America's 'Civil' Wars

Hugh Purcell examines the impact on either side of the Atlantic of Ken Burns’s tour de force, The Civil War.

BBC TV is currently broadcasting a history series about two land armies slugging away at each other, about new weapons of mass destruction; behind them are military contractors making easy money out of the war and Wall Street speculators trading on inside information; there is also an ever present civil rights question and a growing feminist movement. The series is called ‘The (American) Civil War'.


It was made by historical film-maker Ken Burns in New England during the second half of the 1980s. It is a product of its period and with the Gulf War beginning only weeks before its American transmission it is now a series of enormous topicality. No wonder General Schwarzkopf kept all eleven hours on video cassette in his Saudi bunker or that President Bush, no doubt inescapably drawn to the portrayal of President Lincoln, has said it is the finest history series he has seen on television.


To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email if you have any problems.