Historical mistakes in books and movies

(133 Posts)
Penelope1980 Tue 25-Sep-12 22:27:52

Hello! I thought this would be a good place to ask you what your top pet peeves are in historical books and movies as, as history lover, it is something which interests me. Do you mind when things aren't right? Or does it make you seethe? What specifically do you hate the most? Are you ever forgiving of mistakes, modern language, modern haircuts etc? Or, are you usually so busy enjoying the book or movie to notice?

I find I don't mind a good historical bodice-ripper as can usually get carried away in the story, or most movies set in the past, but am really intolerant of the following:

- when a true historical character is painted a villain when there is no proof that they were. Case that springs to mind is Murdoch in the movie Titanic, who is painted a bad guy with no real proof that he was.

- When in books set hundred of years ago all the 'good' characters have modern values (especially regarding gender, race and class) and the 'bad' characters have the values of the time. I find this presentism irritating, and a bit condescending.

Interested in your thoughts ...

unitarian Thu 28-Feb-13 11:13:51

Two authors who have done extensive research - Dorothy Dunnett and Neal Stephenson.
As SummerRain says upthread, Stephenson uses dramatic licence. But you do learn a hell of a lot!

ZebraOwl Wed 13-Mar-13 00:18:09

Sadly the people responsible for it seem to have vanished, but History Spork has excellent - and incredibly funny - deconstructions of History By Hollywood that I think people on this thread would prolly enjoy grin

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Wed 13-Mar-13 01:36:35


TunipTheVegedude Thu 02-May-13 09:21:54

I've found a fabulous one. 'Rivals in the Tudor Court' by Darcy Bonnette. It has lace dresses, mahogany tables, and.....

LaQueen Sat 25-May-13 10:38:35

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

limitedperiodonly Sat 25-May-13 13:04:59

Historical accuracy is not the point of The Tudors laqueen grin

Public Enemies had Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby Face Nelson dying in completely the wrong order and wrong places, but as it had Johnny Depp in it, who was technically too old to play John Dillinger, I was willing to overlook that.

Where is the Israel van in The Sound of Music ?

TunipTheVegedude Thu 30-May-13 21:22:27

I watched the episode of The Tudors that was on after Anne Boleyn the other night and they were riding around in Victorian carriages wearing very odd clothes.
Still fun though.

Saltire Wed 05-Jun-13 18:45:48

80sbabe - Ds2 came home from school (primary) and told DH and I "Bloody Mary was also known as Mary Queen of Scots".
erm no she wasn't.

I also get very annoyed at Braveheart, and all the "we won the war with no help from anyone else" american films.

just be accurate!

TunipTheVegedude Wed 05-Jun-13 19:06:03

Been reading some Suzannah Dunn novels about Tudors. She likes using modern language to make speech sound more natural. This is fine. I certainly see her point about it being better than all the affected formality historical novelists often like. But she keeps using modern ideas and metaphors. Airlock, I was dubious about. Double take was a bit distracting since it so obviously comes from cinema. But really, Anne Boleyn did not serve Henry VIII a cream tea. She just didn't.

orangeandemons Wed 05-Jun-13 19:12:58

Costume faux pas drive me mad, especially recent ones. I couldn't watch Ashes to Ashes, as her 80's clothes were so

TunipTheUnconquerable Tue 10-Jun-14 07:30:09

Just wanted to reanimate the thread and add: whenever there's a falconry scene they always use Harris hawks because they're cheap, easy to train and look impressive for the camera. The White Queen had one, as did the 2004 King Arthur film.
Problem is, they're American. There are wild colonies in England now, but that happened literally in the last few decades.

TheFnozwhowasmirage Thu 29-Jan-15 11:31:00

I read a book on kindle set in the pre civil war era in the us. Not a bad book but it describes a southern belle struggling to put her dress on a coat hanger without her maid's assistance. Coat hangers weren't invented then,that is why old wardrobes have hooks,not rails. Another book,set in Leicester in ww2 has the protagonist dreaming of past Christmas dinners complete with cranberry sauce and corn. I think not.........

AKnickerfulOfMenace Wed 11-Feb-15 13:13:03

Haven't spotted anything yet in Wolf hall, anyone else?

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Wed 11-Feb-15 13:25:45

Nothing serious. There was a border in the garden that looked like a more modern style of planting, and some of the French hoods were too short, but you'd have to be looking out for things to criticise to notice that really and I would never do that.

AKnickerfulOfMenace Wed 11-Feb-15 13:28:01


FreezerBird Wed 11-Feb-15 23:06:14

My sister claims to have spotted a Tarmac road in last week's Wolf Hall. I didn't notice it and haven't iplayered it to check yet.

After More resigned his post and Henry walks away, leaving More and Cromwell talking. Road visible behind them apparently.

TheFnozwhowasmirage Thu 12-Feb-15 19:01:03

Dh was puzzled by Cromwell mentioning his visits to Italy. We thought that Italy was a collection of independent states until the 19th century,when the country unified? So, he would have visited,Rome or Florence,for example, but not Italy as it didn't exist. We could be wrong though?

Greymalkin Thu 12-Feb-15 19:57:44

I noticed a modern mass produced type iron hand rail on the steps of a castle in The White Queen when it was on TV. Made me tut and eye roll...

Travelledtheworld Tue 17-Feb-15 22:29:05

Some of the flooring in one of the palaces in Wolf Hall looked suspiciously modern....

IssyStark Thu 26-Feb-15 15:19:18

Fnoz Before the unification of Italy (which is correctly the Italian Republic), Italy was a purely geographic term such like Iberia or Scandinavia or indeed as Germany was until the late 19th century. It was completely correct for Cromwell to talk of visiting Italy if he meant he had visited numerous city states in the peninsula south of the Alps.

SuperLemonCrush Fri 06-Mar-15 11:53:35

Mine is headcoverings, covering in general really. Just because you are in 1750/1840/1530 doesn't mean that you are going to wander around outside without something like a coat/scarf/gloves/hat. And, for most periods, women's hair was covered even when inside the home....far too many flowing locks around!

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Sat 07-Mar-15 19:15:05

Absolutely Superlemoncrush! For a lot of history if you're not a young girl flowing hair means you're either loose or mad.

MehsMum Sat 07-Mar-15 19:28:05

Travelled, was that very narrow floorboards in about Episode 2?

I gave up on The White Queen very early on: architecture about two centuries out, over-lavish use of unrealistically expensive cloth, etc etc.

Halsall Sat 07-Mar-15 19:49:13

This thread has just reminded me of the novel I picked up in a charity shop the other day, based on Bleak House and set in the same period, mid 19thc. Can't remember who it's by but the very first para, which reworks the opening of Bleak House, talks about the mud being as bad 'as in Flanders field'.

Erm, would that be the Flanders field of the 1st WW ? That book went straight back onto the shelf....

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