Masters at the Movies, Take 22

Robert Brent Toplin, December 2013

Masters at the Movies, a series of articles featured in Perspectives on History, invites prominent scholars in all fields of history to comment on cinema. In this issue, David Armitage focuses on the unique contributions of a radical filmmaker. Peter Watkins, an English director of film and TV programming, has created notable productions about historical events. His provocative movies raise important questions about portrayals of the past in both the dramatic and documentary format. Peter Watkins’s movie-­making challenges conventions. It draws attention to the manipulative character of popular, history-­oriented productions and delivers a powerful critique of the modern news media. By experimenting with innovative and distinctive forms of presentation, Peter Watkins encourages viewers to think imaginatively about film’s relationship to history, politics, and ideas.

David Armitage is Lloyd C. Blankfein Professor of History at Harvard University and chair of the history department. He is the author or editor of 13 books, including The Ideological Origins of the British Empire (2000), The Declaration of Independence: A Global History (2007), and Foundations of Modern International Thought (2013). His edited books include Shakespeare and Early Modern Political Thought (2009), The Age of Revolutions in a Global Context, c. 1760–­1840 (2010), and Pacific Histories: Ocean, Land, People (2014).

—­Robert Brent Toplin, editor, Masters at the Movies