Access Type

Online access to this book is only available to eligible users.



Download Full Text (39.3 MB)


From Ken Burns’s documentaries to historical dramas such as Roots, from A&E’s Biography series to CNN, television has become the primary source for historical information for tens of millions of Americans today. Why has television become such a respected authority? What falsehoods enter our collective memory as truths? How is one to know what is real and what is imagined—or ignored—by producers, directors, or writers?

Gary Edgerton and Peter Rollins have collected a group of essays that answer these and many other questions. The contributors examine the full spectrum of historical genres, but also institutions such as the History Channel and production histories of such series as The Jack Benny Show, which ran for fifteen years. The authors explore the tensions between popular history and professional history, and the tendency of some academics to declare the past “off limits” to nonscholars. Several of them point to the tendency for television histories to embed current concerns and priorities within the past, as in such popular shows as Quantum Leap and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. The result is an insightful portrayal of the power television possesses to influence our culture.

Winner of the 2001 Ray and Pat Browne Award for Outstanding Textbook given by the Popular Culture Association

"Offers much food for thought in this highly visual age."—Alliance (OH) Review

"As an example of well-reasoned, original research, Television Histories makes an important contribution to the study of the medium."—Anthony Slide, Classic Images

"This book is even more timely and provocative because much of the material discussed is being rebroadcast now that digital television is opening even more new channels."—Choice

"An engrossing collection that slides the thorny subject of television, history, and memory under a microscope. . . . Digs deep into a contemporary phenomenon, and its many conclusions are right on target."—Film & History

"Helps those of us who care about history think more clearly about how television can shape historical thinking among our friends, neighbors, and students."—Florida Historical Quarterly

"Television Histories, a pioneer work, weaves an inspired and informed interdisciplinary analysis of television and history. The chapters are enlightening, readable, and entertaining; the editors and the authors have produced a work that enriches and strengthens the study of film and history."—Michael Schoenecke

"The stuff serious thinkers in a media age should read, mark and remember."—Rockland (ME) Courier-Gazette

"An insightful and important addition to the literature that sheds light on an often controversial subject for professional historians."—Southern Historian

"Most of the essays are likely to be of considerable value to any attentive student of television."—Television Quarterly

"Working from the thesis that people learn about history through television more than any other medium, Edgerton and Rollins look at what TV subliminally teaches us by what is shows and does not show."—Variety

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Television and history, Historical television


Film and Media Studies

Television Histories: Shaping Collective Memory in the Media Age
Read Sample Off-campus Download