Historical Entertainment

The Best British History Series & Period Pieces  

Ranker TV
2.1k votes 348 voters 13k views 56 items

List Rules Vote 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 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, and add any period dramas from England that are missing.

list ordered by
1
Downton Abbey is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best British History Series & Period Pieces
Hugh Bonneville, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern
Downton Abbey is a British period drama television series created by Julian Fellowes and co-produced by Carnival Films and Masterpiece. It first aired on ITV in the United Kingdom and Ireland on ...more
2
The Crown is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best British History Series & Period Pieces
Claire Foy, Matt Smith, Vanessa Kirby
The Crown (Netflix, 2016) is an American-British biographical drama series about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. The series begins with the 1947 wedding of young Elizabeth ...more
3
Victoria is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best British History Series & Period Pieces
Jenna Coleman, Tom Hughes, Peter Bowles
Victoria (ITV, 2016) is a drama television series created by Daisy Goodwin. The show depicts first few years of the reign of Queen Victoria (Jenna Coleman), from her accession to the throne at ...more
4
Poldark is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best British History Series & Period Pieces
Aidan Turner, Eleanor Tomlinson, Ruby Bentall
Poldark (BBC One, 2015) is a British-American drama television series created by Debbie Horsfield, based on the novels by Winston Graham. Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) returns home after American ...more
5
Call The Midwife is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best British History Series & Period Pieces
Vanessa Redgrave, Helen George, Laura Main
Call the Midwife is a BBC period drama series about a group of nurse midwives working in the East End of London in the 1950s and 1960s. It stars Jessica Raine, Miranda Hart, Helen George, Bryony ...more
6
Peaky Blinders is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best British History Series & Period Pieces
Cillian Murphy, Helen McCrory, Paul Anderson
Peaky Blinders (BBC Two, 2013) is a British television action drama created by Steven Knight, based upon the exploits of the historical gang. In 1919 Birmingham, England, leader Tommy Shelby ...more
7
The Tudors is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best British History Series & Period Pieces
Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Henry Cavill, Anthony Brophy
The Tudors is a British-Irish-Canadian historical fiction television series set primarily in sixteenth-century England, created by Michael Hirst and produced for the American premium cable ...more
8
The Last Kingdom is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best British History Series & Period Pieces
Alexander Dreymon, David Dawson, Tobias Santelmann
The Last Kingdom (BBC America, 2015) is a British historical fiction television series based on Bernard Cornwell's The Saxon Stories series of novels. In 872 England, an unlikely hero (Alexander ...more
9
The Six Wives of Henry VIII is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best British History Series & Period Pieces
Patrick Troughton, Anthony Quayle, Annette Crosbie
The Six Wives of Henry VIII is a series of six television plays produced by the BBC and first transmitted between 1 January and 5 February 1970. The series was later aired in the United States ...more
10
The Pillars of the Earth is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best British History Series & Period Pieces
Ian McShane, Matthew Macfadyen, Eddie Redmayne
The Pillars of the Earth is an eight-part 2010 TV miniseries, adapted from Ken Follett's novel of the same name. It debuted in the U.S. on Starz and in Canada on The Movie Network/Movie Central ...more
11
The White Queen is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best British History Series & Period Pieces
Janet McTeer, Rebecca Ferguson
The White Queen is a British television drama series in ten parts, based on Philippa Gregory's historical novel series The Cousins' War. The first episode was premiered on BBC One on 16 June ...more
12
Rome is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best British History Series & Period Pieces
Kevin McKidd, Ray Stevenson, Polly Walker
Rome is a British-American-Italian historical drama television series created by Bruno Heller, John Milius and William J. MacDonald. The show's two seasons were broadcast on HBO, BBC Two, and ...more
13
The Borgias is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best British History Series & Period Pieces
Jeremy Irons, François Arnaud, Holliday Grainger
The Borgias is an historical-fiction drama television series created by Neil Jordan; it debuted in 2011 and was canceled in 2013. The series is set around the turn of the 16th century and ...more
14
Poldark is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best British History Series & Period Pieces
Judy Geeson, Ralph Bates, Angharad Rees
Poldark is the original version of the BBC television series adaptation of the novels of the same title written by Winston Graham. The adaption was first transmitted in the UK between 1975 and
15
The Onedin Line is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best British History Series & Period Pieces
msm4504 added Jane Seymour, Peter Gilmore, Michael Billington
The Onedin Line is a BBC television drama series which ran from 1971 to 1980. The series was created by Cyril Abraham. The series is set in Liverpool from 1860 to 1886 and deals with the rise of ...more
16
Manhunt is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best British History Series & Period Pieces
Martin Clunes, Katie Lyons, Claudie Blakley
Manhunt (ITV, 2019) is a British television drama based on the true story surrounding the initial investigation into the death of French student Amélie Delagrange. Led by Detective Chief ...more
17
Reilly, Ace of Spies is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best British History Series & Period Pieces
msm4504 added Sam Neill, Leo McKern, Michael Bryant
Reilly, Ace of Spies is a 1983 television miniseries dramatizing the life of Sidney Reilly, a Russian Jew who became one of the greatest spies ever to work for the British. Among his exploits, ...more
18
'Allo 'Allo! is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best British History Series & Period Pieces
Gorden Kaye, Carmen Silvera, Vicki Michelle
'Allo 'Allo! is a BBC television sitcom broadcast on BBC1 from 1982 to 1992, comprising eighty-five episodes. A repeat is aired in the 'Afternoon Classics' on BBC2 since 27 March 2015. The story ...more
19
Vanity Fair is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best British History Series & Period Pieces
Michael Palin, Olivia Cooke, Claudia Jessie
Vanity Fair (ITV and Amazon Video, 2018) is an American-British period drama television series based on the 1848 novel Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray. Set during and after the ...more
20
Elizabeth R is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best British History Series & Period Pieces
Glenda Jackson, Robert Hardy, John Shrapnel
Elizabeth R is a BBC television drama serial of six 85-minute plays starring Glenda Jackson in the title role. It was first broadcast on BBC2 from February to March 1971, through the Australian ...more
21
Callan is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best British History Series & Period Pieces
msm4504 added Edward Woodward, Russell Hunter, Lisa Langdon
Callan is the title of a British television series set in the murky world of espionage. Originally produced by ABC Weekend Television and later Thames Television, it was aired on the ITV network ...more
22
Les Miserables is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best British History Series & Period Pieces
Dominic West, David Oyelowo, Lily Collins
Les Misérables (2018, BBC) is a miniseries adaptation of Victor Hugo's French historical novel of the same name. The series, adapted by Andrew Davies and directed by Tom Shankland, stars ...more
23
Winston Churchill: The Wildern... is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best British History Series & Period Pieces
Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years Robert Hardy, Tim Pigott-Smith, Nigel Havers
Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years is an 8-part 1981 drama serial based on the life of Winston Churchill, and particularly his years in enforced exile from political position during the ...more
24
The Frankenstein Chronicles is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best British History Series & Period Pieces
Sean Bean, Tom Ward, Richie Campbell
The Frankenstein Chronicles (A&E, 2015) is a British television period crime drama series created by Benjamin Ross and Barry Langford, and a re-imagining of Mary Shelley's 1818 novel. ...more
25
Les Misérables is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best British History Series & Period Pieces
Dominic West, David Oyelowo, Lily Collins
Les Misérables (BBC, 2018) is a British television miniseries based on the French historical novel of the same name by Victor Hugo. Set in early 19th-century France, the series follows ...more