University of Exeter: Experts and filmmakers to discuss how historians can better inform period drama at virtual conference

Recent series of Bridgerton and The Crown have led to debates about how history is presented in modern-day historical drama.

Academics, journalists and professionals from the TV industry will discuss what is next for period drama, and how fascinating research from historians can be used by writers and producers.

The virtual conference will take place on 9th July 2021 and is organised by Anthony Delaney, a historian from University of Exeter, and Dr Madeleine Pelling, from the Centre for Eighteenth-Century Studies at the University of York. Mr Delaney is also a writer and actor and Dr Pelling is an expert in 18th century material and visual culture, including how the period is portrayed onscreen.

During the event, open to all, people can participate by submitting written questions.

Speakers are Alex Von Tunzelmann, a historian and screenwriter, Sarah Williams, who made historical dramas including The Long Song, Becoming Jane and Small Island, Amanda Rae Prescott, a writer and commentator and Dr Emrys Jones, senior lecturer in eighteenth-century literature and culture at King’s College London.

Also speaking will be Grant Montgomery, a production designer from Peaky Blinders, Sanditon, To Walk Invisible and Gunpower, and Dr Rosie Waine, research fellow from National Museums Scotland.

The event is designed for film studies, art history and history experts and those working in the TV industry, as well as the public.

Mr Delaney said: “We want to discuss the process of how historical drama is commissioned – this has a big impact on the voices and stories which are being heard. How can the lives of diverse communities be better reflected in the historical dramas we enjoy today? They can have a much bigger role than only being about “cosy” stories or only appealing to one age group.

“This will be a fascinating conversation between key members of the entertainment industry and experts to see how historians can inform period drama. We want to hear how the results of the important research being carried out can be used more in historical drama to influence scripts and production. We hope to have really fruitful conversations about how historians can be better involved.”

Dr Pelling said: “The involvement of experts in historical drama can go beyond helping with points of accuracy. We believe it is possible to bring historians and screenwriters and producers together so what we see on screen is entertaining and speaks to a wealth of new and ongoing historical research.

“We hope the event will encourage historians and those involved in making historical drama to work together in new ways, and to think about how the role of historical consultant can evolve to be more useful to both sides.

“Historians uncover incredible stories which filmmakers don’t hear about, we want to change that so there are more collaborative opportunities in the industry and viewers get to see these exciting discoveries. Often historical consultants are brought in at a late stage, when they can be equally useful at the commissioning process.”

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