The lowdown on 'Downton': Rowan historian to host Sunday night discussions on PBS' 'Downton Abbey'

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PBS’ wildly popular, Emmy-winning “Downton Abbey” series will be the talk of Rowan University’s campus on Sundays this spring as History Professor Stephen Hague presents a series of six “Downton Discussions.”

PBS’ wildly popular, Emmy-winning “Downton Abbey” series will be the talk of Rowan University’s campus on Sundays this spring as History Professor Stephen Hague presents a series of six “Downton Discussions.”

Beginning Sunday, Jan. 19, and running each Sunday through Feb. 23, the discussions are designed to examine specific aspects of the historical background of the show, which is beginning its fourth season on PBS. The discussions are free and open to the public and the University community.

A British period drama, the series premiered on PBS in the U.S. in 2011. It depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants.

“Downton Discussions,” which begin at 8:15 p.m. each Sunday in the auditorium of Rowan’s Bozorth Hall off Route 322, will include an introductory talk by Hague followed by a viewing of the evening’s program at 9 p.m.

“The discussions are meant to be a lively and interesting way to bring history together with a great and popular TV program,” says Hague, who joined Rowan last year and teaches courses in modern European history with a special interest in Britain and the British Empire from a global perspective.

“‘Downton Discussions’ were first suggested to me by students in my British history class last fall. The discussions will examine the historical background of ‘Downton Abbey.’”

One talk, Hague says, will discuss, in “layman’s terms,” the central problem of the whole program.

“Namely,” Hague says, “what is an ‘entail,’ and why couldn’t Lady Mary inherit the estate? Another will discuss the social structure of Britain to try to make sense of lords and ladies, earls and dukes, kitchen maids and scullery maids. There will also be talks on technology in the period, how people dressed, and even dining etiquette.”

Presented by Rowan’s College of Humanities & Social Sciences, the Student History Association and Phi Alpha Theta, the history honor society, the talks will be a fun way to explore history and answer some questions devoted viewers have about the show, says Hague. It may even attract some new “Downton” devotees, he adds.

“If people come away from each talk saying something like, ‘I always wondered about that. Now, I understand,’ I will consider it a good success,” says Hague, who earned his doctorate in history from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

Hague’s research examines the intersection of architecture, material culture and social history. His first book, The Gentleman’s House in the British Atlantic World, 1680-1780, will be published next year.

The “Downton Discussions” schedule is as follows:

-       Jan. 19: “Why do we love it? An introduction to ‘Downton Abbey’”

-       Jan. 26: “What is an entail? The problem of property in ‘Downton Abbey’”

-       Feb. 2: “Where does an earl fit? Explaining British social structure”

-       Feb. 9: “One swallow doesn’t make a summer: Sex and sexuality at ‘Downton’”

-       Feb. 16: “‘This is Carson the Butler’: The impact of technology”

-       Feb. 23: “White tie or black tie? Clothing and style at ‘Downton’”

For information on “Downton Discussions,” contact Hague at hague@rowan.edu.

 

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