1st Edition

Post-heritage Perspectives on British Period Drama Television

By Will Abbiss Copyright 2023

    Drawing upon the existing scholarship of period drama and emerging research into new media ecologies, instigated by television streaming services such as Netflix, this book establishes a critical framework for understanding the representation of nationhood and cultural identity in television drama.

    By formalising the term ‘post-heritage’ the book proposes a methodology which recognises the interplay of traditional and innovative elements within period drama productions. The book applies this critical perspective to popular British period drama productions from the 2010s, with examples including The Crown, the ‘society dramas’ of Upstairs Downstairs and Downton Abbey, Steven Knight’s Dickens adaptations, and Stephen Poliakoff’s recent oeuvre, to demonstrate the benefits of evaluating period drama as part of twenty-first century television’s developments. It challenges the assumptions around characteristics and ideological purpose that period drama discourse often contends with, and offers new perspectives on understanding the past through televisual representations.

    This book will be important reading for students and scholars of television studies, film studies and cultural studies.

    Introduction: The Post-Heritage Framework 1. Society Dramas of the 2010s 2. Dickens Adaptations Beyond the Bicentenary 3. Matters of Royalty in The Crown 4. Poliakoff and Public Service in the 2010s 5. Conclusion: Post-Heritage Futures


    Will Stanford Abbiss received his doctorate from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, in 2021. His research focuses on representations of nationhood in long-form television drama, including the status of public service television in the twenty-first century. His scholarly research has been published in Television & New Media, the Journal of British Cinema and Television, the Journal of Popular Television and Critical Studies in Television, for which he is also an editorial assistant.

    ‘Offering a welcome, fresh focus on British television period drama since the 2010s, Post-heritage Perspectives on British Period Drama takes a considered approach to several key examples of the genre, situating them sensitively in relation to the contemporary televisual, cultural and socio-political context. With commendable even-handedness, the book reconsiders the critical framework within which period drama is most often appraised, utilising the concept of post-heritage in a nuanced and non-judgemental manner that enables appreciation of each programme on its own terms. The book’s emphasis on diversity and complexity mirrors the breadth of perspectives offered by programmes as varied as Downton Abbey, Upstairs Downstairs, The Crown, Dickensian and recent works by Stephen Poliakoff, amongst others.

    This book will appeal to scholars of British television, adaptation, period dramas and broadcast TV, as well as to readers who simply enjoy televisual historical fiction of many hues. It is to be hoped that this book’s thoughtful reappraisal and appreciation of the genre will rekindle and inspire wider interest into a form of television which remains popular, innovative and vibrant.’

    Dr Sarah Cardwell, University of Kent, United Kingdom.