Rory Stewart’s documentary on British involvement in Afghanistan was a true tour de force. Whereas some presenters, in the name of ‘bringing history to life’, far too easily transgress the line that distingishes enthusiastic from obnoxious, Rory managed to convey enthusiasm for his subject whilst remaining soft-spoken and articulate.
Morever, he managed to tease out how Britain’s recent exploits resonate with the past, and how familiarty with the experiences of previous generations can contribute to our practical wisdom in contemporary situations without our having to resort to drawing crass ‘lessons from history’. Particularly moving, I thought, was the way he told (in his characteristically understated way) of how his acquaintance with Elphinstone’s doomed retreat from Kabul in 1842 saved his life, and that of his comrades, in Iraq.
Bring on Part 2.