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Historical Drama

19 Jan Historical Drama

There is an interesting article in History Today written by Tim Stanley an associate fellow of the Rothermere American Institute, Oxford University which focuses on false memory syndrome. He writes a damning review of Downton Abbey dismissing it, 

as more of a well-informed soap than a piece of serious historical drama. The plot is pure Coronation Street, while the dialogue feels as if it is culled from Wikipedia.’

However, he reserves his greatest condemnation for its false memory of class relations. In his article he juxtaposes the reality of Edwardian England with the Downton depiction of life in the early 20th century. He stresses that:

  • Servants entered the household invisibly through their own doors
  • Marriages and babies could lead to dismissal.
  • One servant given authority over another invariably had to be cruel and distant in order to be taken seriously.
  • The devotion that nannies were supposed to exert over their wealthy charges was very rare.

He believes that with many of the modern dramas the British like to,

 take comfort in a past that only seems so good because so few are alive to remember it well.

Downton Abbey is good Sunday evening television drama, and if it encourages our students to carry out more research about the Edwardian period, then in my view it probably does no real harm at all.

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