A history didactic experiment: the TV series Anno in a dramatist perspective

For 10 weeks in 2015, a history didactic experiment played out on Norwegian public television. In the first season of the TV series Anno, history is performed by having 14 contemporaries experience a history of Bergen in 1764, and learn about their own families’ history in light of collective changes since the eighteenth century. Their experience is accompanied by documentary: Experiments that explore the present from a past perspective, expert opinion, film clips and photos of life in the 1700s. Employing Kenneth Burke’s dramatist theory and method, the article demonstrates that everything that happens in the programme is subordinate to the viewer’s development of a contemporary critical historical consciousness: Anno does not only present the past directly, but emphasizes critical reflection. Viewers do not primarily learn a history of 1764, but rather how to make history a resource in their own lives. Thus, Anno displays how ‘bildung’ may be created in terms of the past/history connection. This is achieved by means of redefining and combining documentary and reality genres. The article intends to provide nuance to our understanding of history didactic television and thus how history works in popular culture. The results have transfer-value to other areas of audiovisual history-based contemporary communication.