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With school starting up again, everyone needs something to watch during their relaxation time. Even though Netflix has a large variety of shows to choose from, the struggle is always about finding a good series. Since I’m very familiar with this struggle, here are my top five recommended period dramas to binge during this semester!

Medici (Masters of Florence/The Magnificent)

Medici details how the Florentine banking family (of the same name) rose to power over the course of several decades in medieval Italy. The first season explains how the family initially earned their prestige under the leadership of Cosimo de’ Medici, while the second and third seasons show the continuation of power under the leadership of Cosimo’s grandson, Lorenzo de’ Medici. Cosimo is played by Richard Madden (Game of Thrones, Cinderella), and Lorenzo is played by Daniel Sharman (Teen Wolf, Cursed).  

I just binge watched Medici twice over the summer, and it has quickly become my all time favorite period drama. As a history lover, it was interesting to visually see the impact the Medici had on Renaissance science, art, and literature. For example, the series shows the work of the famed artist Sandro Botticelli and what he was able to accomplish with the Medici financially supporting him. I also appreciated the depth given to the characters, especially the two protagonists (Cosimo and Lorenzo), because you really came to understand their inner thoughts and personal struggles. The continued dilemma throughout the series was about maintaining their morality; in order to change the world, would they only make ethical decisions, or do whatever was necessary to reach their goals? During complex situations, I found myself pondering alongside the Medici family about what decision was the correct one. 

All in all, this series is a MUST WATCH!!

Peaky Blinders 

Peaky Blinders tells the story of the Shelby crime family, led by the intelligent and intimidating Thomas Shelby, in 1919 Birmingham, England. The cast includes well-known U.K. actors such as Cillian Murphy (The Dark Knight, Inception), Helen McCrory (The Queen, Harry Potter), and Tom Hardy (Mad Max: Fury Road, Venom).

I really love this show because it is not what you would expect from a typical crime drama. Although there is graphic violence at times, it does not define the series as a whole. There are subplots about romance and family dynamics, along with serious topics such as political agendas and facing inner demons. In addition, a viewer may have expected displays of machismo from the male leads, but the female characters on the show are actually very respected and defy the stereotypes of their time. They challenge authority figures, obtain leadership positions, and do not appraise their worth through their relationships to men. The diversity of the story is great too because each season deals with a different “enemy” rather than a years long cat-and-mouse chase. I particularly enjoy when the enemies are foreign, since it gives insight into the history of other countries during that time period as well. 

I will admit that the first season starts off a bit slow, but before you know it, you will be completely hooked due to the amazing drama and plot twists!

Las Chicas Del Cable (The Cable Girls) 

Las Chicas Del Cable (or The Cable Girls) takes place in 1920s Madrid, and follows the lives of four women who work as operators at the National Telephone Company. All the main actors of Las Chicas hail from Spain, including lead actress Blanca Suárez (El Internado, El Barco), and have gained a great international following due to their work on this series. 

The four female characters on this show have made me feel every emotion under the sun. I have cried, laughed, and cheered along with them every episode up until their last (which was released this past summer). The characters’ fierce loyalty to and love for one another, along with their resilience in unthinkable situations is truly admirable. Their courage and hopefulness reminds us that those who are determined can change the world for the better. The show highlights important issues of both their time and our time, such as fighting for the rights of women and the LGBTQ+ community. Besides these significant issues, the show also has plenty of romance, and of course, a love triangle since it is partially a Spanish soap. I think that all the main aspects of the show, which include the cinematography, costumes, and writing are charming, and some of the best I’ve seen in any period drama.

If you are looking for a show with inspiring and strong female leads, then this is the one for you! 

Anne with an E 

Anne with an E, based on the book Anne of Green Gables, is a coming-of-age story. It depicts how Anne’s adoption by the Cuthbert siblings transforms the lives of those in their small community forever, and helps Anne find the acceptance and love she has always wanted. Most of the actors on this show are newcomers to the entertainment industry, including main actress Amybeth McNulty, but they don’t fail to give  unforgettable performances. 

The positivity on this show, especially radiated by Anne herself, is so inspiring. The series demonstrates that no matter who you are or what background you come from, you can do anything you put your mind to. For example, Anne’s character is developed beautifully throughout the three seasons, as she transitions from a lost child into an accomplished young woman. She leads with her kind heart, showing compassion and care for others, while using her intelligence and vivid imagination to fight against the discrimination present in her community. Additionally, the show is very wholesome in terms of the relationships Anne makes with her adoptive parents, as well as friends from school. Everyone is very supportive and loving towards each other, and even when they do wrong, they always find ways to heal and improve their ways for the future.

If you were a fan of the Anne of Green Gables novels as a kid, or just want to get a different perspective on how to view the world, I would definitely recommend this show!

The Crown 

The Crown depicts the life of Queen Elizabeth II from the time of her coronation in the 1940s up until the present day. The show’s fourth season will arrive on Netflix in mid-November, taking the series into the 1980s. Claire Foy (The Girl in the Spider’s Web, First Man) played Queen Elizabeth II in the first two seasons alongside Matt Smith (Doctor Who, Terminator Genisys) as Prince Philip, while Olivia Coleman (Broadchurch, The Favourite) and Tobias Menzies (Outlander, Rome) have taken on these roles in seasons 3 and 4. 

By watching The Crown, I have learned a lot of fun facts about contemporary British history. For instance, did you know that Queen Elizabeth II was not meant to be the ruler of England, since her father was the second-born? She only started training for the throne when her uncle abdicated, and her father was forced to become the new king. It is fascinating to see aspects of American history intertwined within the story as well; two main aspects are the death of John F. Kennedy and the moon landing of 1969. The series also gives an interesting perspective into the lives of royals. Each day, the royal family must face the personal battle of putting their duty to the country above their own emotions and desires. The series specifically did an amazing job of depicting the struggles Queen Elizabeth’s sister, Princess Margaret, and her son, Prince Charles, had in living up to their strictly determined roles. 

Anyone interested in the modern British royal family should definitely watch this show, especially since the new season will bring the story of Princess Diana to life!

I really hope you enjoyed this list and that you start watching some of these series soon!

Hi! I am a sophomore who is studying history at Adelphi. I am so excited to start writing for Her Campus this fall!
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