Entertainment
946 voters

The Best British History Series & Period Pieces

Updated April 9, 2021 7.8k votes 946 voters 39.0k views74 items

List RulesVote up the best British television series that are set in a specific historical period.

Thanks to having a bit of a longer history than the United States, historical TV shows from the UK include everything from relatively modern kings and queens to ancient tales from the first millennium. The popularity of British period pieces extends well beyond BBC period dramas and there are many American-British joint projects available on streaming services like Netflix. If you’ve been looking for the best British period dramas that will take you on a trip through time, this list of the best British historical series of all time will help you figure out what needs to go into your queue and what older shows you might need to hunt down and watch immediately.

Period pieces are usually historical dramas (though there are some satires!) that feature era-specific costumes, sets, and dialogue. They examine issues of their time or expand on classic literature as adaptations. Thanks to the unique nature of British television, some of the best British period dramas are only ten or fewer episodes long, such as The White Queen and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, while other historical British shows ran on for multiple series and have lots of episodes to dive into when you want costume drama. The Tudors, the 2015 version of Poldark, and Call The Midwife ran on for many seasons and have dozens of beautiful episodes set in specific eras.

What are the best British period TV shows ever? Vote up the best British historical dramas, then vote down the shows that don't bring the seem out of place.

Photo:
...more
  • 1
    557
    111

    Downton Abbey

    Hugh Bonneville, Phyllis Logan
    Downton Abbey (ITV, 2010) is a British historical drama television series created by Julian...  more

    More Downton Abbey 

    The Best Downton Abbey Actors#21 of 64 The Best Serial Dramas of the 21st Century

  • 2
    393
    99

    The Crown

    Claire Foy, Matt Smith
    The Crown (Netflix, 2016) is an American-British biographical drama series created by Peter...  more

    More The Crown 

    12 Small Details From Prince Charles And Diana’s Wedding ‘The Crown’ Brought To LightHow A Divorce Scandal Led To Queen Elizabeth II Giving Her Husband A Royal Title

  • 3
    337
    96

    Victoria

    Jenna Coleman, Tom Hughes
    Victoria (ITV, 2016) is a drama television series created by Daisy Goodwin. The show depicts ...  more

    More Victoria 

    #19 of 109 The Best Historical Drama TV Shows#25 of 102 The Best TV Shows On Amazon Prime

  • 4
    342
    101

    Poldark

    Aidan Turner, Eleanor Tomlinson
    Poldark (BBC One, 2015) is a British-American drama television series created by Debbie...  more

    More 

    The Best Episodes of 'Poldark'Ranking the Best Seasons of 'Poldark'

  • 5
    336
    102

    Call The Midwife

    Jessica Raine, Miranda Hart
    Call the Midwife (BBC, 2012) is a British period drama series created by Heidi Thomas. The...  more

    More Call The Midwife 

    #8 of 29 20+ Recent British TV Shows You've Been Missing This Whole Time#231 of 389 TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate

  • 6
    249
    96

    Peaky Blinders

    Cillian Murphy, Helen McCrory
    Peaky Blinders (BBC Two, 2013) is a British television action drama created by Steven Knight,...  more

    More Peaky Blinders 

    The Fascinating True Story That Inspired BBC's 'Peaky Blinders'#8 of 77 The Best Drama TV Shows Airing Now

  • 7
    207
    82

    The Last Kingdom

    Alexander Dreymon, David Dawson
    The Last Kingdom (BBC America, 2015) is a British historical fiction television series based...  more

    More The Last Kingdom 

    Facts About Uhtred The Bold: Ealdorman Of Bamburgh And Inspiration For 'The Last Kingdom'#5 of 33 The Best Current TV Shows No One Is Watching

  • 8
    209
    97

    The Tudors

    Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Henry Cavill
    The Tudors (Showtime, 2007) is a historical fiction television series created by Michael...  more

    More The Tudors 

    #129 of 340 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years#148 of 397 The Best TV Shows to Rewatch

  • 9
    118
    37

    I, Claudius

    Derek Jacobi, John Hurt
    I, Claudius is a 1976 BBC Television adaptation of Robert Graves's I, Claudius and Claudius...  more

    More 

    #167 of 201 The TV Shows with the Best Writing#86 of 176 The Best '70s TV Shows

  • 10
    116
    43

    The Forsyte Saga

    Damian Lewis, Ioan Gruffudd
    In 2002, the first two books and the first interlude of John Galsworthy's trilogy The Forsyte...  more

    More The Forsyte Saga 

    #16 of 54 The Greatest Period TV Shows Set in the Victorian Era#18 of 52 The Best TV Shows Set In London

  • 11
    138
    61

    The Six Wives of Henry VIII

    Patrick Troughton, Anthony Quayle
    The Six Wives of Henry VIII is a series of six television plays produced by the BBC and first...  more
  • 12
    138
    62

    The Pillars of the Earth

    Ian McShane, Matthew Macfadyen
    The Pillars of the Earth (Starz, 2010) is an eight-part TV miniseries based on the 1989 novel...  more

    More The Pillars of the Earth 

    #10 of 72 The Best Historical Fiction TV Shows#17 of 32 The Greatest TV Shows About Kings & Queens

  • 13
    152
    73

    The White Queen

    Rebecca Ferguson, Amanda Hale
    The White Queen (BBC One, 2013) is a British historical drama television miniseries based on...  more

    More The White Queen 

    #99 of 129 Canceled Shows We'd Most Like to See as Movies#40 of 163 The Best TV Shows Based on Books

  • 14
    138
    66

    Rome

    Kevin McKidd, Ray Stevenson
    Rome (HBO, 2005) is a British-American-Italian historical drama television series created by...  more

    More Rome 

    #8 of 107 The Best HBO Original Series#79 of 538 TV Shows Canceled Before Their Time

  • 15
    140
    88

    Poldark

    Judy Geeson, Ralph Bates
    Poldark is the original version of the BBC television series adaptation of the novels of the...  more
  • 16
    50
    10

    Outlander

    Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan
    Outlander (Starz, 2014) is a historical drama television series developed by Ronald D. Moore,...  more

    More Outlander 

    #57 of 74 Sci-Fi Shows You Should Be Watching Now#30 of 285 The Best TV Shows Returning In 2021

  • 17
    90
    49

    Elizabeth R

    Glenda Jackson, Robert Hardy
    Elizabeth R is a BBC television drama serial of six 85-minute plays starring Glenda Jackson in...  more
  • 18
    84
    45

    Vanity Fair

    Michael Palin, Olivia Cooke
    Vanity Fair (ITV and Amazon Video, 2018) is an American-British period drama television series...  more

    More Vanity Fair 

    #53 of 112 The Best Amazon Original Series#129 of 152 The Best Miniseries in TV History

  • 19
    38
    2

    All Creatures Great and Small

    Nicholas Ralph, Anna Madeley
    All Creatures Great and Small (PBS, 2020) is a British comedy drama series based on the book...  more

    More All Creatures Great and Small 

    #460 of 738 The Best Original Streaming Shows of the Last Few Years#30 of 48 The Best New Historical Drama TV Series of the Last Few Years

  • 20
    35
    1

    Pride and Prejudice

    Colin Firth, Lucy Davis
    Pride and Prejudice is a six-episode 1995 British television drama, adapted by Andrew Davies...  more

    More Pride and Prejudice 

    The Best Books Inspired by Pride and Prejudice#48 of 306 The Best TV Shows You Can Watch On HBO Max

  • 21
    27
    1

    Sanditon

    Rose Williams, Crystal Clarke
    Sanditon (ITV, 2020) is a British historical period drama television series adapted by Andrew...  more

    More Sanditon 

    #110 of 311 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time#1 of 71 The Best New Cable Dramas of the Last Few Years

  • 22
    92
    73

    Les Miserables

    Dominic West, David Oyelowo
    Les Misérables (2018, BBC) is a miniseries adaptation of Victor Hugo's French historical novel...  more
  • 23
    79
    62

    The Frankenstein Chronicles

    Sean Bean, Tom Ward
    The Frankenstein Chronicles (A&E, 2015) is a British television period crime drama series...  more
  • 24
    59
    47

    Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years

    Robert Hardy, Tim Pigott-Smith
    Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years is an 8-part 1981 drama serial based on the life of...  more
  • 25
    18
    1

    Miss Scarlet and The Duke

    Kate Phillips, Stuart Martin
    Miss Scarlet and The Duke (PBS, 2021) is a British-Irish period crime drama created by Rachael...  more

    More Miss Scarlet and The Duke 

    #42 of 53 The Best Current TV Shows For Women, Ranked#50 of 71 The Best Crime Fighting Duo TV Series