The serendipity of YouTube

By Judith Phillips

As I’m sure many of you know already, you can find some fascinating items on YouTube.  It’s a bit ‘hit and miss’ – well, it is for me, as I’m not that good on using modern technology.  But I recommend this one.

If you search for the Ottoman Empire, you should come across a short series – about four episodes – called ‘The demise of a major power – the Ottoman Empire’.  It’s a German production by deutsche Welle but it’s subtitled where necessary.  Two of the experts speak in English – Mark Mazower and Eugene Rogan.  I found it fascinating and one of the best explanations of the Balkan situation in the run-up to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in June 1914.

The programmes also covered the problems the Ottoman Empire was having in other areas as well as the difficulties in balancing demands for reform with an autocratic system.  We tend to know about Gallipoli, Lawrence of Arabia and perhaps the campaign in Palestine but we don’t hear much about the involvement of the Allies in the Balkans or in Mesopotamia.  We’d love to hear of any Teesdale people caught up in these theatres of war.  We’ve identified only a very few.

The end of the war and the peace negotiations saw the end of the Ottoman Empire and the reduction of Turkey to a much smaller area under the new leadership of Kemal Attaturk.  The creation of new countries and kingdoms and of French and British mandates in the Middle East took little notice of what the populations might have wanted.  The new boundaries were drawn up sometimes rather arbitrarily.  The political and religious divisions in the area including Turkey led to one of the greatest mass migration of refugees and terrible slaughter of civilian populations – ethnic cleansing – which had started during the war and continued into the post-war period.

It brought together so many pieces of history I already knew, put them into context and then added some more.  It makes for sad viewing but I found it compelling.

If you have any particular TV programmes or films or books about the First World War that you’d like to share, please let us know.