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World of “Downton Abbey” revealed through new course

Wednesday, August 28, 2013
World of “Downton Abbey” revealed through new course
By Katie Land, news editor

The cast of the hit PBS Masterpiece Classic series "Downton Abbey."
The fashionable and exclusive world of Lord Grantham and Lady Mary will be revealed to Oakland University students this fall, through the new course, “The World of Downton Abbey: Revolution, Rebellion, and Re-Creation.”

Inspired by the popular PBS series, “Downton Abbey,” which follows the lives of an aristocratic family and their household in early twentieth-century Britain, the course will go beyond fiction to explore historic issues in politics and society.

“My Ph.D. work was in Wales and England, and there I became an Anglophile,” said instructor Randall Engle.

“When “Downton Abbey” premiered, my wife and I were hooked. But the show is enriched even more when one understands the context of the Edwardian era: the reforms and revolts of the 1920s were unprecedented. Then the thought struck me: “Downton Abbey” would be a great entree into European culture and history.”

Oakland University's Meadow Brook Hall.
The series opened in 1912 with the sinking of the Titanic, and over the course of three seasons has traversed the First World War, women’s rights movement, changing socio-economic and class boundaries, religion, fashion, mass media, and more. The fourth season of the show is set to debut in the U.S. in early 2014, and is set in 1921.

The course has the unique feature of taking place at Oakland’s Meadow Brook Hall, considered to be the finest extant example of Tudor Revival architecture in the country. In 2012, The Hall was named a National Historic Landmark.

“In addition to lectures on English aristocracy, peerage, history, royalty and the Church of England, we'll also read and discuss the novel "Dreamers of the Day," and take several tours: of the "upstairs" life at Meadow Brook, of the "downstairs" life at Meadow Brook, and a fashion tour that includes Matilda Dodge Wilson's closets,” Dr. Engle said. “Of course, we will serve tea and biscuits during each class.”

For more information about courses and programs in the Honors College, view the website at

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