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Back in Time for... A-Z

Back in Time for... A-Z

I love those shows where modern people live like their forefathers for a couple of weeks. It's not the same as living history, true, but it's as close as we can get. And always makes for good entertainment!

Here's an A-Z guide of all my favourites...

Surviving the Stone Age 

Eight survival experts spend a month in rural Bulgaria recreating life in the Stone Age. These shows are usually looking at the recent past so it's great fun to see some 'real' history. ;) Other Stone Age offerings include 10,000 BC (2015) and Steinzeit - Das Experiment (2007).

BBC Historic Farm 
B - BBC Historic Farm

Back in Time for Christmas 

Back in Time for Christmas is a must watch for the festive season! You can practically feel the nostalgia oozing from your TV screen.

Back in Time for Dinner 

As in, Back in Time for Dinner. Part cookery show, part reality show, all edutainment. There's a reason this show spawned an entire brand. They also did Further Back in Time for Dinner, and Back in Time for Tea. In the same kind of vein I also recommend The Supersizers... which explores the menus of yesteryear. Sweden did their own version from 2012 onwards called Historieätarna.

Once you've glutted on those, you can try The Diets That Time Forgot from 2008.

Edwardian Country House 

Upstairs, downstairs - but with even less glamour for the latter!

Back in Time for the Factory 

Series five of Back in Time for... was set in a textile factory, from 1968 to the present day. 

MTV's 70s House 

As a rule the genre operates on an edutainment basis, with editing relied upon to make the most of personality clashes and tensions. Some go for a full on game show style approach however. E.g. In 2005 MTV aired The 70s House which contestants figured would be a Big Brother style show - little realising they were about to enter a timewarp! In 2017 it was followed up with 90's House.

Coal House 

Coal House was a BBC Wales show set right here in Torfaen, up at Stack Square in Blaenavon. Series 1 recreated the 1920s, while series 2 had the participants reliving 1944. 

Living in the Past


Way back in 1978 BBC2 had 15 volunteers spend a year living the Iron Age life for Living in the Past. Then the Beeb did it all over again in 2001 for Surviving the Iron Age.

Wakey Wakey Campers 

Recreate organised fun at its finest with Wakey Wakey Campers. Atherfield Bay Holiday Camp on the Isle of Wight was taken back to the 1960s for this 2005 Channel 4 series. 

Warrior Challenge 

2003's Warrior Challenge had people recreating military life from various time periods. The History Channel also did Conquest around the same time which looked at weapons and battle styles from different times. Find more military re-enactment via Timewatch: Roman Soldiers To Be (2001), The Trench (2002), and Spitfire Ace (2004). 

Lad's Army 

Four series of modern day recruits being put through 1950s style National Service.

Secrets of the Castle 

BBC2's 2014 Secrets of the Castle visited Guédelon Castle in France, an experimental archaeology project being constructed using medieval methods.

The 1900 House 
N - 1900 HOUSE

First aired in December 1999 this is the first 'historical reality' show I remember seeing and it instantly hooked my interest. I wanted to live as a Victorian for three months too! The thing this series best illustrated for me, years before Downton Abbey did the same thing with the Matthew + Valet storyline, was how difficult it can be for us to understand how past societies worked.

The mother in the 1900 house felt superfluous for employing a maid of all work and so 'liberated' her from the drudgery by doing the work herself. ...But without that work a Victorian housemaid could quickly find herself destitute, and a mistress who dismissed a maid without good reason would be viewed very harshly indeed. 

Outback House


Historical reality goes down under! Outback House recreates life at an 1861 sheep station in New South Wales.

The same production team from 1900s/Edwardian/etc House worked on this, as well as a few US adaptions: Frontier House (2002), Colonial House (2004), and Texas Ranch House (2006).

Victorian Pharmacy 

2010 show exploring the growth in the pharmacy trade between the 1830s and 1900. One of the highlights is definitely Ruth Goodman making sheep intestine condoms in a bucket!

The Quest 

There are a whole bunch of shows in this Canadian historical reality series. It all started with Pioneer Quest: A Year in the Real West in 2001 which was followed up in 2002 by Quest for the Bay. 2003 brought us Quest for the Sea which recreated life in a rural 1930s fishing village. The final entry was 2004's Klondike: The Quest for Gold which focused on life during the gold rush.

The image comes from the ABC (and, later, Disney+) show The Quest which transports contestants to a historical fantasy realm. It's not quite historical reality but it's still good fun.

Regency House Party 

Regency House Party was a 2004 series for Channel 4 that explored the social mores of the regency by assigning set identities to modern day volunteers. For more regency flashbacks, check out 2013's Pride and Prejudice: Having a Ball by the BBC.

Back in Time for the Corner Shop 

Series seven of Back in Time for... tracked the British corner shop from Victorian times to the present day. For other shops try Turn Back Time - The High Street from 2010.

Back in Time for School 
T - That'll Teach 'Em

Channel 4 did three series of That'll Teach 'Em back in 2003-06, recreating 1950s grammar and 1960s secondary modern schools. Series six of Back in Time for... also explored British education from 1895 to the present day. This was the first one I watched that I really related to in a nostalgic sense. Seeing the retro IT lessons presented as history made me feel ancient!

School time slips are always a popular topic - some other options include: Dat zal ze leren, Die harte Schule der 50er Jahre, and 2008's Die Bräuteschule 1958 which recreated a 1950s housekeeping school.

The Ship 

And upon it! 2002's The Ship: Retracing Cook's Endeavour Voyage had 55 people living as 18th century sailors. If you prefer 19th century seafaring, check out 2007's Windstärke 8.

Victorian Slum House 

This BBC show from 2016 had people reliving the life of East End slum dwellers between the 1860s and 1890s. You can only capture a glimpse of the horror of slum life, but just seeing the dimensions of the rooms in action, etc, really adds to your understanding of the difficulties. 

Back in Time for the Weekend 

Series two of Back in Time for... looked at how our available leisure time - and what we can do with it - has changed between the 1950s and today. 

24 Hours in the Past 


Have you ever wanted to watch Ann Widdecombe getting her hands really dirty? Well, 2015 BBC documentary 24 Hours in the Past has you covered. Instead of the usual random members of the public, the show takes a bunch of celebs and sticks them in various disgusting recreations of Victorian squalor. It's one of the most underrated shows of the genre, imo, especially as you spend most of the time thinking 'they can't possibly do that - omg, they're already doing it!'

Opposite Worlds 

Sometimes the genre doesn't just seek to recreate the past - it wants to envision the future. E.g. Chilean reality show Mundos Opuestos split contestants into a stone age past and a space age future. Syfy produced their own version, Opposite Worlds, in 2004.


The quintessential UK historical reality experience is WW2 based. There have been a few shows already mentioned in this list but, as you might expect, there are many more! One of the most interesting is CBBC's Evacuation show which had modern (2006 & 2008) children re-enacting what it was like to be a wartime evacuee.

Other wartime based shows to watch include 2001's The 1940s House, 1993's The Wartime Kitchen and Garden, and 2004's The Home Front. 

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