History on British television

Constructing nation, nationality and collective memory

By Robert Dillon

History on British television


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-9985-4
  • Pages: 224
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £16.99
  • Published Date: October 2015
  • BIC Category: History, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Social & cultural history, European history, PERFORMING ARTS / Television / General, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain, Radio & Television Industry, Humanities / Social & cultural history
  • Series: Studies in Popular Culture


History on British television explores the production and consumption of factual history programming on British television. The chronological development of Western historiography is compared to phases of British television history production, highlighting how progressive developments in social and cultural trends have shaped what we make of the past and what the past makes of us.

Charting the rise and dominance of television history as a popular cultural form, the book examines how the past has become a model for citizenship, prioritising certain groups and classes, marginalising others. Clearly defined chapters deal with the battle between the BBC and its commercial rivals to become the 'voice of the nation'.

Engaging, informed and easy to read, the book is intended for researchers, teachers and students interested in television and historical studies, as well as readers keen to understand how collective memory, television and history have become a potent propaganda mixture of stylised myths reinforcing nationality, identity and citizenship.


there are books that become the standard works in their fields for a generation or more. I would be very surprised if 'History on British Television' and 'the BBC and National Identity in Britain' do not establish themselves as "must-read" works

, James Chapman, University of Leicester, Visual Culture in Britain, 31 January 2012


Introduction: Switching on the past
1. Whose past is it anyway?
2. Post-war television and history
3. The making of a popular commodity
4. Bringing the past alive
5. Truth or drama: documentary history
6. Characterising the past
7. Britain as a warrior-nation
8. Presenting the past
9. Nation, nationality and television history
Index of programme titles
General index


Robert Dillon has taught visual history for over twenty years, and after leaving Lancaster University where he was an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of History, he remains a committed historian and a full-time writer

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