Anna Whitelock's talking points: Plot twists
Yet another TV drama about the Tudor dynasty led Twitter users to ask: which other historical stories should be adapted for the small screen? Anna Whitelock went channel surfing
With Channel 5’s recent Anne Boleyn series retelling the story of the Tudor queen, economic historian Mark Koyama (@MarkKoyama) remarked: “It is crazy how many TV shows and movies retread the same historical ground. How many more times do we need to see Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn? There are so many other interesting historical stories.”
Dr Anton Howes (@antonhowes) quickly responded: “I think that Tudor privateers, merchants or explorers are fine. Just nothing that’s about Henry VIII’s or Elizabeth I’s private lives. In fact, a show about Edward VI’s regents would be pretty good,” but he concluded: “It is NOT allowed to include Lady Jane Grey.” Yung Tugwell (@TugwellYung) “would love a biopic about [sixth-century Byzantine empress] Theodora, or… a slow-burn horror film about the battle of Pliska [a ninth-century clash between the Byzantine and First Bulgarian empires]. Got it all: Byzantine arrogance, Bulgars fighting for their nation, guerrilla warfare, skull cups, really incredible stuff.”
Listen: A panel of experts tackle the big questions surrounding period drama in the 21st century and ask: what’s next?
Pseudoerasmus (@pseudoerasmus) had quite the manifesto: “1. Ban Tudor dramas. 2. Ban fall of the Roman republic dramas. 3. Dramatise the [story of the second-century BC brothers] Gracchi. Land reform is fashionable. 4. A long serial of the wars over the carcass of Alexander [the Great’s] empire. 5. Film Gore Vidal’s Julian [a 1964 historical novel chronicling the life of the fourth-century Roman emperor].”
Rustlem (@rustlem) thought that “a series on the life of [ancient Athenian nobleman] Alcibiades is long overdue,” while Jessica Yogini (@JessicaYogini) thought that “a good TV series about the Chinese cultural revolution would be so instructive, once people realised the parallels with their own world”.
Tony Addison (@TonysAngle) voted for “Mali’s empire, especially Mansa Musa… who inflated the Egyptian economy by bringing so much gold (on 100 camels) on his pilgrimage to Mecca.” Tristan Reed (@TristanReed_) concurred: “This would be a great series.”
Duncan Weldon (@DuncanWeldon) put together a wishlist of biopics of figures, including: “Keynes, Napoleon, Oliver Cromwell, Bismarck, and Charles V and Francis I as rivals”. David Clingingsmith (@dclingi) suggested an “unstinting East India Company vs Mughals series“, while Catgast (@catgast) wanted to see a “miniseries on Prince Eugene of Savoy [featuring] Marlborough only as a side-act”, adding: “In general, the Wars of Succession from a non-Brit viewpoint are sexy.”
Well, there’s a thought. Roll over the Tudors...
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This content first appeared in the September 2021 issue of BBC History Magazine