‘Historically Accurate’ Period Dramas

If you’re not in the UK you probably won’t be aware of a new drama, ‘The Crimson Field’, it’s being shown at 9pm on BBC1 on Sundays and is a drama series about nurses in the First World War.

There seems to be a theme in television dramas for sanitising the past- Downton Abbey, Mr Selfridge, Call the Midwife- and showing the pretty, dramatic side. ‘The Crimson Fields’ seems to be another example of this. The recent surge in First World War related things is due to the centenary of its beginning, so we can expect to see war related dramas filling our screens for the next four years.

I’m not sure how I feel about the sanitisation of the past being applied to a drama about the First World War… it seems a little disrespectful. Though I’m not going to say that the programme is bad I will say that it’s certainly a drama and should therefore be taken with a pinch of salt.

Some people get angry at dramas like this, they accuse them of ‘not being historically accurate’, whilst I can see where they’re coming from I do think that dramas shouldn’t be held as credible examples of historical research; if a writer wants to make something historically accurate then they can do- if they want to make something mushy and entertaining then that’s fine too.

I think that the issue with ‘The Crimson Fields’ is that it’s a drama about a sensitive topic; the trenches and the affect that the war had on soldiers is not something for a cosy Sunday night slot on BBC1, whilst they can try to make it a soap the fact remains that it’s dealing with something fairly serious.

I’m a massive history geek; when I write stories set in the past I take my time to do as much research as possible. Whilst it can never be 100% you can generally tell when a writer/director cares about accuracy and when they’re more interested in the exciting storylines.

Is it okay to sacrifice historical accuracy for drama when dealing with a subject like the First World War? I’m honestly not sure of my feelings on this one…

’til next time,

Wren x



2 thoughts on “‘Historically Accurate’ Period Dramas

  1. I’m enjoying the programme, and I love Call the Midwife, I like to think that these shows get people interested in history, so will go and learn more about the reality. It’s also about getting awareness of what happened to people, so it can never be forgotten.

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