Arrow, Michelle: Making History

Michelle Arrow

‘The Making History initiative and Australian popular history’, Rethinking History: The Journal of Theory and Practice, 15, 11, 2011, pp. 153-74; reprinted in Jerome de Groot, ed., Public and Popular History, Routledge, London & New York, 2012

[The Making History series of documentaries on television] were distinctive in their presentation of a largely masculine narrative of public achievement as Australia’s past. Yet they were also noteworthy for their reliance on dramatization: like much of history on television, the Making History films offered audiences the possibility of “knowing” the past through emotions, empathy and images, rather than through the expertise of the historian. This paper explores the genesis and development of the Making History initiative in its industrial, televisual and political contexts. It argues that, in order to understand why interpretation of the past has become so contested in contemporary Australia, one needs to pay close attention to the ways in which popular histories communicate and understand the past. Dramatization has the potential to offer an emotional connection to history, and while this might make historians uneasy, its centrality to the popularity of television histories requires close analysis. (abstract)

For another view, Clare Wright interviewed about history, writing and television.

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