Your Guide to TV’s British Period Dramas, Sorted Chronologically by Era

By
Photo-Illustration: Maya Robinson

There’s something inherently pleasing about tuning into a good British period drama. The accents, the costumes, the landscapes, and even the colloquialisms are an aesthetic treat for the eyes and ears. As another such drama lands on streaming today — Netflix’s most expensive production to-date, The Crown — we’ve rounded up all the British-produced period dramas currently on the air, and sorted them in chronological order for your convenience. More a fan of the Victorian-era monarchy than 1960s detective capers? Fear not, we have all of your interests covered below.

THE VIKING AGE

The Last Kingdom

Short pitch: Set in the late 9th century, the series primarily revolves around the fictional Uhtred of Bebbanburg, who must choose between his birth country, Wessex, and the people who raised him after he was orphaned, the Danish, when a war between the two kingdoms rages on.
The costume scale: The Saxons and Danes have distinctive visual identities, but the costumes themselves aren’t inherently special. (Lots of armor and assorted battle gear.)
Where can I watch it? Netflix

THE STUART PERIOD

Versailles

Short pitch: There's a whole lot of sex and nudity on this steamy drama, which chronicles the life of Louis XIV in the mid-17th century when the Sun King decides to move his court from Paris to Versailles.
The costume scale: The French courts know a thing or two about grandeur, to say the least.
Where can I watch it? No legal streaming services yet, but it’s currently airing in the U.S. on Ovation.

THE GEORGIAN ERA

Poldark

Short pitch: A debonair and stubborn captain returns to his home in Cornwall following the end of the American Revolutionary War, where he attempts to rebuild his life and faces many difficulties in the process.
The costume scale: Frocks and tricorn hats and breeches galore, but it's generic for the setting.
Where can I watch it? PBS, Amazon

THE VICTORIAN ERA

Victoria

Short pitch: Beginning when Queen Victoria ascended the throne in 1837 at the age of 18, the first season of the show recounts everything from her early years: the romances, the politics, and the birth of her first child.
The costume scale: All of the most opulent wardrobes you can possibly imagine for the mid-19th-century monarchy. (The royal jewels are pretty grand, too.)
Where can I watch it? Coming to PBS early next year, or available on the ITV Hub if outside the U.S.

Ripper Street

Short pitch: A competent group of detective inspectors and captains patrol the particularly violent area of London’s East End in the late 19th century and do their best to solve any and all crimes that occur … which is usually a lot.
The costume scale: Lots of great looks for both the men (three-piece suits, bowler hats!) and the women (bell-like silhouettes, corsets!), which provide a nice juxtaposition to the gritty cityscape.
Where can I watch it? Netflix

INTERWAR BRITAIN

Peaky Blinders

Short pitch: A cunning gangster family — also known as the real-life Peaky Blinders gang — is the epicenter of a post–World War I Birmingham. Their fearless leader has a penchant for violence, cunning mind tricks, and avoiding the police.
The costume scale: You won’t find a lot of colorful dressers in gloomy central England — there are a lot of muted, dark hues that are often paired with herringbone tweed.
Where can I watch it? Netflix

The Durrells (also referred to as The Durrells in Corfu)

Short pitch: Due to some pesky financial problems, a mother, Louisa Durrell, and her four children move from the south of England to the idyllic island of Corfu in the 1930s. It takes them a bit of time to adjust to the new locale.
The costume scale: Light and airy ensembles that are perfect for spur-of-the-moment seaside strolls.
Where can I watch it? PBS

HALF POSTWAR BRITAIN, HALF GEORGIAN ERA

Outlander

Short pitch: This incredibly sexy, bonkers time-travel drama follows a former World War II nurse who gets transported back to mid-18th-century Scotland while on a trip with her husband in Inverness. Plenty of brutal historical happenings and timey-wimey romantic entanglements ensue.
The costume scale: Three words: Swan. Nipple. Dress. (The costumes are incredible.)
Where can I watch it? STARZ on Demand, Amazon

POSTWAR BRITAIN

Father Brown

Short pitch: An astute Roman Catholic priest in a small Cotswold village helps assist the local police force with solving an array of crimes.
The costume scale: Conservative clergy chic for the 1950s. Unremarkable, really.
Where can I watch it? PBS

The Crown

Short pitch: Netflix has huge plans for this very expensive period drama, with the first season beginning with Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding to Prince Philip and the tumultuous early years of her reign.
The costume scale: Nothing less than stunning and ornate, literally fit for a queen. You will ooh and you will ah.
Where can I watch it? Netflix, beginning November 4

Grantchester

Short pitch: An Anglican priest in the 1950s turns out to have quite the natural sleuthing chops in his cozy Cambridgeshire village, which earns him the trust and mentorship of a local detective inspector. They’re good at solving cases together!
The costume scale: Once again, clergy chic, but far more progressive than Father Brown, especially for the women.
Where can I watch it? Amazon, PBS

Call the Midwife

Short pitch: A group of hardworking nurse midwives in the late 1950s juggle their difficult medical duties — in a particularly poor part of London, no less — while living in an Anglican nursing convent.
The costume scale: Often drab to accompany the very drab East End, but those blue medical dresses and red cardigans are iconic.
Where can I watch it? Netflix, PBS

Inspector George Gently (also referred to as George Gently)

Short pitch: This 1960s-set drama in northern England follows an old-fashioned, methodological inspector who pursues justice with the help of his faithful sidekick sergeant.
The costume scale: Pretty normal dressing for a professional, police workplace setting.
Where can I watch it? Hulu, Netflix

Endeavour

Short pitch: A diligent police constable and his equally able-bodied team solve various crimes in 1960s Oxford.
The costume scale: A plethora of well-tailored, nondescript suits.
Where can I watch it? PBS

Love, Nina

Short pitch: A 20-something girl moves to the buzzing metropolis of London to take a job as a live-in nanny for a single mother with two rambunctious boys.
The costume scale: Exactly what you imagine people in the mid-’80s to have worn. Things are starting to get a bit grungy!
Where can I watch it? No legal streaming services yet, but the episodes can be purchased on Amazon.