of American airmen gamble their lives against preposterous odds on daylight bombing missions.