Ken Burn’s Civil War series

Ken Burn’s Civil War series

This 9 episode series, first aired in 1990, recently appeared on Netflix. After a re-watch, I am now convinced more than ever it is one of the best documentaries of all time.

It is so unlike the politically-charged and biased ‘documentaries’ that flood out these days. I think it’s also a great demonstration of what documentaries used to be and what GOOD academics looks like. Based before all else on impartial reporting of facts, source material from all angles, and gives little interpretative judgement.

Today, it seems, we get so wrapped in our current highly politicized re-interpretation of the past/current events that we forget that those events often had altogether different meanings and different reasons than we like to put on them. Today’s documentaries all too often white-wash the actions of the past to a single opinion as seen through the lens of one or two directors. They push the documentarian’s opinion and blast over material with today’s arrogance and biases. Ironically, actually losing the most important lessons those events have to teach us.

I have seen this documentary twice now. Once in my teens, and once now in my adult years. I understood far more this time than before as I could relate to each of the players more fully now – from the lowly soldier to the struggles of Lincoln’s decisions.

I heartily recommend a re-watch and sharing this with your kids. If for no other reason than to understand this kind of high quality academics is what used to be considered the norm.

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