18th Century Period TV Shows That Captivate Audiences

The Great

If you traveled back to the 1700s, you'd see a much different world. No skyscrapers, cars, or electricity as far as the eye can see. Since we have yet to invent a time machine, your best bet to experience the sights and sounds of the past is to visit it in a TV show. From Aristocrats (1999) to Our Flag Means Death (2022-2023), these TV series bring the 18th century back to life.

1. Outlander (2014-)

Outlander Caitríona Balfe
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Television and Left Bank Pictures.

When a World War II nurse and her soldier husband reunite for a belated honeymoon in Scotland at the war's end, the woman visits a historic site and finds herself trapped in 1743. A group of Scottish revolutionaries picks her up, and soon, she must evade a sadistic British soldier who looks shockingly like her husband.

2. The Great (2020-2023)

The Great Elle Fanning
Image Credit: Thruline Entertainment and Echo Lake Entertainment.

The Great is a comedic period drama that chronicles Catherine the Great's journey to becoming Russia's longest-running female ruler. When she marries the Emperor of Russia in 1745, Catherine is excited to learn more about her new husband until she discovers his sadistic nature. After events at a party go wrong, Catherine hatches a plan to kill her husband and take over as Empress.

3. Turn: Washington's Spies (2014-2017)

TURN Washington's Spies JJ Feild
Image Credit: AMC Studios, Sesfonstein Productions, and Josephson Entertainment.

This Revolutionary War drama is based on a novel of the same title. It's about a group of spies working for the revolutionaries in British-occupied Long Island as they infiltrate military meetings for intel. Not only did they help the revolutionaries win the war, but they also set a high bar for American spies to follow.

4. Black Sails (2014-2017)

Black Sails
Image Credit: Starz.

During the 18th century Golden Age of Pirates, a mighty pirate leads other outcasts on a lawless island. But when the Spanish and British forces target his home, he embarks on an adventure with a moody young woman to uncover a treasure that will protect their people.

5. Aristocrats (1999)

Aristocrats
Image Credit: BBC America and WGBH Boston.

Based on the story of the Lennox sisters, members of an aristocratic British family in the 1700s, this period drama explores the conventions of the time through the eyes of four women. The daughters of an upstanding Duke must follow the strict rules set by their father and their status as they search for happiness.

6. Poldark (2015-2019)

Poldark Eleanor Tomlinson, Aidan Turner
Image Credit: Mammoth Screen and Masterpiece.

Poldark is an intense drama series that begins at the end of the American Revolution in 1783 when a soldier returns home from the battlefield. Upon his return, he's dismayed to learn that his father passed away and the woman he loves ditched him for another man while he was away.

7. The Book of Negroes (2015)

Someone Knows My Name Lyriq Bent, Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor
Image Credit: Out of Africa Entertainment and Conquering Lion Pictures.

This harrowing and essential series highlights a piece of history people often try to sweep under the rug. Based on a novel of the same name, The Book of Negroes follows an enslaved woman as her captors transport her across the ocean to South Carolina and sell her into slavery just as the Revolutionary War begins. After a miraculous escape, the woman takes a job to help enslaved people get to Canada to find freedom.

8. Frontier (2016-2018)

Frontier Jason Momoa
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox and Dream Waves.

Not many people know much about the 1700s fur trade in North America, but Frontier reveals the endeavor to be intense and profitable. The show follows an outlaw trapper on a mission to overthrow the greedy Hudson Bay Company's overwhelming monopoly over the Canadian fur trade.

9. John Adams (2008)

John Adams Paul Giamatti, Danny Huston
Image Credit: HBO Films.

This insightful period drama follows the life and achievements of the second President of the U.S. The series begins with John Adams' defense of the perpetrators of the Boston Massacre in 1770 and ends with his death on Independence Day in 1826.

10. Our Flag Means Death (2022-)

Our Flag Means Death Taika Waititi
Image Credit: CereProds, Dive, and HBO Max.

When an 18th-century aristocrat grows tired of his elite lifestyle in Barbados, he buys a ship and becomes a pirate. But the problem is that he has no idea how to captain a boat. As he and his crew attack other ships and attempt to survive at sea, he develops a charismatic rivalry with the legendary Blackbeard.

11. Tom Jones (2023)

Tom Jones
Image Credit: Masterpiece, ITV Studios, and Mammoth Screen.

Tom Jones is a romantic period series about a low-ranking man who falls in love with a beautiful British aristocrat. Because of his status, the woman's family does whatever it takes to keep the two apart. But they both seem to be drawn to each other despite all the obstacles.

12. Beecham House (2019)

Beecham House Dakota Blue Richards
Image Credit: Bend it TV.

Beecham House takes place just before the turn of the 19th century when an ex-soldier from the East India Tea Company moves to Delhi and purchases a manor for his family. He interacts with locals and attempts to keep his secrets under wraps.

13. Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story (2023-)

Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story Sam Clemmett, India Amarteifio
Image Credit: Shondaland.

In this spinoff of the popular Bridgerton series, we meet the lovable Charlotte as she begrudgingly prepares for her wedding to George III in 1761. At the same time, the series jumps forward in time to the early 1800s as Queen Charlotte searches for a potential heir to the throne.

14. Harlots (2017-2019)

Harlots Poppy Corby-Tuech
Image Credit: Monumental Pictures.

This suspenseful and informative series gives viewers a sneak peek into a past we rarely discuss today. It's about a powerful female brothel owner in 18th-century London as she and a rival Madam battle for business. The two risk it all as they fight each other to the bitter end.

15. Marie Antoinette (2022-)

Marie Antoinette Emilia Schüle
Image Credit: Banijay Studios France, CAPA Drama, and Les Gens.

Marie Antoinette shares a new, more nuanced light on the life of France's last queen than we typically hear in our history classrooms. It chronicles her life from when she was sent to Versailles to marry Louis XVI. Viewers will uncover tantalizing secrets about the queen's life and death as the seasons continue.

16. Sanditon (2019-2023)

sanditon2
Image Credit: Britbox.

Sanditon is based on Jane Austen's final but unfinished work of the same name, following Charlotte Heywood as she moves from her rural home to a fishing village. The fishing village of Sandition is small, but it's trying to reinvent itself into a glamourous seaside resort. But when Charlotte arrives, she meets the charming and ambitious Sidney Parker.

17. Little Dorrit (2017-2019)

little dorrit
Image Credit: BBC.

Little Dorrit follows the Dorrit family, who are dealing with their father being in debtor's prison and who are too proud to accept any help. But young Amy Dorrit is kind and brings her family into contact with the upper classes of English society, interlinking the family with a wealthy family they know. The show is based on a work by Charles Dickens.

18. Beecham House (2019)

beechmanhouse
Image Credit: Bend it TV.

On the verge of the 19th Century, a former British soldier arrives in India at his new mansion with a baby who happens to be mixed-race. As the show goes on, several mysteries and questions are brought up and questioned as life continues in this ever-changing landscape of Delhi. The show was only one season and wasn't renewed for a second.

19. La Révolution (2020)

la revolution
Image Credit: Netflix.

La Rèvolution is a reimagined version of the French Revolution, where the guillotine's future inventor discovers a disease that makes the aristocracy lose themselves and murder the commoners. The show is only one season, but seeing how history could have been entirely different is fun.

20. Crossbones (2014)

crossbones
Image Credit: NBCUniversal Media.

Pirate shows will always be popular, and the golden age of piracy was in the 1700s. This retelling of Blackbeard and his crew follows as the group pirates around the Bahamas, all while Blackbeard has an assassin on his back. This show stars John Malkovich, Claire Foy, and Richard Coyle.

Author: Maya Capasso

Title: Freelance Entertainment Journalist

Expertise: Entertainment, LGBTQ+, TV, Movies, Games, Lifestyle

Bio:

Maya Capasso is a passionate journalist and content writer with over 3 years of experience writing in the entertainment, lifestyle, and culture space, currently serving as an Entertainment Journalist and Trending Topics Writer for Wealth of Geeks. Maya's BAs in History and Women's & Gender Studies gave her research chops and a discerning eye for social commentary.