Monday, 1 June 2015

1864 and all that

I'm enjoying BBC4's new series 1864 about the Second Schleswig War between Denmark and Prussia and Austria.

I've watched and enjoyed pretty much all the programmes in BBC4's Saturday night Scandinavian drama slot - Borgen, The Bridge, The Killing, Wallander - and unsurprisingly there are one or two familiar faces from them here.

The Second Schleswig War is an all but unknown, European war of the mid-nineteenth century, largely forgotten in the century-long gap between the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the outbreak of the First World War. I only knew about it because I'd read The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers in which the two main characters sail their boat to the German war memorial, since blown up, at Dybbol.

Looking at a modern map, you can see which bits of the nineteenth century war zone are now in Denmark and which are still in Germany (although Prussia and Austria won the war, under the Versailles Treaty Northern Schlewsig was returned to Denmark after a plebiscite there in 1920). The key battlefield at Dybbol is north of the German-Danish border again but the ancient defensive barrier the Danevirke, abandoned by the Danes in their retreat, is now a long way south of it.

I wasn't sure at first about the use of flashbacks from the present in the programme but they've grown on me, as has the personal backstory of those in them, and I'm looking forward to the final episodes of the series next weekend.

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