BBC FOUR: A Timewatch Guide: Explorers: Conquest and Calamity

Press / Media: Expert comment

Release date: 2/8/2017

Description

For centuries the story of exploration has been packed with incredible tales of adventure, but the last fifty years has seen a dramatic shift in our attitude towards explorers.

To find out how television has reflected this, Prof Fara Dabhoiwala delves into the BBC television archives, revealing that the pace of this change was faster than you would imagine. In the 1960s the BBC was still making programmes showing Christopher Columbus as an uncomplicated conquering hero. Barely a decade later, it made a documentary that delved into museum storerooms packed with artifacts brought back to Britain by Captain Cook, focusing on the perspective of the explored rather than the explorer.

As the story of exploration became as much about social calamity as conquest, television has been forced to find new ways to portray explorers. By the 21st century this included everything from focusing on adventurers like Ernest Shackleton, famous not for conquest but for saving the lives of his men, to using new technology to demystify exploration by making programmes from material shot by the explorers themselves.

Media contributions

TitleExplorers: Conquest and Calamity
Media name / outletBBC Four
Media typeTelevision
CountryUnited Kingdom
Date2/08/17
Description

For centuries the story of exploration has been packed with incredible tales of adventure, but the last fifty years has seen a dramatic shift in our attitude towards explorers.

To find out how television has reflected this, Prof Fara Dabhoiwala delves into the BBC television archives, revealing that the pace of this change was faster than you would imagine. In the 1960s the BBC was still making programmes showing Christopher Columbus as an uncomplicated conquering hero. Barely a decade later, it made a documentary that delved into museum storerooms packed with artifacts brought back to Britain by Captain Cook, focusing on the perspective of the explored rather than the explorer.

As the story of exploration became as much about social calamity as conquest, television has been forced to find new ways to portray explorers. By the 21st century this included everything from focusing on adventurers like Ernest Shackleton, famous not for conquest but for saving the lives of his men, to using new technology to demystify exploration by making programmes from material shot by the explorers themselves.
URLwww.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08zn5dg
PersonsMaxwell Jones

Keywords

  • explorers, discovery, history, imperialism, Victorian, television