In 2004 I began a journey to follow the footsteps of the ‘gods’ of film and history, to find the origins of the field so that I could try and understand where it had begun, and why historians working with film and television were still so often seen as ‘heretics’ by mainstream history. That journey resulted in a PhD – which saw me labeled a heretic by one examiner – and with the support of a number of the ‘gods’ of the field, it also resulted in the book Reframing the past: history, film and television. The book traced what historians have written about film and television from 1898 until the early 2000s. In an act of heresy (perhaps hubris) on my part, its central argument is that historical engagement with film and television should be reconceptualised as Screened History: an interdisciplinary, international field of research incorporating and replacing what has been known as ‘History and Film’.
My presentation will explore the challenges of being an outsider ‘looking in’ on a number of close-knit intellectual communities, of writing a ‘history’ from written documentation when some those of who lived it are still with us, and what the possibilities might be for future histories building on my heretical act. No longer ‘just’ a historian, but not ‘yet’ a film scholar, what does it mean to be a screened historian? Is it still the ultimate act of heresy?