BBC Live Debate on World War One

by Tiia Sahrakorpi

Was the Great War a great mistake? 100 years on, historians and the public reflect on Britain’s involvement in World War One – a debate led by Niall Ferguson on BBC Two, Friday 28 February 2014. It then was moved to Radio 5 Live at 10.30 pm – 11.30 pm through which Professor Helen Weinstein (@historyworkstv) chaired the online debate via blogging and Twitter. Overall, over 4000 tweets were sent to #WW1, #pityofwar and #necessarywar. Here are some exerts from the debates found on Twitter: a TINY sampling of the various debates and thoughts of viewers and listeners.

Here’s a clip of Ferguson’s case from the BBC show:

The show presented a different type of re-interpretation of the events that was considered by some Twitter users controversial, while others found it a fresh take on the war.

The discussion started off well, with many comments from the viewers on the show.

Some people were happy with Niall Ferguson’s new take on the discussion of the First World War, while others were not so pleased with what he had to say.

However, this person changed his mind after watching more of the show:

Some historians were critical of Ferguson’s argument:

After the show, Ferguson came on Twitter to discuss his points and start further discussion with viewers on Twitter.

Many other people commented on the debate as well:

Lastly, a few mentioned the links between the First World War and current events today in the Ukraine. Historians, as Ferguson notes, are always trying to interpret historical events and piece them together for the public. While this job is important, it is necessary to ask how does one interpretation affect the wider picture? All of this leaves us to question how much the past, from the last one hundred years, has shaped the landscape of many different countries involved in the conflict.

Read more tweets on the BBC: and for a full list of media resources of the debate at:

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