Fans of brutalist history rejoice. Michael Hirst, creator of The History Channel’s hit series Vikings, is set to produce a new miniseries about the bubonic plague outbreak in 17th century England. As reported by Variety, Hirst will serve as executive producer on The Plague Year, a limited event series set in London in the year 1665, right in the midst of the Great Plague of London.
The plague and its various forms decimated much of Central Asia, continental Europe, and North Africa during a pandemic that came to be called the Black Death, which originated in 1331 and spread for decades. The disease became endemic after that period, resurging regularly for the next several centuries. The Great Plague of London, the subject of History’s miniseries, lasted from 1665 to 1666 and was the last major outbreak of the disease in England, killing nearly a quarter of the city’s population in less than two years.
That’s not the only seriously grim subject History is looking to tackle. The network announced that it is also developing a limited series based on the ill-fated Donner Party. Titled simply The Donner Party, the series follows an ill-fated group of pioneers traveling from Missouri to California who became stranded in the Sierra Nevada mountain range for an entire winter, having to resort to cannibalism to stay alive. Nearly half of the group’s 87 members died before help finally arrived. Documentary filmmaker Ric Burns is set to script the series and serve as showrunner, and will executive produce alongside Nancy Buirski.
“History’s scripted programming in development embraces our roots with premium historical miniseries that resonate with our audience and complement our event megadoc content centered on big moments throughout our history,” said Eli Lehrer, executive vice president and general manager for The History Channel. “We look forward to partnering again with the brilliant Michael Hirst and teaming with Ric Burns and our very own A+E Studios to deliver content that will entertain, enlighten, and engage our viewers’ curiosity about the past. We’ve been evolving our scripted business model for the brand, with a shift in focus to our legacy in big event limited-series, including both fully commissioned and co-produced projects.”
Obviously there’s no release window yet in sight for either series, but both seem like interesting subjects to tackle in a historical drama.