Jazz Britannia

mediating the story of British jazz on television


  • Tim Wall Birmingham City University
  • Paul Long Birmingham City University




Jazz Britannia, jazz history, Ken Burns, public service broadcasting, quality television, television history


Jazz Britannia is a UK-produced three-part BBC television documentary about the post-war development of jazz in the United Kingdom. We analyse the programmes to examine how the narrative, form and assumptions of the series can be understood within a series of contextual debates about jazz historiography, history on television, and the value of historiographic method in public service television. We utilize the debates around Ken Burns’s US-produced ten-part documentary series Jazz, to develop an argument about the way that the British documentary constructs a very different history from Jazz, but using many of the approaches and techniques deployed by Burns. We locate the series within questions of quality television and other forms of television history. Finally, we seek to explore the way that the programmes produce a totalizing narrative in which the primary material is ordered to tell a predetermined story about innovations and an identifiably British form of jazz.

Author Biographies

  • Tim Wall, Birmingham City University

    Director of Research Birmingham Centre for Media & Cultural Research

  • Paul Long, Birmingham City University

    Reader in Media and Cultural History and Associate Director, Birmingham Centre for Media & Cultural Research, Birmingham City University, Birmingham B42 2SU


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How to Cite

Wall, T., & Long, P. (2010). Jazz Britannia: mediating the story of British jazz on television. Jazz Research Journal, 3(2), 145-170. https://doi.org/10.1558/jazz.v3i2.145