Winston Graham’s Poldark Novels in Order

Ross Poldark is handsome, broody and rebellious. He is the Byronic hero of Winston Graham’s historical novel series Poldark.

When the story begins, Poldark is a British Army officer returning to Cornwall from the American War of Independence, only to find his life in ruins. His father has died, his family home has fallen into disrepair, and the woman he was meant to marry, believing him dead, is engaged to his cousin. Ross wants to reopen one of his family’s abandoned copper mines in order to rebuild his fortunes.

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Reading The Poldark Book Series in Order

The complete Poldark series spans 12 books and should be read in chronological order (the same as the publication order).

Poldark’s First Cycle (1783-1799)

The first seven novels transport readers back to the 18th century, following the journey of Ross Poldark, Demelza, and their families as they confront various challenges. There is a long hiatus between Warleggan and The Black Moon. To know more about it, see below for Graham’s explanation!

Ross Poldark (1945)
Demelza (1946)
Jeremy Poldark (1950)
Warleggan (1953)
The Black Moon (1973)
The Four Swans (1976)
The Angry Tide (1977)

Poldark’s Second Cycle (1783-1799)

The five next books are set in the early years of the 19th century and focus on the lives of the descendants of the previous novels’ main characters.

The Stranger from the Sea (1981)
The Miller’s Dance (1982)
The Loving Cup (1984)
The Twisted Sword (1990)
Bella Poldark (2002)

Winston Graham and the writing of Poldark

In his Memoirs of a Private Man, Winston Graham explained how he thought that most writers – except for the real Cornish writers – “used the country because it was romantic, but never even tried to understand it”. 

Graham wasn’t born in Cornwall but moved there when he was 17 years old. By his own account, he fell in love with Cornwall but could he write an historical novel set in the county? Even his wife was doubtful the first time he told her about it.

After all, his early novels were modern thrillers and set in other parts of the country – with the exception of The Forgotten Story, a novel of Cornwall in 1898. But no doubt that the story of the Poldarks was developing. As he explained:

There had been growing in my mind a story which was unoriginal in its inception but which fortunately broke the mould as it went along. Before the war I had sketched out a few characters, then while I was waiting for call-up I used to walk to my mother’s bungalow – furnished but empty since her coming to live with us – and there I began to write the first few chapters of Ross Poldark. It was a strange contrast for me between the formidable war news and the many complexities of modern life and the total isolation of an empty bungalow – a mile from my house – with a long lawn, a flowing stream and pastoral silences.’

While he didn’t plan at first for a book series, it became obvious he had more to say when he approached the end of Ross Poldark. So he wrote more books and the world of Poldark came to life through a mix of Graham’s love for Cornwall and his dedication to research and historical fact.

As he wrote in his semi-autobigraphical book Poldark’s Cornwall, “I take off my hat to historical fact, for without it I could never have written the Poldarks. I have an inventive brain and a good imagination, but I could never have devised all the events that fill those pages.”

After four novels, Winston Graham chose to turn his attention towards the modern world and he would only come back to the Poldarks after a long hiatus. The writer explained in a preface to The Black Moon how he found himself coming back to the book series:

Many years ago I wrote four novels about the Poldark family and eighteenth-century Cornwall. But after finishing them the modern world, and particularly the techniques of suspense, came to interest me more. Although thinking vaguely that some time in the future it might be enjoyable to pick up the Poldarks again, I gradually drifted further and further away from them in mood and in style. One does not grow older without development and change. Eventually the idea of writing another book about them came to be something not really open to serious consideration. But sometimes the totally unexpected occurs, and one day last year, for no discoverable reason, it became necessary for me to see what happened to these people after Christmas night, 1793. I became very preoccupied with finding out, and it appeared to me, rightly or wrongly, that to return to an old mood was as much of a challenge as creating a new one. The Black Moon is the result.

After that, Winston Graham had mostly written about the Poldarks for the rest of his literary career.

Eleanor Tomlinson and Aidan Turner in the 2015 BBC TV adaptation of Poldark.

Poldark on Television

The first BBC television series adaptation of Winston Graham’s novels broadcast in the United Kingdom from 1975 to 1977, starring Robin Ellis and Angharad Rees. The two seasons covered the first seven novels, and the show became one of the most popular British television adaptations of all time.

More than twenty years later, the world of Poldark was the focus of a pilot episode titled “The Stranger from the Sea,” starring John Bowe as Ross Poldark and Mel Martin as Demelza. Following a poor pilot and fan protests, no additional episodes were made.

The Poldarks returned to television in 2015, on BBC. Aidan Turner played the title character in this new adaptation, with Eleanor Tomlinson playing Demelza. It was a hit, and the first seven volumes were adapted again, this time across five seasons.

After Poldark, you could travel to 18th-century Scotland with the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon and follows the lives of the Clifton and Barrington families across several decades in The Clifton Chronicles by Jeffrey Archer.