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The Best British History Series & Period Pieces

Updated July 31, 2020 6.8k votes 723 voters 31.7k views59 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, and add any period dramas from England that are missing.

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  • 1
    Downton Abbey
    435
    87

    Downton Abbey

    Hugh Bonneville, Phyllis Logan

    Premiered2010

    Downton Abbey (ITV, 2010) is a British historical drama television series created by Julian... more on Wikipedia
  • 2
    The Crown
    307
    74

    The Crown

    Claire Foy, Matt Smith

    Premiered2016

    The Crown (Netflix, 2016) is an American-British biographical drama series created by Peter... more on Wikipedia
  • 3
    Call The Midwife
    295
    73

    Call The Midwife

    Jessica Raine, Miranda Hart

    Premiered2012

    Call the Midwife (BBC, 2012) is a British period drama series created by Heidi Thomas. The... more on Wikipedia
  • 4
    Victoria
    281
    75

    Victoria

    Jenna Coleman, Tom Hughes

    Premiered2016

    Victoria (ITV, 2016) is a drama television series created by Daisy Goodwin. The show depicts ... more on Wikipedia
  • 5
    Poldark
    274
    79

    Poldark

    Aidan Turner, Eleanor Tomlinson

    Premiered2015

    Poldark (BBC One, 2015) is a British-American drama television series created by Debbie... more on Wikipedia
  • 6
    Peaky Blinders
    190
    70

    Peaky Blinders

    Cillian Murphy, Helen McCrory

    Premiered2013

    Peaky Blinders (BBC Two, 2013) is a British television action drama created by Steven Knight,... more on Wikipedia
  • 7
    The Last Kingdom
    160
    67

    The Last Kingdom

    Alexander Dreymon, David Dawson

    Premiered2015

    The Last Kingdom (BBC America, 2015) is a British historical fiction television series based... more on Wikipedia
  • 8
    The Six Wives of Henry VIII
    120
    41

    The Six Wives of Henry VIII

    Patrick Troughton, Anthony Quayle

    Premiered1970

    The Six Wives of Henry VIII is a series of six television plays produced by the BBC and first... more on Wikipedia
  • 9
    The Tudors
    164
    74

    The Tudors

    Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Henry Cavill

    Premiered2007

    The Tudors (Showtime, 2007) is a historical fiction television series created by Michael... more on Wikipedia
  • 10
    I, Claudius
    90
    22

    I, Claudius

    Derek Jacobi, John Hurt

    Premiered1976

    I, Claudius is a 1976 BBC Television adaptation of Robert Graves's I, Claudius and Claudius... more on Wikipedia
  • 11
    The Forsyte Saga
    93
    25

    The Forsyte Saga

    Damian Lewis, Ioan Gruffudd

    Premiered2002

    In 2002, the first two books and the first interlude of John Galsworthy's trilogy The Forsyte... more on Wikipedia
  • 12
    Rome
    115
    48

    Rome

    Kevin McKidd, Ray Stevenson

    Premiered2005

    Rome (HBO, 2005) is a British-American-Italian historical drama television series created by... more on Wikipedia
  • 13
    The White Queen
    127
    58

    The White Queen

    Rebecca Ferguson, Amanda Hale

    Premiered2013

    The White Queen (BBC One, 2013) is a British historical drama television miniseries based on... more on Wikipedia
  • 14
    Poldark
    132
    66

    Poldark

    Judy Geeson, Ralph Bates

    Premiered1975

    Poldark is the original version of the BBC television series adaptation of the novels of the... more on Wikipedia
  • 15
    The Black Adder
    68
    15

    The Black Adder

    Rowan Atkinson, Brian Blessed

    Premiered1983

    The Black Adder is the first series of the BBC sitcom Blackadder, written by Richard Curtis... more on Wikipedia
  • 16
    The Pillars of the Earth
    106
    50

    The Pillars of the Earth

    Ian McShane, Matthew Macfadyen

    Premiered2010

    The Pillars of the Earth (Starz, 2010) is an eight-part TV miniseries based on the 1989 novel... more on Wikipedia
  • 17
    'Allo 'Allo!
    91
    42

    'Allo 'Allo!

    Gorden Kaye, Carmen Silvera

    Premiered1982

    'Allo 'Allo! is a BBC television sitcom broadcast on BBC1 from 1982 to 1992, comprising... more on Wikipedia
  • 18
    Elizabeth R
    74
    33

    Elizabeth R

    Glenda Jackson, Robert Hardy

    Premiered1971

    Elizabeth R is a BBC television drama serial of six 85-minute plays starring Glenda Jackson in... more on Wikipedia
  • 19
    The Borgias
    109
    65

    The Borgias

    Jeremy Irons, François Arnaud

    Premiered2011

    The Borgias (Showtime, 2011) is a historical-fiction drama television series created by Neil... more on Wikipedia
  • 20
    Manhunt
    79
    45

    Manhunt

    Martin Clunes, Katie Lyons

    Premiered2019

    Manhunt (ITV, 2019) is a British television drama based on the true story surrounding the... more on Wikipedia
  • 21
    Vanity Fair
    62
    33

    Vanity Fair

    Michael Palin, Olivia Cooke

    Premiered2018

    Vanity Fair (ITV and Amazon Video, 2018) is an American-British period drama television series... more on Wikipedia
  • 22
    Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years
    54
    31

    Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years

    Robert Hardy, Tim Pigott-Smith

    Premiered1981

    Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years is an 8-part 1981 drama serial based on the life of... more on Wikipedia
  • 23
    Les Miserables
    76
    59

    Les Miserables

    Dominic West, David Oyelowo

    Premiered2018

    Les Misérables (2018, BBC) is a miniseries adaptation of Victor Hugo's French historical novel... more on Wikipedia
  • 24
    Goodnight Sweetheart
    49
    30

    Goodnight Sweetheart

    Michelle Holmes, Nicholas Lyndhurst

    Premiered1993

    Goodnight Sweetheart is a British sitcom that ran for six series on BBC1 from 1993 to 1999. It... more on Wikipedia
  • 25
    The Frankenstein Chronicles
    66
    49

    The Frankenstein Chronicles

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