This is a list of tv series set throughout history, starting with the most recent first. You can use it to get a feeling for and as inspiration on settings in those periods, or if your like me and love a good historical series, just have a look and see which appeal to you and do some easy going “research”. I’ve watched all these on the list over the years and have loved most, if not all of them. I believe all of them are good (if a bit dramatised) representations of life and events at those times.
I will keep it updated as we go, so keep checking back, and if you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments. I will also do the same for films, games and documentaries at some point.
1920s – 1930s America
Atlantic City at the dawn of Prohibition is a place where the rules don’t apply. And the man who runs things — legally and otherwise — is the town’s treasurer, Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, who is equal parts politician and gangster. Side by side with his brother Elias, Atlantic City’s sheriff, and a crew of ward bosses and local tough guys, Nucky gains a reputation as the man to see for illegal alcohol.
8.6/10 IMDb 88% Metacritic 8.5/10 TV.com
1919 – 1924 England
A gangster saga set in Birmingham during the aftermath of World War I.
8.8/10 IMDb 93% Rotten Tomatoes 9.5/10 TV.com
1916 Ireland, United Kingdom
A mini-series depicts fictional characters in Dublin during the 1916 Rising. The commemorative drama begins with the outbreak of World War I. As expectations of a short and glorious campaign are dashed, social stability is eroded, and Irish nationalism comes to the fore. The tumultuous events that follow are seen through the eyes of a group of friends from Dublin, Belfast, and London as they play vital and conflicting roles in the narrative of Ireland’s independence.
7.1/10 IMDb 40% Rotten Tomatoes
The first series depicts the first few years of the reign of Queen Victoria, from her accession to the throne at the age of eighteen, to her intense friendship and infatuation with Lord Melbourne, to her courtship and early marriage to Prince Albert and finally to the birth of their first child, Victoria. The second series follows Victoria’s struggles on managing her role as Queen with that of her duties to her husband and children.
War and Peace
Tells the story of events surrounding the the Napoleonic invasion of Russia and the impact of the era on pre-reform (Tsarist) Russia.
8.2/10IMDb 88%Rotten Tomatoes
1715 Bahamas / England
Tells the story of Captain Flint and his pirate escapades as he tries to rally the pirate world against the rest of humanity.
8/10 IMDb 8.5/10 TV.com 58% Metacritic
There’s money to be made in the fur trade in the 1700s, which is why Declan Harp is trying to get a piece of it. The outlaw trapper is leading a campaign to breach the Hudson’s Bay Company’s monopoly on fur in Canada. Lord Benton, on the other hand, is bent on restoring the company’s stranglehold on fur and is on a mission to stamp out Harp, who turns to an old ally when bounty hunters close in on him. Harp eventually devises an elaborate scheme to plunder Hudson’s Bay and set a trap for Benton.
7.2/10 IMDb 7.9/10 TV.com
1667 – 1670 France
It’s 1667 and 28-year-old King Louis XIV has finally taken over sole command of France. When he commissions Versailles, Europe’s most beautiful palace, the nobles seek entry into the lavish residence, which they do not realize is meant to imprison and control them. Among the ruler’s prime targets is his younger brother, Monsieur. There’s also romance in King Louis’ life, as his queen, Marie Theresa, tries to tame his wandering eyes and win his heart back from his mistress, the English king’s sister. Love, power, betrayal and war are all part of daily life in Versailles.
7.9/10 IMDb 88% Rotten Tomatoes 9.4/10 TV.com
1589 – 1651 Ottoman Empire (Turkey)
Kosem (The Magnificant Century: Kosem): it recounts the life of Mahpeyker Kösem Sultan, a slave girl who became one of the most powerful women in Ottoman history after she was captured and sent to the harem of Sultan Ahmed I.
1557 France, England, Scotland
Queen of Scotland Mary Stuart travels to France with four ladies-in-waiting to secure her politically strategic engagement to the king’s son, Prince Francis. Mary and Francis share a mutual attraction, even though he has reservations about the wisdom of an alliance with Scotland. Complicating issues is Bash, Francis’ illegitimate half-brother whom Mary finds herself drawn to in spite of herself. The French Court is also full of less romantic challenges for Mary, who finds her engagement — and life — threatened until she finds an ally in a mysterious shrouded guide. With all that she faces, Mary rallies, readying herself to rule and trying to find a balance between the demands of her country and those of her heart.
7.6/10 IMDb 8.4/10 TV.com
1520 – 1566 Ottoman Empire (Turkey)
Muhtesem Yuzyil (The Magnificant Century)
A Turkish historical fiction television series. It is based on the life of Ottoman Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, the longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and his wife Hürrem Sultan, a slave girl who became a Sultan.
Carlos, Rey Emperador
The series tells the story of Charles I or Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, one of the most powerful men Europe has met, the ruler of an empire as great in size as in diversity. As the life of Charles of Habsburg is told since his arrival to Spain, it can be seen how the heir to the crowns of Germany, Burgundy, the Netherlands, the Free County, Artois, Nevers and Rethel, of the territories of the Crown of Aragon and its related Italian territories, and of the territories of the Catholic Monarchs in Castile, North Africa and the Americas, matures as a statesman and gets stronger in face of menaces around him and good and bad advice from his counselors.
This Showtime drama focuses on the early years of King Henry VIII’s nearly 40-year reign (1509-1547) of England. The series looks at Henry’s famous female companions like Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn and delves into his relationships with important figures like Sir Thomas More, Cardinal Wolsey (head of the Catholic Church of England during its break with Rome) and Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, who was Henry’s best friend and unofficial adviser.
8.1/10 IMDb 8.7/10 TV.com
Follows the rise of the Borgias family to the top of the Catholic Church and their efforts to maintain it against threats from within the church and without.
7.9/10 IMDb 8.4/10 TV.com 71% Rotten Tomatoes
The White Queen
Set in the bloody War of the Roses, the long war between the rival houses of Plantagenet, York and Lancaster, it follows the stories of three powerful women who manipulate events from behind the scenes, Elizabeth Woodville, Margret Beaufort and Anne Neville. Full of court intrigue, backstabbing and the cold hearted quest for power. You can easily see why the War of the Roses was cited as inspiration for Games of Thrones.
7.8/10 IMDb 8.6/10 TV.com 78% Rotten Tomatoes
1461 Castille (Spain)
The life of Isabel, a sweet child who, through the exercise of power and personal suffering, will become one of the greates rulers in the history of Spain.
The wealthy Medici family rise to power during great social upheavals throughout medieval Italy. Their contributions to the artistic life of the country is in contrast to their quest for control and the envy of those who wish to depose them.
7.9/10 IMDB 50% Rotten Tomatos 4.8/5 Google Audience Rating
1200s Ottoman Empire (Turkey)
Diriliş: Ertuğrul (The Revival: Ertuğrul)
A Turkish historical drama based on the history of the Muslim Oghuz Turks and takes place in the 13th century. It centers around the life of Ertuğrul, the father of Osman I, who was the founder of the Ottoman Empire.
Robin returns from fighting in the crusades to find that his home is suffering under the high taxation and corruption of the Sheriff of Nottingham and along with his band of Merry Men fights for the freedom of the people.
7.6/10 IMDb 8.6/10 TV.com 92% Rotten Tomatoes
801 – 900 England
The Last Kingdom
(A personal favourite) The kingdoms of England are attacked and in places occupied by Vikings. The southern Kingdom of Wessex is the bastion of defense against the Danes. The protagonist Uhtred, son of Uhtred, is a the son of a Saxon noble who is captured, adopted and raised by Danes, and his loyalties are tested as he must decide between his people and his homeland, and those who raised him.
8.4/10IMDb 91%Rotten Tomatoes 8.8/10TV.com
793 Denmark, England, France
Viking Ragnar Lothbrok is a young farmer and family man who is frustrated by the policies of Earl Haraldson, his local chieftain who sends his Viking raiders east to the Baltic states and Russia, whose residents are as poor as the Norsemen. Ragnar wants to head west, across the ocean, to discover new civilizations. With assistance from his friend Floki, Ragnar builds a faster, sleeker fleet of boats to help him make it to the Western world. Through the years Ragnar, who claims to be a direct descendant of the god Odin, continues to struggle with Earl until the two face each other in a final battle for supremacy. Following that, Ragnar goes on a search for new lands to conquer.
8.6/10 IMDb 9.2/10 TV.com 91% Rotten Tomatoes
Three Kingdoms is a 2010 Chinese television series based on the events in the late Eastern Han dynasty and the Three Kingdoms period.
8.2/10 IMDb 8.7/10 MyDramaList
0 – 100 AD (Generally set in the 1st century) Roman Empire
Follows the lives and actions of historical (Julius Caeser, Marc Anthony, Octavious etc) and wealthy Roman families as well as two common soldiers who get wrapped up in the action. This one is a personal favourite.
8.9/10 IMDb 8.8/10 TV.com 71% Metacritic
43 AD Britain
“Britannia” is set in A.D. 43, when the Romans invaded Britain led by General Aulus Plautius, who is determined to succeed where Julius Caesar failed and conquer this mythical land on the very end of the Roman Empire. Kerra, daughter of the King of the Cantii, is forced to put her differences with archrival Queen Antedia aside in order to unite the tribes and supposedly magical Druids and face their invaders. But General Aulus carries a secret that threatens to undermine the entire mission.
73 – 71 BC Roman Republic
The Spartacus series tells the famous story of Spartacus’s escape from the Gladiatorial grounds and his major slave uprising across Roman Italy which threatens the very core of the Republic.
8.6/10 IMDb 8.5/10 TV.com 65% Rotten Tomatoes
13th Century BC Troy (Greece, Turkey)
A miniseries based on the Trojan War and the love affair between Paris and Helen. The show tells the story of the 10 year siege of Troy, which occurred in the 13th century BC.
3.5/10 IMDb 67% Rotten Tomatoes
Game of Thrones
I’m sure you’ve all seen this, but its good inspiration for the level of backstabbing and court intrigue that went on in Feudal/ Medieval societies.
9.5/10 IMDb 94% Rotten Tomatoes 9/10 TV.com