About TV Histories


Course Convenor: JP Kelly, Royal Holloway

JP Kelly Royal Holloway

Course Overview:

This course takes an historical approach to the analysis of television programmes. It examines how and why television has changed by exploring the medium through a range of different historical perspectives, including technological, industrial, social, cultural and generic histories. You will learn how to critique these approaches and will explore the assumptions behind certain versions of television’s historical development. By the end of the course you will have gained a greater knowledge of the historical development of television, and you will also be able to think critically about the current changes to contemporary television. As such, the course will not simply focus on increasing your knowledge of ‘old’ television, but will relate these debates to contemporary television in order to explore how the history of the medium shapes the ways in which we understand it in the present.

This course will examine the origins of US and British television, paying particular attention to their respective commercial and public service foundations. We will explore key moments in the medium’s early history, including the introduction of cable / satellite, the development of colour, and the impact of various government legislations. With an emphasis on fictional TV, this course will explore the technological, industrial, social, generic and aesthetic histories of television with a particular consideration of how they have shaped the medium today.

JP Kelly Royal Holloway

The Evolution of TV Screens


This course will:

  • Explore the relationship between television programmes and the industrial, social and technological contexts within which they were produced.
  • Introduce students to the primary approaches to the history of television.
  • Expand student’s knowledge of British and US television history.
  • Examine the status of the television text as an historical artefact.
  • Extend student’s written and verbal skills of analysis.

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the course, students should be able to:

  • Engage with debates about the historicization of specific periods in British and US television history.
  • Undertake research into the industrial, social and technological contexts within which a specific programme was produced.
  • Discuss and debate the contribution that television makes to our understanding of the past.
  • Explain and analyse the key developments of British and US television.
  • Select, organise and deploy ideas and information in order to formulate cogent arguments and express them effectively in written and oral forms.

Work independently, making effective use of library, archival and internet resources and demonstrating efficient time management.


This course is taught by a weekly 1-hour seminar and a weekly 3-hour lecture/screening. You are expected to make a contribution to all seminars. This is the time for you to try out ideas and to develop your skills of communication. You should also use this time to develop your skills of public speaking – skills that will be invaluable when you leave Royal Holloway and throw yourselves at the mercy of the job market! Lectures will include weekly screenings of approximately 1 hour. In addition to formal classes, this course includes a WordPress feedback / essay prep week (week 6) as well as further essay tutorials in week 11.

This course is designed so that the debates run across the course as a whole, rather than existing independently each week. As a consequence it is important that you grasp the ideas that are being explored from week to week, and that you think about the links between them. So the independent study week is a chance for you to do this – look back over what we have done and think about how the different debates might relate to each other.


Each week’s topic is accompanied by one or two designated readings which you will find on Moodle. These will form the basis for seminar presentations and class discussion.

Students who arrive at a seminar without having read the weekly reading will be asked to leave and an unexcused absence will be recorded against their name for that session.


Weekly WordPress activity: 30%

2,500-3,500 word essay: 70%

Essays should be typed, double-spaced, and in all other regards conform to the style sheet included in the Student’s Handbook. Please read this and the guidelines for referencing as marks will be deducted for poor presentation, grammar and referencing.