What is Screened History?

This site developed out of my lifelong passion for history, and the publication of my first book: Reframing the Past: History, film & television.

While writing Reframing the Past many different names for the field I was exploring were encountered. It has variously been called ‘History and film’, ‘History on film’, ‘historiophoty’, ‘televisual history’, ‘media history’, ‘Film History’, ‘history on film’ and ‘audiovisual history’ (and memorably at one conference, ‘history and/on/in film’). Yet at its most basic, regardless of nomenclature, the scholarship represented in this book explores the intersections between the academic discipline of History, an at times ephemeral concept of ‘the past’, and the artefacts of film and television. Every different name has created different boundaries and divisions, rarely opening up new possibilities.

Some have restricted possibilities by focusing on a single medium, while others Camexhave aligned themselves with specific disciplines, thus limiting both the publications considered, and the methods utilised. For example, ‘History and film’ has been claimed within the boundaries of History, but Film History belongs to the discipline of Film Studies.

Each nomenclature discourages researchers from straying over boundaries and considering ideas, artefacts, or methods beyond their own precisely defined field. What is also clear, is that none of the previous names for the field encompass future forms of media; resulting in another artificial boundary being drawn. It became clear that if it was going to be possible to understand the history of how historians have engaged with film and television, and the possibilities offered by other disciplines for the future of the field, an adjustment to the field of vision was required.

Doing so would mean redefining the field in broader terms: reframing it as Screened History. Screened History is flexible enough to cover the wide variety of past audiovisual forms and also reasonably future-proof. (Reframing the Past, p.2)

A full discussion and exploration of ‘screened history’ – it’s definition, history and interaction with a variety of disciplines – is in Reframing the Past.