What is it about?

Downton Abbey engages in historical issues about sex (consent and rape; birth control; women's right to pleasure; gay rights) that resonate with cobtemporary viewers' concerns and values. While often criticized for its conservative politics, the period drama has transgressive potential.

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Why is it important?

Dowton Abbey is the most watched period drama in TV history. Its impact on audiences, and how viewers interpret British history, should not be ignored.


I approach Downton Abbey and other period dramas as both a historian and a viewer myself. The emotional impact these series have on audiences, and how we talk about such personal topics as sex and pleasure, whether in the Edwardian era or today, should be explored by historians.

Julie Taddeo
University System of Maryland

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This page is a summary of: Let's Talk about Sex: Period Drama Histories for the Twenty-first Century, Journal of British Cinema and Television, January 2019, Edinburgh University Press, DOI: 10.3366/jbctv.2019.0455.
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