Box Populi

Charlotte Crow reports a recent debate between historians and programme makers on the state of history on the small screen, and a television success in that field.

'The failure to deal with ideas in history programme- making is a monstrous failure on the part of the industry’, historian Tristram Hunt told delegates at the annual World Congress of History Producers in London in November. He was contributing to a feisty debate, ‘Does Television Enhance or Diminish History?’, organized for the Congress by History Today (having first asked our readers the same question via our website and discovered that 28 per cent of you believe that television does diminish the subject).

The international gathering of more than 400 television producers, history specialists and broadcasters assembled to discuss topics such as ‘Documenting Genocide’, the use of CGI, trendspotting in history programme making, and the challenges of documenting Islam. They also took the opportunity to meet  commissioning editors and broadcasters, and to discover the state of the market for history programmes, which some in the industry speculate has now peaked.

Hunt, who has himself just completed The Protestant Revolution, a four-part series on the Reformation to be shown on BBC4 shortly, was sharing the ‘academic’ side of the fence with David Cesarani (Royal Holloway), Ann Gray, Brian Winston (both of the University of Lincoln) and History Today editor Peter Furtado.

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