History is the best place to turn to if you want to hear some awesome stories. Tales of courage, of devastation, of wars and love- there is nothing that hasn’t already happened before. While there are many figures who have been so outstanding that the whole world knows their name, there is a greater number of the unsung heroes who are lost in the pages, overshadowed by the achievements of others. Then there is also the case of the people and the things that we have heard of but don’t know much about. This is where TV shows become important.
Whether the story is being told for an umpteenth time, or whether it is the first time that you are being introduced to a certain character, these shows entertain and inform you at the same time. Netflix has a great collection of period shows. Here’s the list of really good historical shows on Netflix right now.
17. Marco Polo (2014- 2016)
Marco Polo is the explorer whom you would have met with in your History books at school. One of the most well-known explorers, he is known for his accounts, especially of Asian countries. This show focuses on the young Polo and his journey across Asia to reach the court of Kublai Khan. His time in the Chinese court and the influence of the culture on him, which was further reflected in his written works, is intricately portrayed in the series.
16. Reign (2013-2017)
Mary, Queen of Scots has been a very compelling character when it comes to her portrayal in films and TV shows. From a very young age, she had been involved in court politics and the power struggle that revolves around the crown. Her character was most recently portrayed by Saoirse Ronan in last year’s ‘Mary, Queen of Scots’. The film focused on the most important time in her life, her rivalry with Queen Elizabeth I, expertly played by Margot Robbie. However, this was just a very small part of her story, and before her fight with the Queen of England, she had already learned a lot from her short experience as the Queen of France. If you find yourself interested in her whole story, ‘Reign’ is the show you must watch.
15. Barbarians (2020)
Starring Laurence Rupp, Jeanne Goursaud, and David Schütter, ‘Barbarians’ is a German historical war drama television series. Created by Andreas Heckmann, Arne Nolting, and Jan Martin Scharf, the show focuses on the events following the two-decade-long Roman occupation of Magna Germania. While the natives have been oppressed with heavy taxes and other dictatorial decisions for a long-time, they fail to come together and fight the foreign forces because of in-fighting. But when Arminius, an eques in the Roman Imperial army, notices the maltreatment of the Germanic tribes, he does not turn a blind eye and succeeds in unifying the people to rise above petty politics and bring down their oppressors.
14. Jaguar (2021)
Created by Ramón Campos and Gema R. Neira, ‘Jaguar’ is a Spanish drama streaming television series that features Blanca Suárez, Iván Marcos, Francesc Garrido, and Adrián Lastra. It recounts the story of Isabel Garrido, a Spanish survivor from Mauthausen who uses her desire for vengeance and justice as fuel to find her oppressors in Francoist Spain by joining a group of Nazi hunters. As a child, Isabel had once worked for Otto Bachmann, a Nazi official who has mercilessly murdered her father. So, from a young age, she had lived alongside her worst enemies, and when she begins to hunt them down, the protagonist proves to be a great asset for her team.
13. Alias Grace (2017)
Based on Margaret Atwood’s namesake novel, ‘Alias Grace’ is a television drama miniseries starring Sarah Gadon, Edward Holcroft, and Rebecca Liddiard. The story revolves around a poor Irish immigrant and a domestic servant named Grace Marks, who works in Upper Canada until she is accused of murdering her employer. She eventually gets convicted of the crime along with James McDermott. While Grace gets life imprisonment, James is hanged to death. The controversial case makes the protagonist the most notorious woman in Canada, and ‘Alias Grace’ recounts her intriguing story.
12. The English Game (2020)
Created by Julian Fellowes, Tony Charles, and Oliver Cotton, ‘The English Game’ is a historical sports drama television miniseries. The Edward Holcroft and Kevin Guthrie-starrer focuses on 1970s Great Britain, where football was only a sport for the wealthy until two men decided to change that. Despite coming from the opposing sides of a class divide, a working-class star and his upper-class counterpart face personal and professional problems in their pursuit to change the game. While their goal in itself seems quite grand, the deuteragonist ends up surpassing their own expectations when they manage to change their country in the process.
11. Merlin (2008-2012)
The legend of King Arthur has been the source of many successful, and some rather disappointing, stories. A lot of other characters appear in this legend, like the Knights of the Round Table, and Merlin, the trusted advisor of the King who helped him take back his rightful position. ‘Merlin’ promises a new perspective of the story, adding new twists and turns to it. Its protagonist is, as you can easily guess, Merlin- a young warlock who comes to Camelot to be the royal physician’s ward. However, the current king, Uther, had banished the magicians from his kingdom a very long time ago. Merlin develops a friendship with the prince, Arthur, and they set about on a journey that will eventually become a legend.
10. Troy Fall of a City (2018)
Inspired partially by Homer’s ancient Greek epic poem ‘Iliad,’ ‘Troy: Fall of a City’ is a historical drama miniseries created and co-written by David Farr. The Louis Hunter and Aimee-Ffion Edwards-starrer focus on Paris, the son of Troy, who falls in love with Menelaus’s wife while on a trip to Sparta. As the duo eventually elope, they not only put their lives in jeopardy but also set the stage for a more than the decade-long conflict that eventually ends up claiming the lives of countless otherwise innocent men who may not have to go to war at all.
9. Medici: Masters of Florence (2016- present)
In the 15th century, Florence was governed under the growing influence of the Medici family. The House of Medici was one of the most influential families in Florence, and the Bank of Medici was one of the wealthiest banks in the whole of Europe. Initially, the Medici kept themselves under the label of citizens of Florence, even though they were practically ruling it. It was during the time of Cosimo the Elder, played by Richard Madden, that they truly began their rise to being monarchs. Being a ‘Game of Thrones’ fan, if you are still suffering from the trauma of Ned Stark’s beheading and the Red Wedding, then this show might provide you with some comfort!
8. Versailles (2015-2018)
Set in the second half of the sixteenth century, ‘Versailles’ finds its premise in the court of King Louis XIV. France had freshly survived a series of civil wars, known as the Fronde, and the country was still dealing with its repercussions. The nobility had begun to openly demonstrate their resentment with the crown, which made the King feel threatened. In order to gain back the control, he once had over the court and its nobles, King Louis decides to move the court from Paris to Versailles. This displacement places the nobles, and the monarchy, into a new environment where everyone tries to be the winner of the power struggle.
7. Norsemen (2016- present)
The Vikings have been popularised as one of the fiercest tribes ever. Their portrayal in various television series and movies has proved them to be the kind of people you wouldn’t want as your enemies. Their legends and stories have inspired many works, and they are often referenced in various historical dramas. While all these developments have made them quite an exciting topic, it has also fixed their characters as one-dimensional. ‘Norsemen’ dares to change this situation. It is a comedy-drama that focuses on the day-to-day lives of a group of Vikings living in Norheim, and their hilarious attempts to deal with situations ranging from a mundane activity in their life to war with other tribes.
6. Cathedral of the Sea (2018)
Based on the novel of the same name by Ildefonso Falcones, this story is set in Barcelona in the 14th century. It follows the tale of a young boy named Arnau Estanyol who is brought to Barcelona by his adoptive father. The city is going through one of its grandest times. The cathedral of Santa Maria del Mar is under construction, and along with it flows the wave of the Inquisition. Arnau becomes a stoneworker, becoming a part of the construction of the Cathedral. As time passes by, he gets to know his way around the power and politics of the city and himself rises up the ladder. However, intimacy with power also pushes him closer to the dangers that come with it.
5. Knightfall (2017 – 2019)
Featuring talented actors like Tom Cullen, Jim Carter, Pádraic Delaney, and Simon Merrells, ‘Knightfall’ is a historical fiction drama television show created by Richard Rayner and Dan Handfield. The story follows the Knights Templar as they begin to regroup following the fall of their last stronghold and begin to fight back, a struggle that eventually becomes the Crusades. Unfortunately, they lose many allies in the process and upset elites, some of whom end up becoming their worst enemies.
4. The Last Kingdom (2015- present)
Based on Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Stories, this series is set in the 9th century, during the time of the clash between the Anglo-Saxons and Viking Danes. Its protagonist is Uhtred who was only a young boy when the Vikings attacked them, killed his father, and took him as a prisoner. He was raised by Earl Ragnar, among the Vikings. When he grows up, some other tribe attacks the wedding ceremony of Ragnar’s daughter and he is killed. Uhtred, now a grown man decides to take arms against these attackers to avenge Ragnar’s death, while further contemplating to take back the kingdom from which he had been removed for so long.
3. Outlander (2014- present)
Based on a series of the same name by Diana Gabaldon, this show follows the story of a woman who is transported back in time. In 1946, Claire Randall, who had served as a nurse in the Second World War, is on her second honeymoon with her husband Frank in Inverness, Scotland. One night, they witness a group of women dancing around in what seems like a ritual at Craigh na Dun. The next day Claire visits the place and when she touches the stone, she is transported back to the 18th century, the time of the Scottish rebellion.
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2. Bridgerton (2020 -)
Inspired by Julia Quinn’s novels, ‘Bridgerton’ is a streaming television period drama series created by Chris Van Dusen. The show revolves around Daphne Bridgerton, the eldest daughter of the politically connected and powerful titular family, as she navigates the competitive marriage market of Regency-era England. She is inspired by her parents to find true love, and her kind-hearted nature coupled with unrivaled beauty make her a sought-after future bride for countless men. Unfortunately, things soon take an unexpected turn as her dreams of finding the ideal husband are put in jeopardy.
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1. The Crown (2016- present)
One of the must-watch contemporary shows, ‘The Crown’ focuses on the reign of the current Queen of England. The Royal family has always been at the focus of media and paparazzi, people being interested in their personal lives as much as they are interested in that of their favourite celebrities’. Queen Elizabeth II is the longest reigning British Monarch having ascended the throne in 1952, after the death of her father, King George VI. She has been on the throne for about 67 years now, and in all these years, a lot of things have happened to her family and to the world. The two seasons of the show have been magnificently received by the critics and the audience, alike. And its upcoming season, with names like Olivia Colman and Helena Bonham Carter related to it, makes it one of the most anticipated shows of the year.
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