Programmes will be made by leading talents such as Brian Lapping. The move is a sign of ITV's determination to put high-quality shows in the News At Ten slot and resist pressure to bring back the bulletin.
The network's sudden passion for history was ignited when The Second World War In Colour series gained audiences of up to eight million three months ago.
One two-part project will track the fortunes of three families from 1945 to today. "We will watch the ups and downs of one blue-blood family, one middle-class and one working-class family," said Grant Mansfield, ITV's controller of documentaries, features and arts. Another will look at the postwar history of the British on holiday, and a third will be a follow-up to The Second World War In Colour; ITV said colour film of scenes from the First World War had been discovered.
Brian Lapping, who made the award-winning Death of Yugoslavia series for BBC2, isrenowned for programmes analysing a moment in history through the testimonies of the participants. Other contracts will go to Denis Blakeway, who made The Thatcher Years and The Major Years for the BBC, and Steve Humphries, producer of the Channel 4 series about the British countryside, Green and Pleasant Land.Reuse content