MASTERPIECE: Historical Drama Collection


The award-winning MASTERPIECE series on PBS, known for its outstanding interpretations of classic literature, also offers compelling historical dramas. This collection provides educators with new and exciting ways to teach social studies. Along with videos from the series, resources include background information, discussion questions, activities, and research assignments that help students explore and understand historical events, people, and places.

For media resources on how to use film to teach literature, visit the MASTERPIECE Collection.

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    The Irish Famine | Victoria, Season 2

    Explore the causes and consequences of the “Great Famine,” a period of devastating hunger and disease in 1840s Ireland, in this video excerpt from the 2018 series Victoria, Season 2 | MASTERPIECE. As Queen Victoria learns about the suffering of the Irish due to the potato blight, she is counseled not to intervene by her prime minister, Sir Robert Peel, and her advisor, Charles Trevelyan. When she suggests a visit to Ireland, Peel cautions her that her safety could not be guaranteed. This resource is part of the MASTERPIECE Historical Drama Collection.

    Grades: 9-12
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    A Woman Mathematician | Victoria, Season 2

    Explore how Ada Lovelace, a brilliant mathematician, was not only able to escape the narrow expectations for 19th-century women, but also helped advance computing, in this video excerpt from the 2018 series Victoria, Season 2 | MASTERPIECE. Knowing that Prince Albert is an enthusiastic supporter of science—and an admirer of Lady Lovelace—Queen Victoria proposes a soirée to gather the “remarkable minds” of the time, including Lovelace (later known as the “Enchantress of Numbers”) and her colleague, Charles Babbage, credited for originating the idea of a programmable computer. This resource is part of the MASTERPIECE Historical Drama Collection.

    Grades: 9-12
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    Motherhood and Monarchy | Victoria, Season 2

    Learn how Queen Victoria both defined and defied the role of women in Victorian England in this video excerpt from the 2018 series Victoria, Season 2 | MASTERPIECE. Although Victoria supported the 19th-century notion that women should be subservient to their husbands, she was also a strong leader who ruled an empire. This resource is part of the MASTERPIECE Historical Drama Collection.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Queen Victoria and the Anti-Slavery Movement in England | Victoria, Season 1

    Learn about the role of the English anti-slavery movement in helping abolish slavery around the world, in this scene from the 2017 drama series MASTERPIECE: Victoria. When English abolitionists ask Queen Victoria for help with their anti-slavery convention, she expresses sympathy for the cause but declines. Her husband, Prince Albert, is intrigued. See Teaching Tips for how to use the video in the classroom.

    This resource is part of the MASTERPIECE Historical Drama Collection

    Grades: 9-12
  • Queen Victoria and the English Jury System | Victoria, Season 1

    Learn about trial by jury—an underlying principle of English and American law—in this scene from the 2017 drama series MASTERPIECE: Victoria. The queen, who has just survived an assassination attempt, refuses to bow to fear. She insists that she will uphold the jury’s decision that the assailant, deemed “not of sound mind,” should be sent to a hospital rather than jailed or executed. See Teaching Tips for how to use the video in the classroom. 

    This resource is part of the MASTERPIECE Historical Drama Collection.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Victoria Becomes Queen | Victoria, Season 1

    Meet young Victoria as she makes her first appearance as queen to address the advisors who make up her Privy Council, in this scene from the 2017 drama series MASTERPIECE: Victoria. Accompanying Teaching Tips and Essays explore the circumstances that led to Victoria becoming queen and England's constitutional monarchy system of government. 

    This resource is part of the MASTERPIECE Historical Drama Collection.

    Grades: 9-12

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