'I just feel it's important to know exactly what he went through':

In their footsteps and the role of emotions in Australian television history

Michelle Arrow*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)


In Their Footsteps (2011) was an Australian television history program in which individuals retraced the footsteps of ancestors who had served in war. Like the British genealogical quest program Who Do You Think You Are In Their Footsteps was premised on the idea that we can understand the past in experiential and emotional terms. It stressed the connections between present-day individuals and a larger national history through their ancestors participation in Australian military engagements. Australias interpretation of its national past has recently been the subject of heated, politicized debate, and this program appeared at a time when Australian historians were expressing concern at a resurgence in nationalist military commemoration. Some historians regarded this affective attachment to Australias military past with suspicion, arguing that these attachments were produced by a jingoistic political culture. Television histories, which operate in an affective register, are usually neglected in these debates. This article argues that understanding television history is essential to grasping what military history means to contemporary Australians. A close analysis of In Their Footsteps demonstrates the ways that the deeply affective mode of television history offers a complex and nuanced form of historical understanding. Such analysis can help us better understand the contemporary appeal of military history.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)594-611
Number of pages18
JournalHistorical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2013


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