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British Heritage Industry and the Understanding of History: Heritage Film in the 1980s

  • 중앙사론
  • 2013, (38), pp.271-304
  • Publisher : Institute for Historical Studies at Chung-Ang University
  • Research Area : Humanities > History

Wooryong Park 1

1서강대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The radical economic and social reconstructions of Britain in the 1980s required Thatcher government to find novel ways of managing the conflict between old and new, tradition and modernity. They identify the key concepts in this process as "heritage," with its connotations of continuity with the past and the preservation of values and traditions, and "enterprise," with its connotations of change and innovation. The terms are vitally interconnected. What has come to be called 'the heritage industry' is itself a major component of economic redevelopment, an 'enterprise,' both in terms of large scale civic programmes and the proliferation of private commercial activity around 'the past' in one commodified form or another. Whatever the true figures for production and employment, the country is gripped by the perception that it is in decline. The heritage industry is an attempt to dispel this climate of decline by exploiting the economic potential of British culture. During the 1980s, the word 'heritage' has become the principal label for a variety of often very different evocations, projections and embodiments of national and local 'pastness' and pride. It has become the keyword in organizing, and frequently in institutionalizing, that intensified concern with historical reference which characterizes the decade at many levels of its political, cultural and economic formation and which has given rise to an astonishing growth in historical tourism. The heritage industry has thus developed as a vital part of contemporary tourism and related service industries such as the leisure industry, which of course embraces cinema. While the obligation to succeed internationally requires to some degree an effacing of the specifically national, certain films have used the national itself-or at least, one version of the national past-as their prime selling point. Images of Britain and Britishness(usually, in fact, Englishness) became commodities for consumption in the international image market. The heritage cycle is only one strand in the British cinema in the 1980s. This paper will analyze heritage films about the way they represent the national past, and about how this representation works for contemporary spectators. I criticise the heritage films not simply because so many of those products are fantasies of a world that never was. Not simply because at a deeper level it involves the preservation, reassertion, of social values that the democratic progress of the twentieth century seemed to be doing away with, but because, far from ameliorating the climate of decline, it is actually worsening it. Nostalgia can have an integrative effect by helping us to adjust to change. At best, the heritage film only draws a screen between ourselves and our true past. In addition, hypnotised by images of the past, we risk losing all capacity for creative change.

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