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

Photo-Illustration: Maya Robinson

There’s something inherently pleasing about a good British period drama. The accents, the costumes, the landscapes, and even the colloquialisms are an aesthetic treat for the eyes and ears. So as another such drama lands on television this weekend — Starz’s Howards End mini-series, adapted by Kenneth Lonergan — we’ve rounded up all the British-produced period dramas that have recently been 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

The 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, as a war rages between the two kingdoms.
The costumes: The Saxons and Danes have distinctive visual identities, but the costumes themselves aren’t inherently special. Think lots of armor and assorted battle gear.
Where can I watch it? Netflix

The Stuart Period


The 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 costumes: The French courts know a thing or two about grandeur, to say the least.
Where can I watch it? Netflix

The Georgian Era


The 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 costumes: Frocks and tricorn hats and breeches galore, but it’s generic for the setting.
Where can I watch it? PBS, Amazon


The pitch: A brothel owner catering to a, hmmm, more casual London crowd wages a war against a high-class brothel on the better side of the city, with the madames doing whatever it takes — even if it means selling off their daughter’s virginity — to bring in a bigger clientele. Sex was the hottest commodity during this era, after all.
The costumes: There’s an interesting juxtaposition between the competing brothels’ styles, with one favoring a vibrant French court look and the other mostly keeping to a basic, muted Georgian aesthetic. Either way, you’re going to see a lot of cleavage.
Where can I watch it? Hulu


Short pitch: A very macho man (played by Tom Hardy) returns to the bleak confines of London to attend his father’s funeral as the rightful heir of his shipping empire, which surprises everyone because they believed he was long dead. But what should’ve been an easy transition of father-scion power soon blossoms into something far more sinister, with the revelation that his father was brutally poisoned. Who would kill such a guy, and why?
The costumes: They’re … pretty normal, we guess? It’s a male-dominant show, so we’re mostly gazing upon some basic, monochromatic looks for gents. And hats. Lots of hats.
Where can I watch it? Hulu

The Victorian Era


The pitch: Beginning when Queen Victoria ascended the throne in 1837 at the age of 18, the first two seasons of this ongoing series recount everything from her early years: the romances, the politics, and the birth of her child.
The costumes: 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? PBS

Ripper Street

The 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.
The costumes: 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

Downton Abbey

The pitch: If you’re reading this, you know Downton. It’s show that spurred the British period drama revolution over the past decade. Over the course of six seasons, the wealthy Crawley family and their workers deal with every possible hardship, triumph, pain, and joy as they try to adapt to an evolving England. Whether they’re prepared for those changes, though, is another story entirely.
The costumes: Whatever you visualize about the finest and most decadent fashions during this time period, Downton Abbey has it and more. The clothing became such a fundamental tenant of the series that they even became part of a traveling exhibition.
Where can I watch it? Amazon, PBS

Howards End

The pitch: Drama escalates between three interconnecting families — the hoity-toity Wilcoxes, the compassionate Schlegels, and the working-class Basts — when one of the charming Schelgel sisters, Margaret, is bequeathed a country estate from a Wilcox family member. Oh, and naturally, there’s also romantic drama between all of them.
The costumes: Most of the action is relegated to the rich people, so you know what that means — it’s going to be Downton Abbey–esque, if not slightly more conservative. Margaret dresses a lot like Lady Cora!
Where can I watch it? Starz

Peaky Blinders

The 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 costumes: You won’t find a lot of colorful dressers in gloomy central England. This show tends toward a lot of muted, dark hues that are often paired with herringbone tweed.
Where can I watch it? Netflix

The Durrells (a.k.a. The Durrells in Corfu)

The pitch: Due to some pesky financial problems, a mother named 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


The 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 costumes: Three words: Swan. Nipple. Dress.
Where can I watch it? Starz, Amazon

Postwar Britain

Father Brown

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

The Crown

The pitch: With Claire Foy, Matt Smith, and their merry band of Windsor royals departing The Crown at the end of season two, the Netflix epic makes way for the arrival of Olivia Colman and Tobias Menzies as Queen Elizabeth and her hubby Prince Philip. We already know the series will pick up with these older monarchs dealing with 1970s-based drama, but we’ll have to be patient to see what exactly.
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


The 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 costumes: 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

The 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 costumes: 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 (a.k.a. George Gently)

The 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 costumes: Pretty normal dressing for a professional, police workplace setting.
Where can I watch it? Acorn TV


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

Love, Nina

The 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 costumes: 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.

British TV Period Dramas, Sorted Chronologically