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7 Shows like Outlander: Historical Novels Turned TV Series

Since it exploded onto screens at the end of 2014, ‘Outlander’ – based on the much-beloved books of author Diana Gabaldon – has joined an impressive and still-growing alumni of historical fiction novels turned into successful and binge-worthy series. Series like ‘John Adams’, ‘World without End’ and ‘Poldark’ achieve similar feats, so if you are amidst a Jamie Fraser drought, try these fantastic TV shows like ‘Outlander’ to immerse yourself in history.

Dive into the Past

Based on the series of novels by Diana Gabaldon, this show historical time travel on focus. A love story set against the backdrop of looming war in 1740s Highland Scotland, ‘Outlander’ has captured the attention of period drama-loving viewers with its rich scenery, attention to historical detail, top-notch characters and vividly imagined rendering of times past.

Beginning in 1945, former war nurse Claire Randall transported back to the Highlands almost 200 hundred years in the past, where she struggles to survive in a foreign world full of political unrest, castles, rudimentary medical attention and gruff Highlanders.

But if you love books-turned-historical-TV, there’s plenty more to choose from. If you are as much a book worm as a show buff, you might as well want to check these books like ‘Outlander’.


Shows Similar to ‘Outlander’…

‘World without End’ (Starz, 2012)

A sequel to ‘The Pillars of the Earth’ in one sense (it is set in the same fictional town but works as a standalone series), ‘World without End’ also based on a Ken Follett novel of the same name. Set 150 years later, it chronicles the experiences of the fictional town of Kingsbridge during the start of the Hundred Years’ War and the outbreak of the Black Death in 1300s England.

Again, it focuses mainly on the lives of ordinary people, as Kingsbridge woman Caris and her lover and former nobleman Merthin stand up to the church to lead a community to stability and prosperity in spite of all obstacles, including the clergy and the throne.

Similarity Match: 90%
There’s no time travel, however both strong female leads fight for what’s right and the man they love while practicing some early historical medical treatment.

‘Poldark’ (BBC1, 2015-Present)

Based on Winston Graham’s original novels, this is the second time the BBC has made an adaption of ‘Poldark’, with the first being aired in 1975. Set in late 18th century Cornwall, British Army officer Ross Poldark returns home after having fought in the American Revolutionary War, only to find his fiancée Elizabeth, who believes him to be dead, about to marry his cousin Francis.

‘Poldark’ throws himself into reviving his fortunes by restoring the family’s derelict tin mines. He saves poor servant girl Demelza from a beating, takes her on as a kitchen maid and eventually marries her, convinced he is reconciled to the loss of Elizabeth as he struggles against his enemies to survive in business.

Similarity Match: 85%
In both series war divides loyalties and tests relationships but Poldark’s fighting days are over and his struggles are much closer to home.

‘Sharpe’ (ITV, 1993-2008)

Starring Sean Bean (‘Game of Thrones’) as the titular character in ‘Sharpe’, the series is based on Bernard Cromwell’s novels and follows a fictional British soldier during the Napoleonic Wars. It is a precursor to more recent popular historical dramas but loses little in terms of drama and plot development, despite its premiere being more than 20 years ago.

Dashing rifleman Richard Sharpe is engaged in conflict around Europe in the 19th century, surviving against seemingly impossible odds. After the initial series, several two-part series were made a decade later but all are worth the watch.

Similarity Match: 80%
It’s set 100 years after ‘Outlander’ but the struggles of ordinary heroes fighting in extraordinary times still strike the same chord.

‘The White Queen’ (BBC1, 2013)

Another BBC1 television drama series, ‘The White Queen’ is based on Phillipa Gregory’s historical novel series ‘The Cousins’ War’, which follows the story of the true-life women who played central figures in the 15th century conflict over the throne of England – known as the Wars of the Roses.

Elizabeth Woodville (‘The White Queen’), Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville play instrumental roles in the quest for power as the Houses of York and Lancaster come to conflict over who should rule. Elizabeth’s love for and dedication to her husband, King Edward IV is set against a backdrop of political intrigue and social instability. A sequel series is in the works.

Similarity Match: 80%
There’s much more political manoeuvring in ‘The White Queen’ but women take starring roles in both series, showing history is never made by men alone.

‘The Pillars of the Earth’ (Starz, 2010)

‘The Pillars of the Earth’ is set in the 12th century fictional town of Kingsbridge against the very real backdrop of the sinking of the White Ship and the murder of Thomas Becket, during a period known as the Anarchy.

It is based on Ken Follett’s novel and although war, regal power struggles and social injustice permeates the world of Kingsbridge and the Kingsbridge Priory, master builder Tom, his unlikely apprentice Jack and nobly-born Aliena help build a magnificent cathedral against all odds.

Similarity Match: 75%
Another against-the-odds love story featuring the struggle against social injustice and heavy-handed rulers but through the eyes of the ordinary people whose stories are rarely told.


If You Like ‘Outlander’, You Will Like…

If you’re a fan of historical drama but like a bit more fiction and much more action, why not try some fast-paced gritty shows set in the gruesome times of the Roman Empire?

‘Spartacus’ (Starz, 2010-2013)

Inspired by the heroic historical figure of the same name, ‘Spartacus’ chronicles the life of a Thracian gladiator, who rises from obscurity as a war chief in his own tribe to one of the finest fighters of the Roman Empire. Blood, sweat and sex is abound in this series.

Much bloodier than ‘Outlander’, ‘Spartacus’ pulls no punches when it comes to brutal combat.

‘Rome’ (HBO, 2005-2007)

Set in the first century during Ancient Rome’s transition from Republic to Empire, ‘Rome’ follows the fortunes of two soldiers Lucia and Titus, who become embroiled in the political, social and physical struggles that sweep the land they have fought for.

With a more sprawling cast and interconnecting storylines, ‘Rome’ takes in the length and breadth of the period it chronicles.


Conflict, Romance and History

There’s no doubt some of the best storylines have already been written and lived, from Ancient Rome to mid-18th century Scotland, but these clever writers, producers and directors have brought them back to life. There are tons of TV series like ‘Outlander’ to pick from and provide your entertainment from the past.

What historical drama would you want to feature in?

Tell us in the comments below!

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