British period dramas are like a Marmite – you either love them or hate them.

Contrary to a popular belief, I’m with the former.

I didn’t enjoy them while I was younger and couldn’t really stand watching the catastrophes of British class system. It seems like your future as a woman depended on the family you were born in and even if you were the lucky one, you still had to spend your youth looking for a man that has financial assets, otherwise it will ruin not only yourself but the whole family. Quite an unfortunate predestination.

To be considered an ‘accomplished woman’ based on the standards back then was to have read 100 books, being able to entertain – play the piano, sing and not being too fussy about anything really. This kind of woman would have been a great wife and had ‘tons of potential’. Kudos if you’re physically beautiful at the same time – this might help even if you weren’t born with a silver spoon in your mouth.

Reading the actual old books tends to be a bit dreadful. I started off with a new one from Julian Fellowes – Belgravia and it’s been much more uphill than I thought. Keeping up with all the personas and roles needs a full concentration as these novels have a very broad storyline.

Although being way too boring from the first impression, I look at period dramas this way:

  1. It’s a nice way how to understand the culture – by understanding the history and how did it evolve it’s far easier to navigate the present and future motivations of culture, country, and its people.
  2. For me, as a non-native speaker – this particular genre is a great way how to grow your vocabulary. There’s no way you would find more sophisticated language in US production.
  3. I genuinely love British humor. I grew up watching Mr. Bean and Monty Python sketches. I find the conversations about nothing/the weather (literally 75% of any period film) rather amusing.
  4. I think I see it as a time for relaxation in contrast to my work and life which is set in technology. In the last two years, I became increasingly more and more interested in geopolitics. I used to hate history in school and appreciate it far more now when I have more of real-life experience, did some traveling. Being in a completely different context than I was 10 or 15 years ago and having changed as a person makes for a bit of a change of interests and tastes.

I’ve put together a little graph showing content of any kind of English period drama.

Touching up on the first point, I believe the same can be said about any country. If you want to understand Slovak history and cultural dynamics, one of the best ways to start would be to see Red Wine – Cervene Vino, Tisicrocna vcela, or Nocni Jazdci movie. These are a couple of my absolute favourites

I won’t go into the era we had communism (I genuinely hate production that promoted that part of our history) but again, it’s a tremendous resource and a way to understand how life sucked was back then.

The best thing about Netflix is the fact that as you travel, the offering is different in any country. Since 2015, I was able to catch up with following dramas:

I saw The Paradise while living in Brussels. It’s such a nice and light series that was discontinued after 2 seasons. It’s based on a French novel by Emile Zola describing the rise of department shops. 

Mr Selfridge (which I haven’t seen yet) might make for a very good alternative.

Last time I was in Portugal, I bing-watched Downton Abbey (only 7 years after it was mainstream :D) – such a great production and huge international success in the US as well. I loved the portrayal of Matthew by Dan Stevens and legendary Maggie Smith.

I won’t be getting much into actual films, as these are classics (and I usually watch them when I’m sick in bed), but if you’re looking to see something from this category, go see one of these:

As for the TV mini series, UK Netflix has been great recently, featuring series like:

Emma – great script! And a Golden Globe nomination.

North & South – Contrary to usual settings in English Countryside, this one is set in industrial Milton.

Daniel Deronda – which I enjoyed the least. Too dramatic even for my taste. 😀

Let me know your favourite series in the comments! I’m always looking to discover more as I feel there’s not a lot of them left.

Netflix will release a brand new period series towards the end of this year and I’m looking forward to it!

📸 Photography we shot in Shoreditch is by lovely Michelle – Check her instagram