In recent years, social history has benefited from the increased media interest in history and heritage. Yet social history on television today bears very little resemblance to the discipline traditionally understood. As such, social history within the public sphere has undergone a similar transformation to that within the academy. Whereas once filmmakers concentrated upon structure and process, now they are more interested in questions of identity and empathy. The end result of this trend is the wave of 'reality history' (such as Frontier House) programmes drawing huge audiences across the Anglo-American networks.

At the same time, the proliferation of media together with growing popular interest in local and genealogical history has produced an impressive range of bottom-up films of the past—most notably, in the format of drama documentaries. However, what today's social history on television lacks—together with its progenitor within the academy—is any kind of political undercurrent. The ideological underpinnings of social history have been lost in one of the media best designed for its propagation.


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pp. 843-858
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