Peter and Dan Snow tell Andrew Pettie about the eight key battles that shaped the 20th century

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Peter and Dan Snow love war. Not waging it, of course. But discussing, analysing and explaining it. Which is why the father and son team are going back to war, as it were, for 20th Century Battlefields, the pair’s enthralling follow-up to their Bafta award-winning BBC2 series, Battlefield Britain.

‘War is the most extraordinary, extreme human experience,’ says Dan. ‘In the case of Stalingrad, 2million people came together in one place with the single intention of killing one another. There is no more extraordinary situation that human beings find themselves in. War provokes so many questions: why are people behaving in this way? What motivates them? It shows human beings at their very best – cunning, courageous, adaptive – and, of course, at their most evil and depraved.’

Peter, perhaps because of his long career in news journalism, talks with similar energy about conflict as a political catalyst. ‘It’s the way the world is shaped, unfortunately,’ he reflects. ‘Battles are the events that define the way we live now. So by looking at military history you’re also looking at the fundamentals of history itself.’

For card-carrying war enthusiasts such as the Snows, the 20th century has of course thrown up an embarrassment of riches. As Peter informs the viewer in the opening instalment, ‘More people – both military and civilian – were killed in the conflicts of the 20th century than in any other.’ To illustrate this sobering statistic the pair have selected eight key conflicts – Amiens during the First World War, Midway and Stalingrad during the Second, Korea, Vietnam, the Yom Kippur war in 1973, the Falklands and the first Gulf war – to chart and analyse the changing face of warfare over the century.

‘It was a fascinating exercise just choosing the battles,’ says Peter, ‘We wanted to follow the development of technology and military strategy, but also to have variety. In the new series we examine naval battles, air battles, guerilla fighting… All parts of the world are represented, but so too are all types of battle.’

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