One hundred years ago today, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated… setting off a chain of events that led to the First World War.
But did you know that the Austrian aristocrat didn’t see the pistol of his assassin because he was ‘too busy guzzling his tenth Wiener schnitzel’?
And that gunman Gavrilo Princip, a member of Serbian terror group the Black Hand, had ‘popped a cap in his a** for my Black Hand brothers’?
Dumbing down: Assassin Gavrilo Princip, a member of Serbian terror group the Black Hand, in the video
Well, that’s according to the BBC – which commissioned a five-minute video in which the key figures behind the outbreak of the Great War play out the complex tangle of events in the form of a ‘rap battle’ – complete with hip-hop style swearing, sexual innuendo and national stereotyping.
Yesterday experts branded the clip – made as part of the corporation’s efforts to mark the war’s centenary – as a factually inaccurate, juvenile and desperate attempt to court popularity with a streetwise audience.
The video – made by production company Ballista – has actors play the roles of characters including King George V, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.
They make jokes about sex, Queen Victoria, refer to anachronistic characters like Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson and describe the French as having a ‘snail-sucking, frog-cooking, garlic stench’.
Chris McGovern, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘It’s a desperate, frantic and hopeless attempt to engage children, they have given up on every sensible method so they resort to rap music.
‘It’s just another example of the complete dumbing down of what history should be about. They would argue they are making it accessible to young people but it’s actually very patronising in that sense because it fails to challenge them.
‘It’s a desperate attempt to appeal to the street, to children they have already lost, basically this is an indication they have given up on any proper teaching.’
The video, which has been watched more than 21,000 times since it was uploaded on YouTube on Tuesday, was written by comedian Lee Henman.
He has admitted that when he was commissioned for the project he knew ‘b***** all about World War I, except what I’d gleaned from Blackadder Goes Forth’.
Oxford historian Professor Sir Hew Strachan said: ‘I do not think this is a sensible way to engage people and it runs the risk of further distorting history in the process. Gavrilo Princip also seems to be a Serbian rather than a Bosnian.’
Jonathan Isaby, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said licence fee payers would be angry at the use of cash for ‘lazy national stereotypes and off-colour gags’.
Ballista did not respond to requests for a comment.
A spokesman for the BBC said: ‘Clear warnings are given about the content at the start of this video which introduces younger audiences – in a humorous and accessible way – to the complicated political alliances that led to the outbreak of WW1.
‘We are marking the WW1 centenary with our most ambitious pan-BBC season of programming to date and this WW1 Uncut film sits alongside over 2,500 hours of landmark documentary series, commemoration, drama, debate, music, arts, UK-wide events and online activity.’ (Daily Mail)