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The Great War on the Small ScreenRepresenting the First World War in Contemporary Britain$
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Emma Hanna

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780748633890

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748633890.001.0001

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A Monumental Monument: The Great War (BBC, 1964)

A Monumental Monument: The Great War (BBC, 1964)

(p.32) 2 A Monumental Monument: The Great War (BBC, 1964)
The Great War on the Small Screen

Emma Hanna

Edinburgh University Press

The Great War (BBC, 1964) was Britain's national televisual war memorial. It a landmark 26-part historical documentary about Britain in the First World War which bequeathed to British television an enduring historical, technical and historiographical legacy. The Great War was deemed to herald a new age in television programme making. The series was first broadcast in May 1964, on the fledgling BBC2 channel, and every episode averaged over 8 million viewers. However, despite the writing talents of historians such as John Terraine and Corelli Barnett, the involvement of the Imperail War Museum, its impressive scale and popularity with viewers, The Great War did not change the way the majority of the nation thought and felt about 1914-18. The overwhelming visual and emotional impact of the programme cemented its own variations on the canon of war myths already embedded in Britain's cultural landscape by 1964. Any programme which has subsequently attempted to present a new television history of the war has been unfavourably compared to The Great War as the established grand narrative of Britain 1914-18.

Keywords:   Television production, John Terraine, Corelli Barnett, BBC2, Imperial War Museum

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