The costume drama was one of the important production trends in British cinema during the 1980s and 1990s. Films such as "Chariots of Fire", "A Room with a View", "Howard's End", "Sense and Sensibility", "Elizabeth", and "Shakespeare in Love" won numerous accolades, received extensive critical acclaim, and achieved considerable box-office success, both in the UK and overseas. Since the late 1980s, there has been much debate about these films, about their politics and their meanings, and about their relationship to the heritage industry. In this text, the author moves the debate on heritage cinema in other directions. First, he demonstrates that there were many more "British" costume dramas than have usually been taken into account in discussions of heritage cinema, and describes the typical subject matter, themes, and stylistic characteristics of these films. Secondly, he explores the major concerns of the critical debate about heritage cinema, arguing that the ambivalence of the films themselves and the richness of the reception process necessarily produces a range of often incompatible interpretations of the same films.
Andrew Higson has taught Film Studies at Leicester and Sunderland Polytechnics. He joined the University of East Anglia in 1986, and was made a Professor of Film Studies in 2000. He was chair of the Film Studies sector at the University from 1991 to 1998, and Dean of the School of English and American Studies from 2002 to 2005. He has published widely on British cinema, on Film Europe, and on national cinema. He is co-director of the British Cinema History Research
Project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board, and based at the University of East Anglia.