Making History

In a diverse field, expertise should remain at the heart of history on television.

It’s not you, it’s me: The Lover’s Tiff, Paolo Mei, 1872. © Bridgeman Image

The past can seem like a timeline of horrors. But might it also remind us of our own failings – and help to put them right?

Both history and historical fiction depend on a combination of imagination and rigorous research. The difference is found in the balance of these ingredients. 

The 1919 Amritsar Massacre depicted in a contemporary illustration. © Chronicle/Alamy

Is it ahistorical for public figures to say sorry for events that took place before they were born? The issue cuts to the heart of the relationship between the living and the dead.

Raw memories: detail from the Holodomor memorial, Kyiv. Ⓒ Tibor Bognar / Alamy

The maxim ‘show don’t tell’ is often forgotten when film-makers confront historical horrors, argues Suzannah Lipscomb, as two recent cinema releases demonstrate.

Courtesy Wikimedia/Creative Commons

The world does not influence Britain’s native culture, the world is its culture, as anyone with a grasp of the country’s history will understand, argues Suzannah Lipscomb.

The challenges of writing history for television are formidable. But if historians don’t get involved, they will cede ground to those less qualified, warns Suzannah Lipscomb.

Into battle: an Amazon attacks a Greek warrior, French, c.1808

Despite progress since the 1970s, female historians are still treated unfairly both inside and outside the academy. Things must change, says Suzannah Lipscomb.

A Huguenot brought to life: Jeanne III d'Albret, Queen of Navarre

Archives are one thing, the public another and connecting the two is one of a historian’s hardest challenges, as Suzannah Lipscomb knows from experience.

Philip II (on a cow) with the Duke of Alençon, the Duke of Alba, William of Orange and Elizabeth I, by Philip Moro, 16th century

Practical details from historical sources may convince us that historical fiction is fact, but, warns Suzannah Lipscomb, such novels are fraught with danger for one in search of the past.