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942 voters

The Best British History Series & Period Pieces

Updated April 9, 2021 7.8k votes 942 voters 38.8k 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.

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    Downton Abbey

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

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    The Crown

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

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    336
    96

    Victoria

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

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    342
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    Poldark

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

    More 

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    Call The Midwife

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

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  • 6
    248
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    Peaky Blinders

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

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    207
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    The Last Kingdom

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

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    209
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    The Tudors

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

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  • 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 

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  • 10
    116
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    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

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  • 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

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    150
    73

    The White Queen

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

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    138
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    Rome

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

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  • 15
    140
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    Poldark

    Judy Geeson, Ralph Bates
    Poldark is the original version of the BBC television series adaptation of the novels of the...  more
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    48
    10

    Outlander

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

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    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
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    84
    45

    Vanity Fair

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

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    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

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    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

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    27
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    Sanditon

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

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    Les Miserables

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

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

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