Post-imperial Drama: History, memory and narrative in Peter Kosminsky's The Promise

Ruth McElroy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Historical television drama enjoys a privileged place in the mediation of
collective, national memory as it imaginatively transports viewers from their
living rooms to the time/place of earlier events. It may contest existing
narratives of the nation and challenge viewers to re-think the stories told of
how we arrived at the current moment. This article addresses these questions
of memory and national histories through analysis of Peter Kosminsky’s fourpart
series, The Promise (Channel 4, 2011). It tells the ‘untold’ story of the
British in postwar Palestine. It comprises two parallel stories of Len Matthews,
a paratrooper deployed in 1945 to Palestine, and his granddaughter, Erin,
who, in the present, visits Israel whilst reading Len’s diary. Through these
characters, the complex, conflictual histories of the British in Palestine and the
aftermath of imperial powers in the region are dramatically played out. This
article approaches The Promise as post-imperial drama, that is, as a fiction based on the contested, half-forgotten, sometimes denied facts of British imperialism, and one which seeks to intervene in such post-imperial amnesia. In doing so, the article contributes to debates around British national identities and the imaginative representation of history on British television.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276 - 297
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of British Cinema and Television
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2013


  • Peter Kosminsky
  • television drama
  • history
  • British Empire
  • Israel
  • chonotope
  • memory
  • nation
  • television history
  • The Promise
  • documentary-drama
  • Channel 4


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