How on earth did I miss this BBC series when it first turned up on American television?! A friend and I just watched twelve episodes in a three-day marathon. What a treat! If you are a history buff and you’ve not seen it, don’t pass up an opportunity to do so.
Set in the late 18th Century, and largely based on historical fact—gleaned in part from the archives of the Old Bailey—it explores the life and cases of William Garrow who pioneered the idea that the accused are entitled to be defended, that they should be considered innocent until proven guilty.
Garrow worked during the era of the parents (and sometimes grandparents) of the characters in our Regency novels. Nevertheless, there is a tremendous amount of background detail to be had here. And not just about concrete things like transportation and jail conditions.
We also gain insight into the underpinnings of events and attitudes that shaped the milieu of the Regency. For instance: government spies infiltrating the “corresponding societies”; the domestic relationships among the classes and the tacit acceptance of social mores that appall, yet intrigue us today; the utter lack of rights for women; and the English establishment’s incredible fear of an uprising like that of Revolutionary France. (Well, OK. Maybe not so very incredible. They had, after all, recently dealt unsuccessfully with that messy business in the American colonies.)
Most of all we see clearly (in our wonderful hindsight) sources of conflicts that shaped the Regency and would be resolved, though only partially, after the Regency, when Victoria came to the throne.
Garrow’s Law. A great series.