Monday, September 29, 2014

Things that have changed in my lifetime number 82: TV historians


  1. Yep, they have changed and generally not for the better.
    Taylor could be a bit dry, but he tended to stick to the subject. Most of his contemporaries weren’t too shabby either. Today’s shower leave me in tears, almost. Although they do send me back to the books, which is no bad thing.
    There are exceptions, I’m sure. There always are, but who are they?
    And where are they?
    It’s probably just me. It usually is.

  2. What hasn't changed: the pressure on women to look young and attractive, no matter how much of an expert in their field they are.

  3. In the early 80s I watched an OU. series about the Anglo Saxons. Just a talking head straight to camera in a studio for about 4 hours. Nowadays you would have loads of outdoor/location shots. Sadly, about 3.5 hours worth would be helicopter shots of the presenter telling me what they will be telling me.

  4. The curse of current TV history productions: the dramatised reconstruction. Because you won't understand or persevere with it if it doesn't look like a (badly-made) movie, will you?

  5. In the 1950s, young people dressed like their grandparents.

    Today, grandparents imitate their grandchildren.

  6. It's worth bearing in mind that thirty, forty or fifty years ago a young graduate in History could have, if it was what he or she wanted, pursued an academic career in higher education. In more recent years the opportunities to do so have become severely reduced and more graduates choose to publish their theses publicly; a 'name' author is surely more employable.

    If the decline of History as a subject in HE can be marked then so can the popularity of history as strand of TV and radio over the last twenty years or so. From Time Team to The History of the World in 100 Objects or The Long View it seems to me that History can never have been so popular with programmes often driven by a best-selling book.

    Add to this an expansion of TV channels, while there are still many an 'old, white and male' historian about who have decades of research and experience under their belts, it's little wonder that producers might want, on occasion, to cast around for 'eye candy' to catch the attention of a channel flipper. But haven't these historians always been there but until now they haven't had the opportunity to be seen?

    As for me, I can watch or listen to anything presented by Mary Beard or Robert Bartlett, Richard Miles I like too. That Kate Williams is also good and I've had Lisa Jardine on my shelves for years. And is it really nearly forty years since the camera first settled itself upon those tight jeans, that hip-cut sheepskin jacket and flowing blonde mane of....Michael Wood?
    Plus ca change - a French historian might say.

    For the young uns of today, though, I wonder if they can do what AJP Taylor famously did and extemporize to camera without notes. I suspect that they can.