Civil War Institute
BBC America’s programming covers a wide range of genres, presenting characters, and settings that appeal to viewers around the world. In 2012, BBC began airing Copper, a period drama set in the ethnically diverse, crime and disease-ridden Five Points neighborhood in New York City in the late-Civil War years. The title, taken from the slang term for a police officer, centers on police detective work in the rapidly growing urban center. The characterizations, as well as the situations presented are not far off from historical fact. For various reasons, many of the characters have returned to the Five Points, and their experiences in war have ended, though the war itself rages on. As a result, their attitudes take on an historical tone of post-Civil War society, though the show takes place in the late-war years of 1863 and 1864. This is not an anachronistic flaw in the show, but rather depicts the characters’ own struggles to carry on in American society through the late-war years now that they have returned from war, and that their combat experiences have come to an end. Therefore, the following questions arise: what post-Civil War themes does “Copper” depict for television audiences, and how does the show contribute to the surge of both print and mass media in relation to the American Civil War? In this segment, we will consider the themes found in the show in terms of the post-war sentiments expressed by characters. [excerpt]
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Merlina, Valerie N., "History is Good Drama: BBC’s “Copper”" (2014). The Gettysburg Compiler: On the Front Lines of History. 50.