In 1981, British Author Bernard Cornwell penned a series of historical fiction novels called Sharpe. The first in the series was Sharpe's Eagle. The premise was based around the real life Peninsular War of the early 1800s that lead into the Battle of Waterloo. He created the fictional character of Richard Sharpe and placed him as the lead character, as he experiences all these real life events.
In 1993, ITV had picked up the rights to turn the books into a TV series. The series intially ran for 14 episodes, from 1993 - 1997. Then picked up in 2006 and 2008 for the final 2 episodes of the series. Filming took place in the Ukraine, featuring period accurate clothing and equipment. The series was made as feature length TV movies, rather than as shorts. Initially, Paul McGann was lined up to play Sharpe, as he matched the book's description of tall and black haired. However, a knee injury prevented him from taking part and the role was given to Sean Bean.
The series was well received for the time, being one of the most watched ITV shows. The show's popularity bought around a series of reprints of the novels with pictures of Sean Bean. An album of traditional 19th century songs was released to accompany the series, as well as a series of VHS tapes and DVDs.