People tend to think of YouTube as being a place to find amusing clips of animals, sport highlights and pop videos, but I recently discovered that it contains a lot of full length TV history documentaries and dramas.
It would seem likely that most, if not all, of these are online in breach of copyright, but it is up to the programme makers to complain to YouTube. Most of the British ones that I have found were made by the BBC and probably shown by PBS in the USA. Possibly they do not bother complaining if the programme is not currently available on DVD. None of the BBC programmes listed below are currently on sale as a DVD from Amazon UK.
Some of the programmes are divided into 10 minute segments, presumably in an extremely doubtful attempt to take advantage of YouTube’s rule that putting up a 10 minute segment from a programme constitutes fair usage.
To protect myself and Word Press against any allegations of copyright infringement I am not providing any links in this post, but programmes that I have found include several series by the late Richard Holmes, one of Britain’s leading military historians: War Walks, where he walked over battlefields from British wars from the 100 Years’ War to the Second World War; Western Front, about World War I; Redcoats and Rebels, a history of the American War of Independence; and The Iron Duke, a biography of the Duke of Wellington.
Other BBC documentaries available include several episodes of Timewatch, an excellent history series, including episodes on the Roman Way of War, medieval knights, the Boer War, the foundation of MI5, World War I tanks, several on the World War II and others on non-military history.
Series shown by other TV companies in the UK that I have found include The First World War, written by Hew Strachan, and ones on both world wars in colour. World War I in Colour colourised black and white film, but World War II in Colour used original colour film.
Searching on major battles such as the Somme, Gallipoli, the Battle of Britain, Midway, El Alamein, Stalingrad, Kursk and Iwo Jima produces plenty of hits, including some feature films as well as documentaries.
Some documentaries from other countries that I found but have yet to watch include Soviet Storm: WW2 in the East, a Russian series, and Wehrmacht and Hitler’s Children, both produced by the German documentary maker Guido Knopp. Those two are both available with English narrations. Other Knopp documentaries are on YouTube, but in German.
4 responses to “History Documentaries on YouTube”
I always thought it odd that there was so much “free” stuff on Youtube but as you say I guess it’s up to the originator to sue or complain. I watched the entire Hornblower series on Youtube.
The BBC does have some newer programmes on YouTube on a pay per view basis, and I think that some other TV companies put programmes on it with ads.
The BBC ones that I have highlighted are old and have not been put on YouTube by the BBC. However, it looks as if Soviet Storm has been put up by its maker.
It could be that TV and film companies do not bother about old programmes being available free of charge because they want to accustom people to watching TV and films via YouTube. Once viewers are used to this they may ask YouTube to take down the free versions and replace them with pay ones?
In the early days of DVD British newspapers used to give away free DVDs of old films and TV programmes in order to encourage people to switch away from video. Maybe the same thing is now happening with YouTube?
I would happily pay good money for a legit DVD box set of Richard Holmes documentaries. You just can’t buy them. Bloody ridiculous…
It seems very strange and its difficult to understand why you cannot buy them. I have a boxed set of 10 BBC WWII documentary series that includes the Richard Holmes’s Battlefields, but I cannot find it on Amazon. I have a vague recollection that I might have bought it in a clearance sale. It includes only 4 out of 8 episodes of Charles Wheeler’s The Road to War. One of the missing episodes is the rather crucial one on Germany! There is a WWII series called Battlefield on Amazon but it is not the Holmes one, which is Battlefields.
Strangely PBS released a US [Region 1, NTSC] DVD of Redcoats and Rebels, which can be bought from Amazon if you have a multi-region DVD player.