British period drama ‘Downton Abbey’ may have succeeded in captivating the nation since 2010, as well as succeeding with nominations in this year’s Emmy Awards for best drama – the only British entry, alongside ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘Orange Is the New Black’ and ‘Mad Men’.
However this year’s Christmas special seemed to have see the 1920s world draw to a close in a finale that reflected the spirit of Christmas, reconciliation and new beginnings. The post-Edwardian era of ‘Downton Abbey’, may offer an insight into class and social positions as well as some of the most prominent events in history and how they have impacted on the lives of the British social hierarchy.
In depicting the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants, the fictional Yorkshire country estate of Downton may reflect some of the most historically pivotal events in British History. Some of the events depicted throughout the series include news of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, the Spanish influenza pandemic, and the United Kingdom general election of 1923. The show may have generated its success due to its ability to convey a period in history with vibrancy and entertainment. Likewise it may have been pivotal to opening discussions surrounding the role TV Series may play in audience’s engagement with social class and the historical dynamics of 1920s England.
However, the final episode of ‘Downton Abbey’ this Christmas seemed to have seen 6.9 million viewers tuning into the festive drama, in which director Julian Fellowes may have chosen to direct the ending with themes of reconciliation regeneration and an aim for new beginnings. The episode included reconciled friendships and the resolve of previous rivalries. Likewise, the episode also left a lingering sense of possibility, with a wedding and possible new romances, new technology such as the introduction of the electric hairdryer, and the birth of a new child. This may have echoed many of the sentiments of Christmas added by the character Violet who toasted “We’re going forward to the future, [far from] back into the past.” “If only we had the choice.” The finale’s transhistorical message of social solidarity, co-habitation and forgiveness may have transgressed beyond a 1920s English setting and may have resonated with 21st century audiences.
Executive producer Gareth Naeme stated “We all feel very blessed. We have a final season that’s as strong as the first…We had the ambition that we had a complete show.” This may suggest the aim and spirit of the show succeeded in drawing in audiences and creating a sense of engagement and vibrancy through an innovative plot and an array of characters. Naeme adds “Some matters will be left open,” adding, “Romantic stories require resolution. However the fact is that our camera will gradually drift away from the Abbey and whichever inhabitants remain and we’ll leave them to continue their lives.”
The growth of the series which may be considered as documenting both historical periods as well as social change, particularly in females rights. This may be most particularly illustrated in scenes which explore inheritance and expresses the intergenerational power of patriarchal lineage.
‘Downton Abbey’ may have succeeded in providing a way for audiences to engage with historical dynamics of 1920s England, encouraging audiences to view period dramas as both educational as well as engaging sources to uncover an historical setting. The subject of historical dramas may see a larger popularity, with shows such as ITV’s ‘Mr. Selfridge’ and may greatly contribute to the ways in which audiences engage with earlier historical periods.
How may ‘Downton Abbey’ have influenced understanding of the historical period of 1920s England?