This is a blog written by two friends who are history anoraks with a particular interest in Britain from 1870 to 1939. Some of what we will be sharing in this blog will use Downton Abbey as a reference point. Why?
Downton Abbey has been a phenomenon since it debuted on ITV in September 2010 and one that caught our interest since it is set during the period in which we specialise. However, as the series has progressed, we have become annoyed by the programme’s ahistorical bent (yes it is fiction but it still has to have some grounding in the realities of the time it was set), simplistic view of history and the untruths that has been deliberately peddled. The programme is set during a crucial period in the history of Britain especially as there were events that have had a wide impact then and continue to do so even today such as women’s suffrage, the People’s Budget, the rise of socialism and the Labour movement, World War 1 and an increasingly globalised economy. They illustrate how the old pre-war order, brimming with confidence at the beginning of the twentieth century was gradually swept aside and supplanted by a new world order with the middle and working classes as a political and economic force to be reckoned with.
As students of late nineteenth and early twentieth century British history, we will be looking into the political, economic and social realities behind Downton Abbey’s narrative, plotting and characterisations and hopefully attempt to help shed light on this vital period that help shaped Britain into the nation that it is.
We are aware that criticism of Downton Abbey will lead to comments along the lines of “if you don’t like it, don’t watch it”. Apart from watching the programme because of the time frame it was set, we are fans of the actor Hugh Bonneville and those two are the reasons why we continue to watch the programme.