I've just watched the second episode of Simon Schama's history of the USA, The American Future.
This is probably a must-watch series for anyone interested in America and its history. It helps set in context some of the contemporary debates about America's future as it gears up for another election.
Schama has been taking a thematic approach to the subject. Following on from last week's look at 'American Plenty', which looked at the economy and resource use, this week he was focusing on America's war record.
By taking a thematic approach, of necessity some things are going to feature more heavily than others. The American Civil War was a key element, and mention was also made of World War II, Vietnam, Iraq and the Spanish-American War. However, this focus did inevitably mean some other things lost out and it's possibly a bit surprising that there was no mention of World War I, Korea or Afghanistan. Nor was there anything about America's isolationist tradition, or for that matter the 'War on Terror'.
But it was still a worthwhile insight into a key aspect of American history. I think Schama was right to examine the potential tensions between citizenship and military power and his conclusion that America still retains its tradition of civilian control of the military is still valid, although he probably needed to talk more about the relationship to the military-industrial complex.
Overall, this TV history does have its flaws, but it's still a fascinating series to watch for anyone with an interest in America.
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