15 Must-See Miniseries for Historical Drama Fans

15 Must-See Miniseries for Historical Drama Fans
Image credit: Netflix, BBC Worldwide, Hulu, Warner Bros., All3Media

Forget Bridgerton spin-off, these series are true hidden gems.

For fans of historical dramas who love diving into the past without committing to a long TV series, miniseries offer the perfect solution; they're like short, sweet dives into different times and places, giving you all the drama, intrigue, and historical details without the long-term commitment.

1. John Adams (2008)

Rotten Tomatoes score: 82%

Chronicling the life of John Adams, from his role in advocating for American independence as a Massachusetts lawyer, through his turbulent terms as the second President of the United States, and concluding with his personal and professional relationship with Thomas Jefferson, highlighting his significant contributions, personal sacrifices, and the foundational moments in the early history of the United States.

2. Wolf Hall (2015)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%

This series follows the rise of Thomas Cromwell, a blacksmith's son, as he becomes the manipulative adviser to King Henry VIII, navigating the deadly politics of the Tudor court while influencing major events like the King's marriage to Anne Boleyn and the English Reformation, showcasing Cromwell's sharp intellect and survival tactics in a time of upheaval.

3. The White Queen (2013)

Rotten Tomatoes score: 80%

Set against the backdrop of the Wars of the Roses, it dramatizes the life of Elizabeth Woodville, who marries King Edward IV in secret, her rise to power, the ensuing political machinations, and the struggle of the House of Lancaster and York for the English throne, revealing the challenges faced by a commoner-turned-queen amid royal intrigue.

4. Hatfields & McCoys (2012)

Rotten Tomatoes score: 71%

This miniseries dramatizes the true story of the post-Civil War feud between the Hatfield family in West Virginia and the McCoy family in Kentucky, which escalated from petty conflicts to violent deaths, highlighting the legendary feud's impact on the families and the legal system's attempts to intervene.

5. The Pillars of the Earth (2010)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 77%

In the fictional town of Kingsbridge, during the 12th century, this epic tale intertwines the lives of a monk, a builder, a noblewoman, and their adversaries as they struggle to build a cathedral amidst war, religious strife, and the power struggles within the monarchy and the church, reflecting the ambition, righteousness, and cruelty of the era.

6. World Without End (2012)

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A sequel to "The Pillars of the Earth," set in the same town of Kingsbridge during the 14th century, follows the descendants of the original characters as they face the onset of the Black Death, the Hundred Years' War, and the shifting social and political landscape, striving to build a better future amidst chaos and adversity.

7. Gunpowder (2017)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 72%

This series retells the historical events leading up to the 1605 Gunpowder Plot, where Robert Catesby, a Catholic gentleman, leads a group including Guy Fawkes in a deadly plot to blow up the House of Lords and kill King James I, in an attempt to end the persecution of Catholics in England.

8. Roots (2016)

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A remake of the 1977 series based on Alex Haley's novel, tracing the history of an African man, Kunta Kinte, captured and sold into slavery in America, and his descendants, over several generations, showcasing the brutal realities of slavery, the fight for freedom, and the quest for identity against the backdrop of significant historical events.

9. Barkskins (2020)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 55%

Set in the late 17th century in New France, it explores the mysterious massacre of settlers in the vast and unforgiving wilds of the New World, following the lives of two immigrants bound to work in exchange for land, navigating the harsh realities of colonization, and the intertwining destinies of natives, settlers, and traders.

10. War & Peace (2016)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 88%

An adaptation of Tolstoy's classic, this series captures the lives of aristocratic families in Russia during the Napoleonic Wars, focusing on the interconnected stories of Pierre Bezukhov, Natasha Rostova, and Andrei Bolkonsky, as they seek love, meaning, and redemption in a society on the brink of drastic change.

11. Alias Grace (2017)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 99%

Based on the true story of Grace Marks, a young Irish immigrant and domestic servant in Upper Canada who is convicted of the brutal murders of her employer and his housekeeper in 1843, the series weaves through Grace's life, from her immigration to the murders and her incarceration, as a psychiatrist assesses her sanity, revealing a complex character caught in a web of societal expectations, gender roles, and class divisions.

12. SS-GB (2017)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 89%

Set in a 1941 alternative history where Nazi Germany has occupied Britain following a successful Operation Sea Lion, this series follows Detective Douglas Archer of Scotland Yard as he investigates a murder tangled with resistance fighters, German rulers, and the struggle of maintaining law and order in a fascist regime, uncovering a much larger conspiracy at play.

13. Parade's End (2012)

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Rotten Tomatoes Audience score: 60%

Spanning from the Edwardian era through World War I, this series focuses on Christopher Tietjens, a conservative British aristocrat, who must deal with personal turmoil, including his marriage to the beautiful but cruel socialite Sylvia and his love for the young suffragette Valentine Wannop, against the backdrop of a changing society and the chaos of war.

14. Elizabeth I (2005)

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This miniseries highlights the latter half of Elizabeth I's reign, focusing on her relationships with the Earl of Leicester and the Earl of Essex, her handling of political intrigue, challenges to her power, and the balancing act of being a woman in a male-dominated world, culminating in her legacy as one of England's greatest monarchs.

15. Freud (2020)

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Rotten Tomatoes score: 50%

A fictionalized account of young Sigmund Freud in late 19th-century Vienna, it combines mystery and drama as Freud, alongside a psychic medium and a traumatized policeman, delves into a series of gruesome murders, using his revolutionary theories of psychoanalysis to uncover the dark secrets and conspiracies of a society on the edge of modernity.