Captivating Tales of the Past: Top Historical Drama Series to Transport You Through Time

Step into the past and immerse yourself in the world of historical drama series. From the scandalous balls of the Regency era to the turbulent times of British royalty, these captivating shows allow us to witness history unfold on our screens. Bridgerton, The Crown, Poldark, and many more offer a feast for the eyes as they transport us to different eras and paint vivid portraits of characters that will both shock and inspire us. So, grab a seat, buckle up, and get ready to embark on a thrilling journey through some of the top historical drama series that have graced our televisions in recent years.

 

Bridgerton (2020-present)

 

Image of Daphne and Simon from BridgertonPhoto: LIAM DANIEL//NetflixBased on the popular romance novels written by Julia Quinn, Bridgerton is a captivating period drama created by Shonda Rhimes exclusively for Netflix. While the series is set in the Regency era, the creators have openly acknowledged that it may not be entirely historically accurate. Nevertheless, with its stunning sets and intricate costumes, Bridgerton offers viewers a mesmerizing glimpse into the past. In the first season, viewers are introduced to Daphne, who enters into a fake engagement with Simon, the Duke of Hastings, only to find themselves falling in love. The second season continues the story with Daphne's brother Anthony finding his own true love. And now, fans can eagerly anticipate the third season, which will focus on one of Daphne's younger brothers, Colin.

Starring: Phoebe Dynevor, Regé-Jean Page, Jonathan Bailey, Nicola Coughlan, Golda Rosheuvel

Watch Bridgerton on Netflix

2

 

The Forsyte Saga (2002-2003)

 

Image from The Forsyte SagaPhoto: MGM TelevisionBased on the Nobel Prize-winning work of John Galsworthy, The Forsyte Saga spans several decades, chronicling the lives of the wealthy Forsyte family from the 1870s to the 1920s. Combining highbrow storytelling with soap-opera-worthy plotlines, this 10-part series offers a captivating portrayal of the era.

Starring: Damian Lewis, Rupert Graves, Gina McKee

Watch The Forsyte Saga on Amazon Prime

18

 

Poldark (2015-2019)

 

Image of Captain Poldark from PoldarkPhoto: PBSSome viewers are drawn to Poldark for its historical context, but it's Captain Ross Poldark himself, played by Aidan Turner, who steals the show. Returning to England after fighting in the Revolutionary War, Poldark finds himself torn between different worlds. Set against the backdrop of 18th-century Cornwall, this captivating series offers a compelling blend of romance and drama.

Starring: Aidan Turner, Eleanor Tomlinson, Ellise Chappell

Watch Poldark on Amazon Prime

17

 

Gentleman Jack (2019-2022)

 

Image of Gentleman JackPhoto: HBOBased on the remarkable life of Anne Lister, often hailed as the first modern lesbian, Gentleman Jack is adapted from Lister's extensive diaries. Set in 1830s Yorkshire, the series explores Lister's unconventional courtship of a woman—an act considered unconventional at the time. Although it was sadly canceled after two seasons, Gentleman Jack remains a crucial portrayal of marginalized history.

Starring: Suranne Jones, Sophie Rundle, Gemma Whelan, Gemma Jones

Watch Gentleman Jack on HBO Max

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16

 

Call the Midwife (2012-present)

 

Image of Nurse Lucille from Call the MidwifePhoto: Sophie MutevelianUnlike many period pieces that focus on royalty or wealthy families, Call the Midwife sheds light on the unsung heroes of midcentury Britain in London's East End—the nurses, midwives, and nuns who played a vital role in delivering babies. This emotionally gripping series will make you cheer during their triumphs and shed tears during the tragedies.

Starring: Vanessa Redgrave, Jenny Agutter, Laura Main, Helen George, Judy Parfitt, Jessica Raine

Watch Call the Midwife on Netflix

15

 

The Crown (2016-present)

 

Image of Queen Elizabeth II from The CrownPhoto: NetflixWith its sprawling narrative, The Crown offers unprecedented access to the British royal family. Spanning six seasons, this Netflix series follows the life of Queen Elizabeth II from her early years to the present day. The Crown provides a fresh perspective on historical events and delves into the personal lives of the monarchs. And the question remains: Does Queen Elizabeth herself watch the show? While her viewing habits are a mystery, we do know that Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama are fans.

Starring: Olivia Colman, Helena Bonham Carter, Tobias Menzies, Claire Foy, John Lithgow, Matt Smith, Vanessa Kirby, Gillian Anderson, Josh O'Connor, Emma Corrin

Watch The Crown on Netflix

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Harlots (2017-2019)

 

Image of Harlots charactersPhoto: HuluEver wondered what it meant to be a financially independent woman in the 18th century? Harlots explores the lives of madams and sex workers who find a sense of liberation and empowerment through their work catering to wealthy clients. This witty and thought-provoking series challenges societal norms and offers a unique perspective on female autonomy.

Starring: Samantha Morton, Lesley Manville, Jessica Brown Findlay, Liv Tyler, Alfie Allen

Watch Harlots on Hulu

12

 

Lovecraft Country (2020)

 

Image of Lovecraft Country charactersPhoto: HBOSet in 1955 Chicago, Lovecraft Country follows the story of Atticus Freeman, a Korean War veteran who returns home to a country grappling with the horrors of racism. Based on Matt Ruff's novel, this series presents a prescient exploration of the dangers of racism, which prove to be as terrifying as the Lovecraftian monsters encountered by the characters. Although it was unfortunately canceled after one season, Lovecraft Country remains a thrilling and subversive period piece with a touch of sci-fi.

Starring: Jurnee Smollett, Jonathan Majors, Aunjanue Ellis

Watch Lovecraft Country on HBO Max

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Victoria (2016-2019)

 

Image of Victoria from the TV series VictoriaPhoto: PBSBefore Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Victoria held the title of the longest reigning British monarch. Victoria, a PBS series, chronicles her remarkable journey from ascending the throne at just 18 years old to her marriage to Prince Albert and her balancing act of running the British Empire while raising a family. This captivating series offers a compelling portrayal of one of history's most influential figures.

Starring: Jenna Coleman, Tom Hughes, Rufus Sewell

Watch Victoria on Amazon Prime

8

 

The Great (2020-present)

 

Image of Catherine and Peter from The GreatPhoto: Ollie UptonWhile the 18th century is a popular setting for period pieces, The Great stands out with its Emmy-nominated dark-comedy portrayal of Catherine the Great's rise to power in Russia. This series offers all the opulence and grandeur one would expect from a historical drama, but it also adds an unconventional twist, presenting a "mostly true story" that combines lavish costumes and palaces with hilarious oddities and eccentricities. The chemistry between Nicholas Hoult as Emperor Peter and Elle Fanning as Catherine is truly captivating.

Starring: Elle Fanning, Nicholas Hoult, Phoebe Fox, Adam Godley, Gwilym Lee

Watch The Great on Hulu

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Sanditon (2019-present)

 

Image of characters from SanditonPhoto: ITV EntertainmentFor fans of Jane Austen adaptations, Sanditon offers a sumptuous and captivating journey into the world of Austen's final and unfinished novel. Set in a vibrant seaside resort town, the series brings together a diverse cast of characters and explores their intersecting lives. Notably, Sanditon features the only Black character in Austen's work, Georgiana Lambe, portrayed by Crystal Clarke.

Starring: Rose Williams, Theo James, Kris Marshall

Watch Sanditon on Amazon Prime

6

 

The Spanish Princess (2019-2020)

 

Image of The Spanish PrincessPhoto: STARZHenry VIII, the iconic king with six wives who changed the course of history, is portrayed in a fresh and different light in The Spanish Princess. This series offers a unique perspective by focusing on his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, who was originally sent to England from Spain to marry his older brother. Full of intrigue and historical detail, The Spanish Princess sheds new light on one of history's most fascinating periods.

Starring: Alicia Borrachero, Laura Carmichael, Daniel Cerqueira

Watch The Spanish Princess on Amazon Watch The Spanish Princess on Starz Watch The Spanish Princess on Hulu

5

 

The Gilded Age (2022-present)

 

Image of Cynthia Nixon and Christine Baranski in The Gilded AgePhoto: ALISON COHEN ROSA//HBOFor fans of Downton Abbey, The Gilded Age, created by Julian Fellowes, offers a new ensemble cast of characters to become obsessed with. This nine-episode first season is set in 1880s New York City, where the "nouveau rich"—those newly wealthy—vie for status among Manhattan's old-money families. The series follows a bold young woman who moves from rural Pennsylvania to live with her traditional aunts on East 61st Street, resulting in comical and dramatic conflicts. Season two is currently in production, promising further enthralling storytelling.

Starring: Christine Baranski, Cynthia Nixon, Audra McDonald, Louisa Jacobson, Carrie Coon

Watch The Gilded Age on HBO Max

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Dickinson (2019-2021)

 

Image of Dickinson charactersPhoto: David Giesbrecht//AppleStep into the world of acclaimed poet Emily Dickinson with this anachronistic and unconventional series. Hailee Steinfeld portrays Emily, whose reclusive life in her bedroom belied her extraordinary talent. This darkly funny and poignant series delves into Emily's complex relationship with her family, particularly her brother's wife, Susan, with whom she shared a deep bond. And as a delightful twist, Wiz Khalifa makes a surprising appearance as Death.

Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Jane Krakowski, Toby Huss

Watch Dickinson on Apple TV

11

 

North and South (2004)

 

Image of North and South charactersPhoto: BBCReleased nearly 20 years ago, North and South continues to captivate viewers with its tale of love and class divide. This four-part BBC drama set in the 19th century explores the passionate romance that unfolds between two individuals from different social backgrounds. The series features a legendary kiss scene, hailed as one of TV's most swoon-worthy moments.

Starring: Daniela Denby-Ashe, Richard Armitage, Sinead Crusack

Watch North and South on Amazon Watch North and South on BritBox

20

 

Cable Girls (2017-2020)

 

cable girls charactersNetflix

In 1920s Spain, four women are at the forefront of the workforce, working for Spain's newly established telephone service. Cable Girls is an enthralling drama that keeps you on the edge of your seat with its numerous cliffhangers. Additionally, it provides a captivating glimpse into the lives of women and their journey towards economic mobility throughout the ages.

Starring: Blanca Suárez, Yon González, Ana Fernández, Nadia de Santiago

Watch on Netflix

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Elizabeth (1998)

 

cate blanchett elizabeth iGramercy Pictures

After immersing yourself in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II through The Crown, take a step back in time and experience the captivating story of the first Queen Elizabeth in this gripping film. Portrayed by Cate Blanchett, the movie delves into the turbulent early years of her rule as she navigates the challenges of maintaining power amidst a succession crisis.

Starring: Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Joseph Fiennes, Richard Attenborough

Watch on AmazonWatch on HuluWatch on Starz

 

Whether you're a fan of scandalous affairs, gripping royal politics, or heart-wrenching love stories, the world of historical drama series has something to offer for everyone. From the steamy and scandalous "Bridgerton" to the regal and captivating "The Crown," these shows transport us to different eras, allowing us to witness history unfold in all its glory. So, whether you're craving a taste of the Victorian era, Elizabethan England, or the American Gilded Age, these top historical drama series will whisk you away on an unforgettable journey through time. Get ready to immerse yourself in the stories of love, power, and the human spirit that have shaped our past and continue to captivate us in the present.

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