Professor Andrew Higson

Profile

Biography

I have published widely on British cinema, from the silent period to the present, and from contemporary drama to the heritage film. Running through much of my work is a concern for questions of national and transnational cinema, in which context I have also written about European cinema. For more details about my research and publications, click on the tabs above.

My current research deals with soft power, nation-branding, creative industries policy and the theatrical and online distribution and reception of popular, middlebrow and specialised films. The focus is again on British and other European ‘national’ cinemas.

Over the last twenty years, I have run several large, publicly-funded research projects. I’m currently a Co-Director of XR Stories: Innovations in Storytelling in the Age of Interactivity and Immersion(2018-2023), a multi-million-pound project funded through the AHRC’s Creative Industries Clusters Partnership programme, with core partners the British Film Institute and Screen Yorkshire. 

I was one of the first generation of students to undertake a PhD in Film Studies in the UK, doing so at the University of Kent in the early 1980s. I had previously taught in various schools. While working on my PhD, I taught at Leicester Polytechnic and Sunderland Polytechnic. In 1986, I moved to the University of East Anglia, where I taught for 22 years, serving at different times as Head of Film and Television Studies, and Dean of the School of English and American Studies. 

I joined the University of York in 2009, when I took up the Greg Dyke Chair in Film and Television Studies. From 2010 to 2017, I was Head of the Department of Theatre, Film and Television (and Interactive Media, although it wasn’t then part of the department title)

During the 1980s, I was chair of the Society for Education in Film and Television, and a member of the editorial board of its then journal, Screen, and the BFI’s Regional Consultative Committee. In the 2000s, I served for four years as a member of the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s (AHRC) Postgraduate Panel for Visual Arts and Media, and as a member of the AHRC Peer Review College.

I have supervised 24 PhDs, with three more currently in progress, on various aspects of British, other European and American cinemas, cinema history, and audience and reception studies. Sixteen of my supervisees have been funded by either the British Academy or the AHRC; another five were or are in receipt of university studentships or overseas funding; fifteen of my supervisees now work at Universities, and several other others in the film industry. I warmly welcome new PhD applications: do get in touch if you’re interested.

Research

Overview

I have published widely on British cinema, from the silent period to the present, and from contemporary drama to the heritage film. My books include Waving the Flag: Constructing a National Cinema in Britain (1995), English Heritage, English Cinema: The Costume Drama Since 1980 (2003; both Oxford University Press) and Film England: Culturally English Filmmaking since the 1990s (IB Tauris,2011). 

I have also edited two general surveys of British cinema history, which cover the period from the late 1920s to the late 1990s: Dissolving Views: Key Writings on British Cinema (Cassell, 1996), and British Cinema, Past and Present (co-edited with Justine Ashby; Routledge, 2000). A third edited book surveys the development of cinema in Britain in the silent period: Young and Innocent? The Cinema in Britain, 1896-1930 (University of Exeter Press, 2002). 

I have also co-edited two books on European cinema. With Richard Maltby, I edited ‘Film Europe’ and ‘Film America’: Cinema, Commerce and Cultural Exchange, 1920-1939 (1999; awarded the Prix Jean Mitry), about relations between Hollywood and Europe in the 1920s and 1930s. With Ib Bondebjerg and Eva Novrupp Redvall, I edited European Cinema and Television: Cultural Policy and Everyday Life. The latter is part of a book series that I edit with Ib Bondebjerg and Mette Hjort, Palgrave European Film and Media Studies, which now includes 13 publications.

Running through much of my work is a concern for questions of national cinema; my article ‘The concept of national cinema’, first published in Screen in 1989, has proved very influential and has been translated and/or reprinted several times. I have published various papers since 1989 which revise my arguments about national and transnational cinema, as well as papers on the British heritage film, on the British new wave, on silent cinema, on Channel 4 television and on film acting.

My current research deals with soft power, nation-branding, creative industries policy and the theatrical and online distribution and reception of popular, middlebrow and specialised films. The focus is again on British and other European ‘national’ cinemas.

Research Projects

At the University of East Anglia, I ran two large AHRC-funded research projects, ‘Anglia Television at the East Anglian Film Archive’ (2006-2008) and ‘The British Cinema History Project’ (2001-2004).

After moving to York, I ran ‘Mediating Cultural Encounters Through European Screens’ (2013-2016), a HERA-funded collaborative European project awarded €1 million by HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area), which brought together researchers at the Universities of York, Copenhagen and the Free University of Brussels (VUB).

I am currently a Co-Director of XR Stories: Innovations in Storytelling in the Age of Interactivity and Immersion(2018-2023), a multi-million-pound project funded through the AHRC’s Creative Industries Clusters Partnership programme, with core partners the British Film Institute and Screen Yorkshire.

I am also a Co-Investigator on two other large, AHRC-funded projects, ‘Beyond the Multiplex: Audiences for Specialised Film in the English Regions’ (2017-2020; Universities of Glasgow, York, Sheffield and Liverpool); and the Centre for Cultural Value, based at the University of Leeds (2019-2024).

 

Publications

Selected publications

For a full list of my publications, please click on the link above to the York Research Database.

External activities

Invited talks and conferences

I have organised a number of conferences over the years. In 1998, I was Director of Cinema, Identity, History: An International Conference on British Cinema held at the University of East Anglia.

In 2008, I organised a conference in Norwich on British television history, Anglia Television and the History of ITV: Programming, Regionalism and the Television Economy.

Through the MeCETES project, I have co-organised conferences in York (European Screens: An International Conference, 2016, and European Historical Drama in the Digital Age, 2015) and in London (UK Film Distribution: What’s Changing?, 2016).

During the 1980s, I was chair of the Society for Education in Film and Television, and a member of the editorial board of its then journal, Screen, and the British Film Institute’s Regional Consultative Committee.

In the 2000s, I served as a member of the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Post-Graduate Peer Review Panel for Visual Arts and Media, 2005-2008, and as a member of the AHRC Peer Review College, 2004-2007. More recently, I have been consulted by, reviewed for or worked with the British Film Institute, Screen Yorkshire, the Estonian Research Council, National Science Centre, Poland, the Czech-Norwegian Research Programme, and the Irish Research Council.

I am currently a  Co-Director of XR Stories: Innovations in Storytelling in the Age of Interactivity and Immersion(2018-2023), a multi-million-pound project funded through the AHRC’s Creative Industries Clusters Partnership programme, with core partners the British Film Institute and Screen Yorkshire. Through this project, we work closely with the screen industries (film, TV, games etc) across Yorkshire and Humber, enabling research and development that pushes forward the potential of immersive and interactive technologies for digital storytelling.

I am also a Co-Investigator at the Centre for Cultural Value, based at the University of Leeds (2019-2024), through which we work with cultural professionals, arts and cultural organisations, audiences, participants and local communities. The Centre is aims to transform thinking, policy and professional practice on questions related to cultural value. Building on existing research, the Centre will address why arts and culture matter, the difference they make to people’s lives, and how we can evidence their impacts on individuals and communities.

Andrew Higson - Staff Page Picture

Contact details

Prof. Andrew Higson
Department of Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media
University of York
Heslington
York
YO10 5DD

Tel: +44 (0)1904 32 5234