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People's Century is a television documentary series examining the 20th century. It was a joint production of the BBC in the United Kingdommarker and PBS member station WGBHmarker Boston in the United Statesmarker. First shown on BBC in 1995, the 26 parts of one hour deal with the socio-economic, political, and cultural movements that shaped the 20th century. The documentary won an International Emmy Award, among others.

A departure from other documentaries that observe history as the actions of great men, People's Century considers the Century from the view of common people. Most persons interviewed were ordinary men and women who closely witnessed various events and they give personal accounts how developments in the Twentieth Century affected their lives.

The opening credits depict various images from the century, accompanied with a theme music score by Zbigniew Preisner. A very short introduction of the episode would then follow, often illustrated by a dramatic event that illustrates the episode's particular theme coming to the fore.

The British version was narrated by Sean Barrett and Veronika Hyks, the American by actors John Forsythe and Alfre Woodard. People's Century was coproduced by the BBC and WGBHmarker with executive producers Peter Pagnamenta and Zvi Dor-Ner, respectively; along with producer David Espar.

The series

Episode Title Year Information
1 Age of Hope 1900 The start of the 20th Century, a stable, unequal yet optimistic era when people were slowly introduced to technologies and ideas.
2 Killing Fields 1916 World War I
3 Red Flag 1917 The Russian Revolution
4 Lost Peace 1919 The emergence and failure of the League of Nations in the inter-war years.
5 On the Line 1926 Economic growth and the redivision of labour caused by mass production
6 Great Escape 1927 Cinema
7 Breadline 1929 The Great Depression and its effects (and government counter-measures) in Britainmarker, the United Statesmarker, Swedenmarker, Germanymarker and Chilemarker.
8 Sporting Fever 1930 The rise of sport as mass entertainment.
9 Master Race 1933 Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, from the election of Adolf Hitler to the 'Final Solution'
10 Total War 1939 World War II - Civilians become participants and victims of warfare at an unprecedented scale. Opening credits show extracts of Things to Come, the portentous 1936 film.
11 Fallout 1945 Nuclear energy - The power of the atom offers cheap, clean and unlimited energy, but initiates an arms race between the superpowers. Opening credits shows the El Alamogordo test in 1945.
12 Brave New World 1945 The Cold War, up to the erection of the Berlin Wallmarker
13 Freedom Now 1947 Decolonisation in Indiamarker and Africa
14 Boomtime 1948 The rebuilding of Europe and the economic boom in the West, up to the 1973 oil shock
15 Asia Rising 1951 Japanmarker and South Koreamarker's economic development
16 Living Longer 1954 The Growth in medicine, including the irradication of smallpox and polio, the third world population boom, AIDS and the return of tuberculosis
17 Skin Deep 1957 Racism and the civil rights movements in the United Statesmarker and South Africa
18 Endangered Planet 1959 Environmentalism, from the Minamata disaster and Rachel Carson's Silent Spring to the 1972 Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm.
19 Picture Power 1963 Television, from its introduction in pre-war Britain to its use as a news medium in the Gulf War. Opening credits show news reports of the assassination of President Kennedymarker.
20 Great Leap 1965 Chinamarker, from the revolution in 1949 to the Cultural Revolution and the death of Mao Zedong. Opening credits show the Pingjin Campaign and the fall of the Republic of China.
21 New Release(UK)/Young Blood(US) 1968 The Baby Boomer generation, from the post-war baby boom to student radicalism in the West in the 1960s
22 Half the People 1970 The emancipation of women, from the suffragettes to the 1996 Beijing conference on the status of women.
23 War of the Flea (UK)/Guerilla Wars(US) 1973 The revolution in Cubamarker, Vietnam War and the Afghan War. Opening credits show the fall of Saigon.
24 God Fights Back 1979 The emergence of Islamism from the 1970s in the previously secularised Middle East, marked by Islamic revolutions in Iranmarker and Afghanistanmarker; also the rise of Christian evangelism in the United Statesmarker. Opening credits shows the Islamic Revolution in Iranmarker.
25 People Power 1989 The end of socialism in Europe and the fall of the Soviet Union. Opening credits show the fall of the Berlin Wallmarker
26 Back to The Future(US)/Fast Forward(UK) 1997 The spread of globalisation in the United Statesmarker, Russiamarker, Chinamarker and Indiamarker; also the Bosnian War


International versions

People's Century was broadcast in several non-English-speaking countries. In Germany, the series was dubbed, under English title, on VOX as a weekly feature on a 4-to-6h slot called DCTP Nachtclub with several episodes in each slot, as part of the channel's Spiegel TV documentaries program co-operation with Der Spiegel. A and VHS set was released of the German-dubbed version under the title Chronik des 20. Jahrhunderts. The dub also ran on Austrian and Swiss television.

VHS and DVD editions

In 1997 and 1998, VHS box sets were produced in PAL and NTSC. By 2007, most original episodes remained unavailable on DVD, however in late 2006 DVD editions were released in the US of the two world-war episodes Killing Fields and Total War exclusively in NTSC, with a few cut-down post-war episodes (on a DVD called Young Blood, drawing from the previously released Baby Boomers Boxed Set on VHS that had contained 5 complete episodes), by WGBH Bostonmarker.

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