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Bluto: Over? Did you say "over"? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!

Otter: Germans?

Boon: Forget it, he's rolling.

Ah yes, history, written by the victors, with all the eyewitnesses lost to time... Some say it's one of those mysteries that man cannot know... That in the end, all known history is subjective and therefore useless as a source of knowledge...

Isn't that cute? BUT IT'S WRONG!!

We very well know what happened in the past for the most part, and as we all know that history repeats itself, and those who do not know it are bound to repeat the mistakes of the past... but for some reason some people just don't seem to even want to try to understand. Mainly caused by not doing the research properly, especially when a fiction writer bases his history on the works of other fiction writers instead of actual histories.

This trope is for those who try to use history, but their knowledge of history seems to stop some time last week. They think Columbus personally discovered the United States, George Washington cut down a cherry tree, Benjamin Franklin flew a kite, and that Paul Revere was the only person warning everyone about the British.

Also, many authors commit what's called the "historian's mistake", the idea that historical characters acted and made their decisions with full knowledge of the future -- including the repercussions their actions would cause (like for example: portraying Churchill as saying his Darkest Hour Rousing Speech with knowledge that Nazi Germany was going to be defeated in 4 years). Although some historical individuals made predictions that came true, this is not the same thing as knowing what would happen. For instance, a character in 1919 could plausibly predict that the Treaty of Versailles would cause hardship, anger and instability in Germany (indeed, Marshal Foch himself said at the time it was "not a peace treaty, just an armistice for twenty years", if only because he understood it to be too lenient), but it would be stretching it for him to confidently assert that the instability would specifically result in the rise of a ruthless racial supremacist paramilitary regime in Germany that would be responsible for the systematic murder of millions of Jews, Roma, and others. (See The Great Politics Mess-Up for more on this particular fallacy.)

This trope is NOT for speculative history stories, which get a pass simply because they're supposed to be alternate history stories, unless they reference these events as parts of "actual" history.

Compare Hollywood History, where the facts are mostly right, just caricatured and stereotyped, when not subject to Nostalgia Filter, and Future Imperfect, where characters in a speculative fiction story set in the distant future get history horribly wrong. The Historical Hero Upgrade and Historical Villain Upgrade sometimes fall into this. See History Marches On for those rare cases where new evidence or insight actually does change the historical record.

Examples of Artistic License History include:


Various Media Edit

  • Works which attempt to invoke Paris amid the dramatic changes of the 19th century and the gilded and wobbly vainglory of Napoleon III seem to gravitate toward two years: 1870 and 1871. Those dates are indeed memorable ones in civic history, but for all the wrong reasons. At that point in history, the real Paris was under siege, with battered soldiers anxiously discussing the war in the coffee shops, people eating their own pets just to remain alive, students manning the barricades, beggars dying from starvation in the streets, communards being shot dead by government firing squads, elephants at the zoo being found delicious, and monocled German officers peering down cannons from just beyond the city limits. All this reality would spoil the Parisian ambiance, of course, so it's all quietly ignored. Works that make this mistake include Joel Schumacher's Phantom of the Opera and Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire.
    • On that Phantom bit: in addition to the glaring 1871 opera house date issue, the film has Christine dying in 1918 as a victim of the Spanish Influenza. Thing is, 1918 France was not only besieged by the Influenza; it was also crawling out of the end of this little thing called World War One.
  • It's often said that people in Ye Goode Olde Days in England always married young, sometimes so young that it seems like pedophilia to a modern viewer. But this is simply not true. We know from church records (which have been kept since at least the reign of Elizabeth I) that the average age at marriage for men and women has barely changed since 1600, holding steady at 26 for men, 25 for women all the way up to 1960. This affects not just how we see the past but also how we see media from the past. For instance, readers who buy into this trope might assume that Elinor Dashwood's fears of being an "old maid" at 19 are justified for her time period, but Austen probably meant to show her as needlessly overly anxious about a possibility that might not even occur. This is especially true since most of Austen's other female characters don't marry until they're well into their twenties. Belief in this trope can also take away much of the shock and horror that Shakespeare wanted his audience to feel over Juliet's predicament, especially since Shakespeare made her 13 when she's 16 in the source text.
    • So why does the misconception exist? It turns out that some people were married off at a young age - aristocrats, who until very recently were the only people mentioned in the history books despite making up about 0.1% of the population. These marriages were usually political alliances, and (unlike Juliet above) were generally not consummated until the bride was old enough to safely deliver a child. The average man or woman, on the other hand, had to work for years in order to save up enough to marry; while men underwent apprenticeships or waited for their fathers to die so they could inherit the lease on the land they farmed, women worked as household servants, dairymaids, and general farm workers.
      • The terms "engagement" and "marriage" did not have the sharp divide that exists between them today. A promise of marriage carried as much weight as an actual marriage, and subsequent marriages could be dissolved as bigamous if a previous promise to marry existed. (This is the "reason" Richard III of England gave for deposing his nephew and ruling as king. Coincidentally, it's also the reason for Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace).
        • There were exceptions to the childbearing rule, however- Margaret Beaufort (Henry VIII's grandmother) was married at twelve and gave birth at thirteen. Most historians agree that the reason she only had one child is because giving birth at such a young age left her unable to have any more.
        • 'Marragiblity' would be tied ultimately to the menarche, which is still wildly variable and mostly determined by weight rather than age. Some unscrupulous rich men in the 18th century would have their daughters over-fed in order to bring them to puberty earlier and get them off their hands faster (a practice still not unknown in some parts of the developing world...) (To return to Jane Austen, this explains why the thin and sickly Fanny Price is not 'brought out'- that is, allowed to mix with society and thus be eligible for marriage, until her health drastically improves at age 18, when she also is noted to suddenly get taller- whereas the highly-sexed Lydia Bennett (who the narrator notes is both tall and quite fat for her age) is 'out' at only 15.
  • Hardly anyone realizes these days that the Byzantine Empire WAS the Roman Empire. Usually, they're treated as two distinct entities. It is somewhat understandable, as even when Rome was nominally the centre of the empire, after Constantine I the two organizations became very distinct from one another. Even contemporaries from that time recognized and understood that the entirety of the Roman Empire was divided into two distinct entities: the Latin dominated Western Roman Empire, and the Greek dominated Eastern Roman Empire. Within two centuries of the fall of Rome, the Eastern Romans fully transitioned to using Greek (which had been the Lingua Franca throughout most of the Empire for centuries) in all of its records. However, their political, economic and cultural structures were an uninterrupted descendant from the Roman systems, and they named themselves "Roman" until long after the Empire itself had fallen in 1453. This led to a little diplomatic comedy when the Latin Holy Roman Emperor Conrad III wrote to the Emperor Manuel I Comnenus, referring to himself as "Emperor of the Romans" and to Manuel as "Emperor at Constantinople." In his reply, Manuel called himself "Emperor of the Romans," and Conrad "friend of our empire" and "king". In his rejoinder, Conrad again calls himself "truly Emperor of the Romans," and refers to Manuel only as "King of the Greeks." They never once called themselves the Byzantine Empire, that phrase wasn't invented until a hundred years after the fall of Constantinople, to themselves they were the Basileia Rhomanion. Latin-speaking foreigners generally referred to them as Constantine's Empire.
    • The Russians also considered themselves the moral heirs of the original Roman Empire, with the capital city of the empire referred to as "the third Rome" (the second one being Constantinople and the first one, well...Rome).
  • Many Roman historians embellished their history to make it more entertaining, such as the infamous exploits of Emperors like Nero and Caligula.
    • Many? This was actually a sport of sorts in the historian Roman circles. Historians either worked for the senators (all of them patricians, the noblest class in Rome) or were a part of it, therefore when Emperors openly defied the senators and ended up slain for it, they pretty much ran to give them an Historical Villain Upgrade to justify such actions. You can guess the results.
    • When Christianity finally got a spot to itself in Roman society, the "war" among Pagan historians and Christian historians derived into this trope as well. The Emperor you're writing about wasn't a member of your faith? Let's make him even worse than he was in Real Life! Pagan Emperors were Complete Monsters who tortured people For the Evulz! Christian Emperors were traitors to the Empire! Lather, rinse, repeat. Until of course the Christians won.
  • One essay on The Battle of Epping Forest (the eponymous Forest being in the South of England) made the mistake (amongst many others) of assuming that the lyric "not since the Civil War" was an American reference. America isn't the only country ever to have had a Civil War, you know...
  • Some depictions embellish the torture used by the Inquisition, which was actually forbidden to draw blood during torture.
    • The Spanish Inquisition was actually highly regulated, not arbitrary as often depicted. However, since torture was an accepted way to obtain truthful confessions and denunciations were anonymous until the actual trial (which could occur as much as two years after the denunciation, during which the accused would be imprisoned without knowing who had accused them or even what the charges were), this was little comfort to its victims.
      • The Spanish Inquisition was also quite methodical in gathering evidence, to the point where it ended witch burnings in Spain a full century before witch-hunts began to wane in the rest of Europe due to the lack of physical evidence for witchcraft. Again, since the main business of the Inquisition was to root out heresy, for which there was little physical evidence, this was no help to the other accused of the Inquisition.
    • The Inquisition actually introduced the legal concept of the presumption of innocence. Before that, the accused would have to prove their own innocence. The Inquisition held that allegations of witchcraft, for instance, required solid evidence; this went some way to alleviating the "She's a witch!" mudslinging that was the norm.
    • It's rare for anyone to note that the Papal Inquisition ("the" Inquisition) and the Spanish Inquisition were completely separate organisations. It's hardly ever mentioned that Protestants did their own persecutions of heretics (both Catholics and often Protestants of different sects) and witches. In fact they killed more witches than the Church.
  • Galileo was never tortured by the church. He was threatened with torture before confessing, but this was standard (as in, pretty much any court anywhere, secular or otherwise, had little problem with torture). His sentence for heresy was house arrest at his villa for the rest of his life. There were others, such as Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake for his Copernican and naturalist opinions.
    • Bruno was not condemned for his defence of the Copernican system of astronomy, nor for his doctrine of the plurality of inhabited worlds, but for his theological heresy, among which were the following: that Christ was not God but merely an unusually skillful magician, that the Holy Ghost is the anima mundi, that the Devil will be saved, etc. Like all heretics, Bruno had multiple chances to repent, but persisted to speak his mind. Supposedly, he even told off the judge who sentenced him to death with: "Perhaps you pass this sentence upon me with more fear than I receive it." In the end, he had his tongue pierced to stop him speaking while going to the execution site. As his last act, he allegedly turned away from the cross held up to him by a priest. Bruno was Badass.
    • In addition, so long as Galileo kept to his Copernican astronomy, he was quite popular with Church officials, including the Cardinal who, as Pope, would later condemn him. It was only when Galileo claimed that his astronomy overturned Church dogmas, and began reinterpreting the Bible, that he ran into trouble. It really didn't help that, at the time, differing interpretations of the Bible were literally grounds for war and rebellion on the part of both Catholics and Protestants, and that Galileo was practically in the Pope's backyard.
    • Not to mention that Galileo didn't really get into trouble until he was asked by the Papacy to include a mention towards the Aristotilean model, which at the time was supported by the majority of astronomers at the time (people tend to forget that the first people to condemn Galileo were not priests, but secular scholars). Galileo did so, but only by introducing a very unflattering character into his writing that basically insulted his peers. Also, he mocked the Pope.
  • Most people in 1492 knew the world was round. (The exceptions were a few non-Pauline Christians and, as usual, proles.) Christopher Columbus never "discovered" it: Eratosthenes of Cyrene had experimental evidence of the roundness of the Earth and a pretty good estimate of its size a full two centuries BC.
    • In fact, Christopher Columbus was the one who failed geography forever - the reason noone wanted to finance his expedition was because he was working under the assumption that Earth is much smaller than it really is; if there wasn't another continent in the way, they would all be dead.
  • Those Wacky Nazis used a non-historical definition for the term "Aryan." The term predates the Nazi ideology by thousands of years. Originally, the race that swept into the Indus valley and and the Iranian plateau established the Hindi and Iranian civilizations was referred to as the "Aryan" or "noble" race. Of course, you can rest assured those people were hardly blond.[1] Nazi ideology built up a largely fictional mythos around the term and declared that it applied to white Northern Europeans. They also played fast and loose with their own definitions when politically necessary. For example, they declared the Japanese to be "honorary Aryans" because they needed their help in the war.
  • Another common World War II history failure is the notion that the Waffen-SS was an elite, special forces organization. While some did distinguish themselves in combat (mainly the first, second, and third divisions), the only extra training a Waffen-SS unit received that the normal Heer units didn't was purely ideological, and in fact, the combat training and equipment of some SS divisions were worse than the non-SS divisions. Before 1943 the SS were thought of as little more than thugs, and their military role was barely mentioned; they were bodyguards and internal security, not front-line soldiers. It wasn't until they started pushing their recruitment as front line units did they start to build the myth of elite status.
    • Another, smaller issue is the tendency of many works set in World War II to refer to the German Army as the Wehrmacht. The Wehrmacht was the more general, overarching organization (the equivalent in English would be saying "the military") composed of the Army (Heer), Navy (Kriegsmarine), and Air Force (Luftwaffe). These titles (except for Kriegsmarine, it's simply Marine nowadays due to "Krieg" meaning "war") persist in the post-WWII Bundeswehr, which is also often mistaken for the German Army.
  • Napoleon Bonaparte:
    • Any media adaptation that portrays Napoleon as short. He was 5'6" (168cm), average for a man of his time. However, he was often surrounded by much larger bodyguards, making him appear short in contrast. Also, French feet were slightly larger than English feet at the time, making him 5'2" in French units. Additional confusion arises from the fact that his men called him le petit caporal, which was an affectionate nickname referencing his humility rather than a reference to his height. The English press (especially the satire Punch) seized on the misconception and began portraying him as a comically miniature tyrant to mock him.
    • Napoleon did not speak with a thick French accent. He was born (as Napoleone Buonaparte) and raised in Corsica and subsequently spoke with a thick Corsican accent. It stood out so much that the Tsar of Russia was known to boast that he spoke better French than Napoleon. French was the official language of the Russian court (as of many others) during the period so it may have been somewhat justified.
    • Thanks to British propaganda he is often portrayed as a near psychotic one step down from Hitler. While he was overreachingly ambitious and certainly ruthless when he had to be he was nowhere in Hitlers league.
  • Almost any work set in the Middle Ages will be plagued by this trope. Most of the widely-held beliefs about Medieval times were made up during the Renaissance and Enlightenment, which aimed at creating an Alternate History of the world where miracles of antiquity were followed by a thousand years of incredible ignorance and brutality, after which the glorious Golden Age started. The widespread anticlericalism of the Enlightenment didn't help much either.
  • It's often assumed that the mode of death in a judicial hanging is a broken neck (unless the drop is too long and the victim is decapitated), but this is only true of hangings conducted since roughly 1850. Before this time, execution via hanging was usually caused by strangulation. The victim normally either stood on a cart or sat on the back of a horse: after the noose was tightened around his or her neck, the support was gently removed and the victim would strangle to death. And it wasn't quick or pretty: the rope cutting into the throat and cutting off the breath, the twists and the contortions of the trussed body, the stench of the feces and urine as the victim's bowels and bladder emptied, and the involuntary erection (and often ejaculation) experienced by male victims were all deliberate parts of the punishment, as was the jeering, vicious crowd which would pelt the victims with dead cats, rotting meat and vegetables, and even feces as they waited to be tied to the gibbet. The families of wealthier criminals could sometimes bribe the jailers to be allowed to pull at the victim's legs to hurry death, but this was not always permitted. Of course, even this was better than the death accorded to women who killed their husbands, even in self-defence: they were burned, and (no matter what popular history would have us believe) most burning victims were not supplied with gunpowder or other explosives to make their deaths quicker. Executions were supposed to be agonizing. They were supposed to be slow. They were supposed to cause as much suffering as possible.
    • Ligature strangulation generally leads to unconsciousness within a minute. As far as burning goes, the gunpowder thing is overstated, but in most civil executions (as opposed to witch or heretic burnings), the victim was strangled first (see point #1). Women were burned rather than hanged primarily for modesty reasons (billowy skirts and no underwear); the victim was actually completely surrounded by wood and straw rather than atop it. Neither punishment is particularly humane by modern standards, but they weren't intended to be the death of a thousand cuts either.
      • For that matter, even the death of a thousand cuts (ling che in Chinese) wasn't really the death of a thousand cuts. The victim was usually drugged, and often killed right before the mutilation. Like burning at the stake, the punishment was more about setting a strict lesson in morality for the audience than it was about prolonging agony for the condemned.
  • From this Frank Miller interview:

 Miller: Nobody questions why after Pearl Harbour we attacked Nazi Germany. It's because we're taking on a form of global fascism. We're doing the same thing now.

Conan: They did declare war on us.

Miller: Yeah, what I mean is, so did Iraq.

    • Especially amusing, given that a "fight against global fascism" is not really the reason - in fact, had Germany not declared war on the USA, it is highly possible that the USA would not have intervened in Europe at all.
  • Gladiators:
    • Pollice verso, the gesture used to determine the fate of a defeated Roman gladiator, is traditionally portrayed as a "thumb's up" or "thumb's down," indicating that the gladiator was spared or condemned, respectively. This tradition was first popularized in the 19th century painting Pollice Verso. Historical description is very limited on what the gesture actually looked like, and its name simply means "with turned thumb," so it's impossible to know exactly what it looked like. The best modern guess for a condemning gesture is a jabbing motion to the neck, mimicking the fatal neck-stab.
      • In the same vein, any media depiction of "thumbs up = let him live" is wrong; thumbs down meant 'lower your weapon,' thumbs up meant 'kill.'
    • While the lifespan of a gladiator was not very high, most fights between gladiators were not fatal. Condemning a defeated gladiator was generally only done if he had put up a particularly shameful performance. Gladiators were expensive to purchase, train and equip, so it would be an incredible waste to kill off a gladiator after only a fight or two. Usually, only condemned men would be made to fight in certain death matches.
  • Like marrying age, there is a widespread misconception of historical lifespans, as though people before the Industrial Revolution magically aged faster. Average lifespans were low, but that was primarily because so many infant deaths bringing down the average, and people of any age often fell victim to now-treatable injuries and illnesses (particularly complications of childbirth). While a life of hard work and poor diet took its toll, aging progressed much as it does today.
  • Post-1990, it became fashionable to refer to all Sioux as Lakota. Anyone who's looked at the north central part of a map of the United States knows why this is amusing.
  • The claim that all or at least most women that were burnt as witches were wise women is completely false. It was made popular by one guy and accepted as truth by the public because, well, people being killed for being too badass for their time to handle is much more interesting than people being killed because their neighbors didn't like them and claimed that they were doing witchcraft.
  • While we're on the subject of witch trials, witches in Salem weren't burned at the stake, they were hanged. Also, most of them were men.


Comics Edit

  • Jack Chick, where to begin? Dinosaurs lived into the Middle Ages, Allah is a god of the moon andthe existance of the Inquisition is apparently almost completely unknown.


Fanfic Edit


Film Edit

  • In Teaching Mrs. Tingle, one of the main characters is a girl we're constantly told is a great brain, and she produces a final project for her History class that's an "authentic recreation" of the diary of a girl who was killed during the Salem Witch Trials, right down to the book being authentically aged to resemble a diary that had survived the period. The eponymous teacher opens the diary at random, and finds an entry on how the fictional girl fears she'll be burned at the stake tomorrow. No one was burned at the stake in the Salem Witch Trials. They hanged those convicted, while one was crushed under weights for declining to enter a plea, and while people were burned in Europe, it was usually for heresy, not witchcraft (though, to be sure, the two were sometimes linked). The student gets a C, though not for this mistake.
    • Well, fear and reality are two entirely different things.
  • Fist of Fear, Touch of Death, possibly the most awful of all awful Brucesploitation films, states during a biographical sequence that Bruce Lee's grandfather was 19th Century China's greatest samurai.
  • There are too many WWII movies to list which rewrite history in such a way that the Americans seem to have won the war single-handed. Arguments can be made about which Ally contributed the most, but ultimately it was a group effort.
  • Numerous movies have inaccurately portrayed The Alamo with the curved roof at the time of the eponymous battle--in truth, the roof had crumbled due to neglect, and it was 1912 before the familiar facade was restored.
  • Animal House has an in-universe example:

 Bluto: Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!

    • Bluto was probably drunk. And was holding a GPA of 0.0. He's also privately called out on this (see page quote). It may have been a plea from the writers, 'The character is a moron. Don't judge us by him.'
  • The first X-Files movie starts off 35,000 years ago in North Texas, and depicts a pair of Neanderthals running through the snow. 1) Neanderthals never lived in North America. 2) There's no evidence that humans had even reached that part of America by 33,000 BC. This is technically Prehistory, but let's not split hairs.
    • On the second one, there is some evidence, though American archaeologists are for various reasons not so willing to admit it, but obviously not Neanderthals.
    • Check You Fail Geography Forever to see what else this movie got wrong with North Texas...
  • Played for Laughs in Idiocracy (where the entire world has become less intelligent) a theme park of the future thought that Adolf Hitler and Charlie Chaplin were the same person, and both sides rode dinosaurs.
    • "And then the UN un-Nazied the world forever."
  • A Fistful of Dynamite -- John Mallory, being an Irish nationalist in 1913, owns an IRA flag. Problem is the IRA did not exist until 1919. He would have most likely been an Irish volunteer for the IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood) if part of any official organisation whatever.
  • Kingdom of Heaven is full of this: Renaud de Châtillon was never a Templar, nor was Guy de Lusignan. The latter was actually the king of Jerusalem when Renaud launched his attack on the caravan, King Baldwin having been dead for several years. Sybille's marriage with Guy was not an arranged one: her family was actually opposed; and it goes on and on...
    • Indeed, the Knights Templar were explicitly forbidden from marrying, as well as owning land. Crowing a Templar as a King would have been a legal impossibility at the time.
    • One particularly Egregious example is the protagonist teaching the desert-dwelling people how to irrigate their land and so becoming their lord. Yeah. The people who had been farming a desert (and digging wells) for thousands of years being taught all they know by the Mighty Whitey when, if anything, during the Crusades it was sort of the other way round (medieval Europe didn't even have round towers until they got the idea from the Arabs).
      • The latter is more likely to be a case of poor presentation rather than insulting lack of research -- the idea was to show how the protagonist actively participates in neglected civic projects rather than focusing on military issues alone, as was commonly the custom at the time for a man in his position. He isn't shown actually inventing the contraption.
  • Gladiator has a number:
    • A Roman senator claims, "Rome was founded as a republic!" It was founded as a kingdom. Although the Romans didn't want to think of Rome ever having been a kingdom. As far as the Romans were concerned, the real Rome was founded when they kicked the asses of the Etruscan kings and established the republic. Furthermore, the character is a politician trying to push his political agenda.
    • Power passes automatically to Commodus on Marcus Aurelius' death in the film. In reality, there was no official line of succession, since the state was not officially monarchist. In fact, before Marcus Aurelius there had been a longstanding tradition of emperors hand-picking their successors from outside their biological families. The historical Commodus was in fact the first emperor "born to the purple", i.e. born during his father's reign, and did indeed break the usual tradition by succeeding his father. He also became sole emperor after Marcus Aurelius' death due to the fact that he had ruled jointly with him for four years. And note that even in the film, Marcus Aurelius tries to make someone other than his son emperor; the only oddity is the assumption that Commodus would otherwise naturally be the successor to the throne. And, of course, there is no evidence he killed his father to get the position.
    • Commodus actually did fight in the arena, though he was almost certainly in no danger. The person who killed him, Narcissus, might have been a former gladiator, but he didn't slay him in the arena- he strangeld him while he was bathing. However, Commodus was never noted for any incestuous or patricidal behavior. There is a reason Marcus Aurelius was the last of the "Five Good Emperors", but it's just that the character flaws given in the film are not quite the same as those he had in real life; rather, the real Commodus was considered bad for things like believing himself to be Hercules and renaming everything in the Empire- including Rome itself- after himself, a whole other kind of crazy.
    • Asking the Senate to bring power back to the old Republican Offices would be somewhat akin to asking the French today to restart the Bourbon Monarchy in its absolutist Ancien Régime glory.
    • In a similar vein, even in the heyday of the Republic, the Senate was not an elected body; members were appointed to it by a censor (later Emperor) or the Senate itself by vote, or won a major public office at election (excepting the Plebeian Tribuneship, although quite a few Tribunes were Senators). It wasn't totally hereditary, however; a Senator's son who failed the property qualification test would lose his appointment.
    • Significant legislative and executive power also rested in the Citizens' Assembly, from which Senators were excluded. The Citizens' Assembly was very much like an Athenian or Swiss Canton direct democracy -- any citizen could cast a vote on a matter at hand that day. This is almost universally wrong in any movie depicting Ancient Rome. In Hollywood's mind, only the Senate existed.
    • Neither Marcus Aurelius, nor anyone else in the government, had any interest in democracy.
    • Ancient Roman chariots didn't run on compressed gas. In the arena battle scene, one flips over and a gas cannister can clearly be seen
  • 300 is so obviously not meant to reflect actual history. In fact, historical records of the event are already believed to be rather sensationalized and greatly embellished. Zack Snyder and Frank Miller also drew inspiration from ancient artwork, which, much like Hollywood, glamorize battles of the past. Audiences have loved muscle-bound, half-naked supermen kicking the snot out of each other for quite a while. It's fairer to say that 300 didn't fail history so much as kick it into a well and give it the finger. The embellishment is heavily implied as part of the Greek propaganda even during the film. On the other hand, Zack Snyder did state rather audaciously that the history presented in the film is "90% accurate, although the visuals are pretty crazy".
  • Braveheart is particularly well known for its lack of historical accuracy, to the point that Scottish historians are still complaining about it more than 15 years later. No mercy is granted for the film essentially admitting its Hollywood History nature in the opening narration.
    • Scots did not actually wear kilts at the time, as they do incorrectly throughout the film. The crushed velvet that members of royalty sport in that film wouldn't be invented until centuries later. Also their style of clothing is more suited to the 15th century, not the 13th.
    • Stirling Bridge is nowhere to be found in the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Some of these errors were intentional decisions to create more drama, while others were simply errors.
      • Also, Andrew Moray, a Scottish resistance leader, was vital to the planning and execution of the battle. Absent from the film.
    • The Scots had stopped using the blue woad worn by Wallace and his men around the time of the Romans, though its presented as something of a throwback within the film.
    • William Wallace always staunchly supported Robert the Bruce's claim to the throne. He never directly betrayed William Wallace either.
    • King Edward I gets a Historical Villain Upgrade. The film portrays him almost as a Card-Carrying Villain, whilst in reality his record was pretty mixed - whilst a brutal conqueror abroad (not to mention an anti-semite), he did not oppress his English subjects, and was in fact considered fairly radical in European circles. His laws established Parliament as a permanent institution, set up a working taxation system and ushered in a newer, progressive law for England. Edward I Longshanks did not kill his son's lover by throwing him out of a window. Nor did English barons invoke primae noctis (the supposed right of lords to take the virginity of their female subjects). In fact, primae noctis likely did not exist. It's a throwaway line but Edward is mentioned as "following pagan gods'. No evidence that he was any less (or more) devout than your average monarch.
  • Agora repeats popular myths about Hypatia and the Library of Alexandria to preach about atheism. To what degree the movie does so is, however, somewhat open to debate.
  • Judge Doom's ultimate goal in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is to build the Pasadena Freeway on the land where Toontown stands; his shutting down LA's trolleys is a Shout Out to the Great American Streetcar Scandal. However, the film is set in 1947 - the Pasadena Freeway was already built in 1940.
    • In that same film Eddie and Roger watch the Goofy cartoon "Goofy Gymnastics" in the film theater. Despite the fact that this cartoon was released in 1949!
    • Several cartoon characters in the movie would only make their debut several years later: The Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote (1949), Tinkerbell (1953), the penguins from Mary Poppins (1964),... However, the makers defended themselves by saying that these characters were simply not employed yet by their studio's in those years.
  • Tanis, Egypt from Raiders of the Lost Ark is a real place. It could not have been rediscovered by the Nazis in 1936 because it was never lost in the first place. In fact, there were numerous archaeological digs in Tanis before the Nazis even came to power. It was also under British control in 1936, when the movie is supposedly set.
  • Everyone's Hero could have been a good movie about Babe Ruth's called shot in the 1932 World Series...if they had not gotten EVERY SINGLE historical fact wrong in that movie. The list of historical inaccuracies in the film would take up this entire page (for example, the 1932 World Series did not go into seven games or have a 3-4 home field advantage format).
  • Australia. In reality, the Japanese never set foot on Australian soil. They bombed Darwin, then left. The bombing also actually occurred in 1942, not 1941.
  • The Godfather part III features the death of Pope Paul VI and John Paul I in the year 1979, while all these events actually took place in 1978!
  • Barry Lyndon takes place in the eighteenth century. Yet somewhere in the film "the kingdom of Belgium" is mentioned, despite the fact that Belgium would only become a kingdom in 1830!


Literature Edit

  • Dan Brown: Too many to list here -- Dan Brown's research failures (in history in particular) have made him a trope namer, and have their very own page.
  • The Necronomicon: The Dee Translation by Lin Carter has a scene where Abdul Alhazred ingests Black Lotus in order to see visions of the past. Among other things, he sees scenes from The Crusades where Saladin fights at Jerusalem. The problem? The text states clearly that Alhazred died in AD 738. Saladin was born in AD 1138. (Granted, Time Travel is a part of the Cthulhu Mythos, so it is possible that the Black Lotus can show visions from the future as well as the past. But Alhazred describes the Crusades as a perfectly well-known event that the reader is expected to be familiar with. If he were seeing scenes from the far future, you'd think he would remark on it.)
  • Ellis Peters slips up in the Brother Cadfael novel The Raven in the Foregate. One of the (many) complaints about Father Ailnoth is that he refused to come when a man's wife is having a rough delivery, and as a result the newborn dies unbaptized. Ailnoth was a pillock, but let's be fair here. Under canon law, midwives (or anyone else) were allowed to baptize infants if there wasn't time to call in a priest. The situation Peters describes definitely qualifies. There is no reason for that child to have died unbaptized, other than the need to have yet one more suspect when Ailnoth turns up dead.
    • She is also in error when she implies in The Hermit of Eyton Forest that an ordained priest must preside at a licit wedding ceremony. Today this is true (if you can get a priest in a reasonable amount of time), but not in the 12th century -- and a long time thereafter -- when a declaration of intent, with or without witnesses, followed by consummation was sufficient for canonically valid marriage. However a boy under fourteen could not make a valid marriage, and the issue of free consent would have made this a no-brainer to any canon court.
    • To be fair however Canon Law was still in the process of being codified in the 12th c. and laymen were to continue being confused about it for centuries after it was. Still, Father Abbot at least should have known better.
  • For in-universe history Lord Rust, particularly in Terry Pratchett's Jingo, falls to either this or errs regarding military history. Examples include believing their army can defeat the Klatchians, citing similar battles from history as evidence. His aide is left the job of pointing out details such as "One side was mounted on elephants", "There was an earthquake", "They lost", and "That was just a nursery story".
  • My Heart Is On The Ground by Ann Rinaldi failed history. The book is about Nannie Little Rose, a Lakota Native American girl who is sent to Carlisle Indian Industrial School. Firstly, Nannie probably would not have been given a diary in the first place, which discounts the whole book. But, let's say she was. She would not refer to herself as "Sioux", instead she would use her area or band. Rinaldi also gets many Lakota customs wrong, mainly by using American descriptions of them rather than finding out what actually happened. She even makes up the more "Indian" sounding words for Lakota words that already exist, such as "night-middle-made" and "friend-to-go-between-us". A detailed list of the historical inaccuracies can be found here.
  • John Keats's On First Looking into Chapman's Homer compares the experience to "stout Cortez" becoming the first European to see the Pacific. Actually, Vasco Nunez de Balboa was the first guy to do this.
    • Assuming that Marco Polo never looked left on his trip from Beijing to Hangchow. But there are also people who doubt that Marco ever set a foot into China, so...
    • According to my high school English teacher this was known enough in Keats's time so that it was probably a deliberate stylistic choice under Rule of Cool: would "stately Balboa" have sounded nearly as pretty in a poem?
    • Or, it may have been a deliberate metaphor, in that Keats and Cortes were surveying a scene which was new to them but had already been viewed by others.
  • Harry Potter. Witches weren't being burned at the stake or persecuted in any noticeable way in the 10th century, and the Founders probably wouldn't have had surnames.
  • Alex Cross's Trial by James Patterson. This book, set when Teddy Roosevelt was president (i.e., between September 14, 1901 and March 4, 1909) and which claims to be historically accurate, makes the following mistakes:
    • The book focuses on lynchings taking place in the South, stressing that this is unusual and is not happening anywhere else, even though lynchings have taken place EVERYWHERE in America--the South, the Midwest, the West and yes, in the North.
    • Roosevelt sends the white hero, Ben Corbett to his hometown of Eudora, Mississippi and report on lynchings and Klan activities. The modern version of the Klan was not founded till 1915, in Georgia, and wasn't any kind of a really big deal until after World War I. The Reconstruction Klan was dissolved after ca. 1877. (Patterson admits that it had been disbanded officially, but maintains that it existed at the time of the story (possible) and that its impact was so great as to merit Presidential investigation (not supported by historical record).
    • Three "White Raiders" (read: Klansmen) are arrested (by a sheriff who's a Klansman and who believes in what they're doing) and Roosevelt sends one Jonah Curtis to prosecute the case. Jonah is, of course, a black man. It's not that Jonah's black and practicing law; the first African-American to be admitted to a state bar was Macon Bolling Allen in July 1844. The problem is that Jonah is a black man who, between 1901 and 1909, apparently works for the federal government and is recognized by the state of Mississippi as an attorney. To find a situation that's more or less analogous, the first black man to serve as an assistant U.S. Attorney in Mississippi since Reconstruction was Tyree Irving. He was hired by the Northern District of Mississippi in 1978.
    • Roosevelt claims that the above lawsuit will ensure him the black vote for all time. I guess Patterson hasn't heard of common ways that white people of the period kept blacks and other minorities from voting. Like, oh, the poll tax and literacy tests.
    • At the end of the book, Ben takes Moody Cross (Alex's ancestor) into Eudora, walking hand in hand with her and walking into restaurants and stores demanding that they be served--and actually expecting the store owners to comply. Because it's not like segregation and Jim Crow laws existed, or that an attorney would know about either.
    • Special mention must be made of the treatment of black civil rights leaders in this book. Leaders of the time, like W.E.B. Du Bois and Ida Wells-Barnett, are mentioned, but the book doesn't say who they are or what they did. Consequently, all we have are names and no context. And in the end, they're reduced to leading a group of blacks through town, chanting. Although it's never stated, it's implied that they're doing this because that's what civil rights leaders do. It's not like they found things like the NAACP (which Du Bois did in 1909) or work as journalists for Chicago papers and write books and give lectures throughout Europe about lynching (which Wells-Barnett did starting in 1893).
  • In The Chalet School in Exile, which is set during World War 2, the titular school relocates to Guernsey. As this article points out, the school would have been utterly screwed if it had relocated there, as it was occupied by the Nazis at the time.
  • Anne S. Lindbergh does this a lot. In The Hunky-Dory Dairy which features some families from 1881, trapped in the present day, the families still believe in witchcraft. When they hear of modern technology, such as helicopters, they believe it is literally powered by devils. Never mind that, by the 1880s, the Industrial Revolution had started a century before, and experiments in human flight were already underway.
    • She does this in The Prisoner of Pineapple Place as well. Mr. Sweeney, the stodgy isolationist conservative who, fearing U.S. entry in World War II, took an entire alley with six families out of time, is so conservative that he objects to the newfangled concept of "introducing foreign substances into the body" (medicine). Never mind that ingestible medicine has been around for centuries, if not longer.
  • The Bible has a few of these. Not helped by the fact that its contents were written by very different people at very different times.
    • Battle of Jericho: according to the Bible the Israelites conquered Jericho after God knocked down the walls. According to archaeologists the Israelites were conquering this region in 1400 BC and by 1562 BC Jericho was abandoned and didn't have any walls. So the Israelites were over 150 years too late.
    • That may depend on the archaeology. Jericho has been recorded at dozens of varying locations thanks to the fact that the city was repeatedly being rebuilt before being destroyed (hence why in the Gospels Jesus was recorded as both "entering Jericho" and "exiting it" at the same time.) At one site, though, they did find the walls. They were completely sunk into the ground.
    • King Herod's massacre in Bethlehem is only recorded by Matthew; even chronographers that didn't like Herod don't mention it.
      • However, given the size of Bethlehem, don't picture an infant bloodbath. Maybe a dozen toddlers would have been killed.
    • There is still the problem that the explanation given for Joseph and Mary to go to Bethlehem in the first place is fictional; the Romans never demanded anybody to return to the home town of their ancestors for the sake of taxation. Since the whole Bethlehem-episode is only present in the Gospels aimed at the Jews, modern historians consider it more likely that Jesus was actually born and raised in Nazareth. It's further supported by the fact that the custom of the period was to name people after the town of their birth, not the one they settled in.
    • Another curious fact: the word "cross" is never used in the original manuscripts of the Bible. To this day we don't know the exact shape of the piece of wood that the Romans nailed Jesus on. What we see in churches is the general approximation, and has several variations in different denominations.
    • In general rule of thumb, the older the events described are, the harder it is to tell the difference between truth and fabrication. As such most of the Old Testament is very difficult to verify either way, but most of the New Testament can be put to a test, and parts of it have been verified quite reliably, while others have been found extremely suspect.
  • Twilight. While there's a fair bit of general history fail, Carlisle's story is particularly bad. The fact that the sewers where he found fellow vampires didn't exist at the time is only the tip of the iceberg. Rosalie's history is also a bit cringe-worthy: apparently her family remained prosperous during the Depression because her father worked in a bank, apparently ignoring the fact that banks took one of the hardest hits after the Stock Market crash.
  • The Oera Linda Book claims the Greek alphabet was based on a North European (Frisian) alphabet, among other things.
  • Hanta Yo, by Ruth Beebe Hill. The whole book. It's supposed to be an epic, and it is.
  • Detectives in Togas (set in Ancient Rome) has some of them. One boy claims to have goldfish (can't be, they originated in China). Or when one boy calls another one a turkey (which came from America).
  • Occasionally shows up in Time Scout. Some historical facts are mangled, particularly glaring is the presence of Aleister Crowley in Victorian London as a Satanist. He was alive, yes, but he was only nine years old.
  • In the Silence of the Lambs sequel, Hannibal Rising, Hannibal Lecter is shown watching the opening of Operation Barbarossa---the German invasion of the USSR in WWII...from his parents' aristocratic estate in Lithuania. Lithuania had been invaded by the Soviets a year or so before, and by that time, the Lecters and all other local aristocrats would have probably been in Siberia.


Live Action TV Edit

  • The Charmed episode "The Witch is Back" made the mistake of assuming that people were burned at the stake during the Salem Witch Trials (see Teaching Mrs. Tingle under Film).
    • And Lady Godiva didn't really ride naked on a horse.
      • There actually seem to be disagreeing sentiments on the matter by historians, so, as yet, one can't say for sure.
  • On The West Wing, many of President Bartlet's historical anecdotes are inaccurate. Wingnuts often explain this as evidence that the President himself is not infallible, or (perhaps more of a stretch) that the series is set in a universe with a slightly different history (after all, if the current world political leaders are different, and the American election schedule is even two years off, why not some other things as well?).
  • In Star Trek, Louis Pasteur is frequently referred to as a medical doctor. In the real world, Louis Pasteur was a chemist (although one who saved more lives with his work than many real doctors).
  • This hilarious exchange from Myth Busters during the Benjamin Franklin myths episode:

 Tory: "We just killed a dead president!"

Grant: "Ben Franklin was never president..."

  • In the Victorian-era set Doctor Who stories "Ghost Light" (from 1989) and "Tooth and Claw" (from 2006) different villains plot to overthrow Queen Victoria and seize the throne for themselves thereby, it's explained, becoming rulers of the most powerful country in the world. The only problem with this plan is that Victoria was a powerless symbolic figurehead and the villains' plots make about as much sense as a modern day villain planning to control Britain by replacing Elizabeth II (which, incidentally, is used as the basis for the villain's plot in Johnny English.) The British monarch has not attempted to veto a Bill of Parliament since Queen Anne and has not appointed a government that did not have the confidence of Parliament since King William IV.
    • As King William IV directly preceded Victoria, it may not be such of a great stretch, at least as far as the parliamentary-backed government goes.
      • He didn't even appoint the government under his own steam, though, he was basically pushed into doing it by other powerful interests in Britain and at the time it was extremely controversial. For a British monarch to be able to "rule" their country in their own right you really have to go back to the days of the Stuart kings, about 200 years before Victoria.
    • The serial "Four to Doomsday" has the Maya civilization being twice as old, or more, as it actually was.
    • "City of Death" has a doozy -- even when the episode aired, people were pointing out that life began on Earth about 3-4 billion (thousand million) years ago, not 400 million. Given a lovely Hand Wave from producer Graham Williams:

 "The good Doctor makes the odd mistake or two but I think an error of 3,600 million years is pushing it! His next edition of the Encyclopedia Galactica will provide an erratum."

      • Another thing -- the atmosphere of primordial Earth would have been unbreathable and poisonous. You know what, though? Don't worry about it.
    • The new series episode "The Shakespeare Code" repeatedly shows plays being performed in the Globe Theatre at night. Plays in Elizabethan England were performed during the day, since several hundred years prior to the invention of electric lighting, they would have had no way to light the stage properly when it was dark. Oh well, Rule of Scary, right?
      • Though this is more likely to be because the location was mainly available over-night, the recreated Globe being a working theatre that performs and rehearses its shows during (as far as possible) daylight.
    • In the season 4 episode The Next Doctor, the date is explicitly said to be December 24, 1851. There is a splendid full moon that night and early that morning -- though on that precise day, the moon was actually a waxing quarter. This is totally justified because no one could possibly know that without having to look it up. Oh, and Rule of Cool, I guess.
  • In Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, the city of Angel Grove was colonized by the British in the early 18th century. The city of Angel Grove is in southern California. Which coast were the original 13 colonies on, again?
    • To be fair, it was never actually stated Angel Grove is in California -- just assumed by most of the fanbase.
      • Ah, but whenever they show a monster going to Earth, it lands in southern California. Also, the East Coast doesn't have that many Indian reservations. Though one must wonder about Power Rangers Zeo with the introduction of Tommy's Braids, Beads, and Buckskins-clad brother on a horse, very plains-style. To be fair, California Indians' clothing wouldn't exactly pass standards and practices.
      • Also to be fair, it's suggested that Angel Grove is one of the towns that moved to California during the Gold Rush, as a fair few did. Which is backed up by which side of the town the ocean seems to be on in "Return of the Green Ranger", plus the lack of any sign of the Command Center, while during "Wild West" Rangers the town is definitely out in the American West in the 19th century and the Command Center is in reach.
  • An episode of Bones has a case where a crucial piece of evidence are the bones of a Salem witch, stolen from her grave, despite the fact that the Salem residents executed for witchcraft were just dumped outside town, and were never given proper graves. A memorial was erected many years later, far from anywhere significant when the events happened.
    • Also in that episode, references to "The Salem Witches"...as if all the accused in Salem actually identified as witches (or even wiccans). Apparently Bones missed the entire point of that event in history, that ordinary people were falsely accused. There were no "Salem Witches", that's the point.
    • In another episode, Booth claimed to be a descendent of John Wilkes Booth. John Wilkes Booth, while married, did not have any children, legitimate or illegitimate. His brothers and sister on the other hand had children, but no one can claim direct descent from the man who killed President Lincoln.
      • However, Booth did have several brothers the fictional Booth could be descended from. Another ep just said he was 'related' to JWB, a possible retcon.
  • Highlander the Series had the MacLeod clan leader living in a hut with the clan. But historically, and even today, the Scottish clan leaders lived in castles--the MacLeod clan leader still lives in Dunvegan Castle today.
    • Additonally, Glen Finnan, the birthplace of Duncan and Connor,is way outside MacLeod lands.
    • And there's the infamous "Battle of Waterloo with snow" episode, "Band of Brothers" (not to be confused with the TV miniseries by that name)...the producers just couldn't wait for a snowless day to film, they had to work with what they had.
  • In Glee Sue Sylvester delivers this incredibly historically inaccurate tirade.

  Sue: That's what they said about a young man in Chicago in 1871 who thought he'd play a 'harmless prank' on the dairy cow of one Mrs. O'Leary. He successfully ignited its flatulence, and the city burned, William! That young terrorist went on to become the first gay president of the United States: Abraham Lincoln!//

    • What? She was lying?!
    • And in season 2, she says that Will and the new football coach will be "sorrier than the Mexican Indian that sold Manhattan to George Washington for an upskirt photo of Betsy Ross!"
  • A number of 2012-focused "documentaries" wistfully wonder what the Maya would say about 2012 doomsday theories if they were still around. Evidently, someone forgot to inform the roughly 7 million living Maya of their non-existence.
  • In Babylon 5 Captain Sheridan locates the Jack the Ripper killings in London's West End instead of the East End. Straczynski admits it was a typo and it was overdubbed in the DVD release.
  • The second episode of Bonekickers, which has a shipment of slaves that takes place a good decade or so after Britain outlawed the slave trade.
  • A minor example, but an eye-roller nonetheless: the Human Target episode "Imbroglio" attempts to show Badass Guerrero as an opera aficionado, but he identifies composers Rossini & Verdi as being from the Baroque era (neither is).
  • The main plot of the CBBC series Leonardo involves Piero de' Medici plotting to overthrow the Duke of Florence. Except there wasn't a Duke of Florence in Leonardo's time, and Piero was the de facto ruler of the city himself. (The later Duke of Florence was Piero's great-grandson, simply formalising the Medici rule.)
    • Interestingly, in one episode Piero give his son Lorenzo a potted history of how his grandfather Giovanni invented modern banking, which is more or less accurate (except that he says Giovanni "arrived" in Florence, when he was actually born there).
  • The Young Blades episode "The Exile" features Charles II attempting to assassinate Oliver Cromwell while the latter is attempting to sign a peace treaty with Louis XIV. The episode ends with the main character convincing Louis to recognize Charles as the rightful King of England and reject Cromwell's treaty. In reality, Charles II and Louis XIV were cousins, and Charles spent most of his life in French courts due to the political problems in England, so there's no way they wouldn't have known each other.
    • In the very next episode, "Da Vinci's Notebook," Siroc states, "As everybody knows, da Vinci died in Paris." Actually, he died in Amboise, over 100 miles away.
  • Played for Laughs a few times in The Office, such as in the early episode regarding sensitivity training.

 Michael: Abraham Lincoln once said, "If you are a racist, i will attack you with the North."

    • Later in an episode where Michael sends Jim on a scavenger hunt, one of the clues states "You will find me in the parking lot under the first president." Jim, seeing through the mistake, checked under a Lincoln.
  • How I Met Your Mother: Robin describes the division-winning 2004 Vancouver Canucks as "a scrappy, little underdog team that prevailed despite very shaky goaltending and, frankly, the declining skills of Trevor Linden." All of these features are incorrect. Far from scrappy underdogs, the Canucks were favorites to win the division from the get-go; goaltender Dan Cloutier had his best season as a professional and was near the top of the league in every statistical category; and Trevor Linden's skills had not been relied upon as a core feature of the team for the better part of a decade.
  • Combat! was a television series depicting American G.I.'s fighting Germans in France during World War II. It lasted five seasons, although historically, after D-Day France was liberated in about four months, and Germany surrendered after less than a year. Total U.S. involvement in World War II was less than four years.


Newspaper Comics Edit

  • In September 2009, a character in Tank McNamara was said to have researched the Vandals (the name of a college sports team) and found that they were part of Norse mythology. The Vandals have nothing to do with Norse mythology; they were a historic Germanic tribe, or perhaps Slavs, who invaded the Roman Empire.
    • This misinterpretation comes from the fact that the Swedish kings used to style themselves as "Suecorum, Gothorum et Vandalorum Rex" Vandalorum being the Wends (or the Vends), not the Vandals. They lived in the same area, but in different time periods.

Tabletop Games Edit

  • Witch Girls Adventures seems to be written under the premise that Vlad Dracul and Vlad Dracula are the same person, and not in a Beethoven Was an Alien Spy or Julius Beethoven Da Vinci sense. For reference, this is the same as writing a story under the premise that George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush are the same person. They just seem to have not realized they were not only two different people, but father and son. A hint is that "Dracula" roughly translates to English as "Son of the Dragon", with "a" being the "Son of" part.
  • Grave Robbers From Outer Space. Subverted with the Re-interpreted Historical Figure Who Probably Wasn't As Evil As All This.
  • FATAL's creator Byron Hall claims that the game is absolutely historically accurate--when he's not claiming that some hideously offensive magical item was included for controversial humor. In practice, "historically accurate" in this case means that he just looked up stuff that people used to believe at one point or another, and treated it as though it's actually true.
  • Swashbuckling adventure game Seventh Sea tries its best to justify this by being set in a world which is not explicitly Earth ("Theah"), but instead has nearly-identical geography (except for lacking the Americas), and is made entirely of Fantasy Counterpart Cultures with Significant Names. The result is a world much like our own, circa 1560 (the Queen of "Avalon" is a clear Elizabeth I expy) through 1700 (... while a Shout-Out to Louis XIV is at the height of his power). Woe betide the GM who tries to use its books for anything set in the real Cavalier Years.


Theater Edit

  • When Shakespeare tackles history, history usually loses. However, it's hard to fault him given his often-stated intent to entertain people. It's more of a failure when modern writers use Shakespeare as a definitive authority, something he himself might not have appreciated.
    • Shakespeare was patronized by the British monarchy (in spite of possibly not being a good Protestant). He knew exactly what side his bread was buttered on.
      • Dan Brown is offended at being compared to Shakespeare because -- as he points out -- he gets things like geography and clothing accurate. Usually.
    • The Winters Tale is set during pagan times, yet features the Kingdom of Sicily (1130), the Kingdom of Bohemia (1356) and the Tsardom of Russia (1547).
    • Richard III is Tudor propaganda based on dubious sources. Other than Richard's accession and death and the murders of the Princes in the Tower, the Bard gets everything wrong.
      • And even the story of the Princes in the Tower is questionable.
      • It's worth noting, however, that much of what he tells us about Richard III was already "Common Knowledge" at this point, so it's not all his fault.
        • And of course, as hinted above, the guy who deposed Richard III was Henry VII, Elizabeth I's grandfather. So it wouldn't have been a good idea to try and paint a positive picture of Richard III.
    • Macbeth changes Duncan from a young, violent invader to a wise old king, telescopes Macbeth's 17-year reign into two years, creates Lady Macbeth almost from whole cloth, and even reimagines the Stuart family tree.
      • King James was supposedly descended from Banquo through his son Fleance. Macbeth was commissioned by James, who paid Shakespeare a king's ransom to write and stage it. Naturally Shakespeare would throw in things that would please James. This is also why at the end of the original play, Shakespeare put on another play showing the descent of the Stuarts from Fleance through to James VI. Total nonsense, but James and Shakespeare both liked it.
    • Many people believe that Sir John Falstaff was a historical person because of his inclusion in Henry IV Parts 1 and 2". Although he may have been Very Loosely Based on a True Story on an old Stratford acquaintance of Shakespeare's, Falstaff himself is wholly fictional.
      • Sir John Fastolf was a very real knight of the Garter who was a contemporary of Henry V (and long outlived him). To what extent he was the inspiration for Shakespeare's Sir John Falstaff is debated to this day.
      • The character was originally named John Oldcastle, after a real 15th century person. Since Oldcastle had well-connected descendants, Shakespeare had to change the name.
    • Not to mention the Romans in Julius Caesar, who wore nightcaps and used clocks.
      • And read books with pages, as well as the entire events of Caesar's murder, burial, and arrival of Octavius all being compressed into the same day, the actual events occurring within the period of a month.
      • Books with pages aren't as bad a problem as usually assumed -- vellum codexes bound in wood did exist in the Roman times.
      • And Caesar saying "For I am constant as the Northern Star"; the location in the sky of the North Celestial Pole varies due to the Precession of the Equinoxes, and in Roman times it wasn't near any star.
    • Shakespeare's portrayal of Henry V as a wild vagabond when he was the heir to the throne is also inaccurate. Henry was always the same duty bound, serious man his whole life.
    • Shakespeare has King John say, "The thunder of my cannon shall be heard" in France. The first English cannons were used at the battle of Crécy in 1346 – 130 years after the death of King John. Cannon are also mentioned in Theater/Hamlet which is set in the 11th century, well before gunpowder was invented im Europe.
  • Christopher Marlowe, an Elizabethan dramatist who influenced Shakespeare, was also prone to this. In his Tamburlaine plays, the eponymous (anachronistic) Scythian conqueror takes control of the Persian Empire (which ceased to exist in 330 BCE, unless he meant the contemporary Safavid Empire, which did not exist in "Tamburlaine's" time) by capturing its capital, Persepolis (which was burned down by Alexander the Great over a millennium ago), capturing the King of Turkey (which was a sultanate) and marrying the daughter of the Egyptian (Mamluk) Sultan, Zenocrate (who, aside from being invented, has a Greek name).
  • The Crucible has so many inaccuracies about the Salem Witch trials that it practically needs its own page.
    • For starters, Abigail and friends were children, not teenagers as in the play.
      • On that note - John Proctor was good to his wife, and wasn't banging Abigail, who was, like, 8.
        • Arthur Miller changed her age in order to introduce the subplot. He admitted this.
    • While it is true that Giles Corey died while being pressed, they were already convinced that he was a witch, and that's how the law saw his death.
    • John and Elizabeth Proctor tried very hard to stop this nonsense, but John was hanged long before the craze died, and Elizabeth only escaped on account of pregnancy, being released once the hysteria ran its course.
    • Another note that falls under this is that its attempt to connect the Salem Witch trials to the Red Scare, which -- in spite of its justification in pointing out some facts -- has opened it up to a counterattack by those who point out that Communist spies in the Western governments were not imaginary creatures, though the hunts for them did cause considerable collateral damage.
      • Indeed, one popular idea is that the Salem witch trials was largely the result of the food supply being contaminated by ergot mold. For those of you who don't know, ergot is the mold that LSD is extracted from. The girls may very well not have been fear mongering for their own gain -- they were just understandably freaked out by all the demonic cows they thought they were seeing.
      • The above is actually an example of this trope. Historians have discounted the ergot hypothesis for a while now because a drought had recently hit the area, which didn't exactly provide ideal conditions for ergot to grow.
  • Happens sometimes in The Royal Diaries series, about historical famous princesses. A rare justified example because quite a few of them existed during a time period that not much is known about, and the authors will admit to taking some artistic license.


Video Games Edit

  • Evony. Apparently Napoleon's diary was written in the medieval era.
  • The video game Gun by Activision, while a very good game, has a number of issues with dates extending beyond history, and going to problems of basic addition and subtraction, but one of the major plot points of the game is The American Civil War, which, in the game, apparently ended in 1870.
  • Command and Conquer Red Alert: Ignoring the alternate paths that history takes and the futuristic technologies that develop in the actual games (which are just Rule of Cool), artistic license is taken with the backstory. Adolf Hitler was removed from history when Einstein travelled back in time to 1924, partly explaining the lack of opposition to Soviet expansion, but how did the Soviet Union spontaneously transform from one of the most economically underdeveloped countries in Europe into a massive superpower armed with atomic weapons ready to take over the entire continent (The aggressive Take Over the World plan is in itself already ignoring Stalin's cautious nature and "Socialism in one country" policy.?) Also, why are all the borders in their post-1945 state?
    • An Ancient Conspiracy on the part of Big Bad Kane and the Brotherhood of Nod is probably the answer to your first question. Also. while Stalin did adopt Socialism in One Country as a more pragmatic alternate to the old theory of Permanent Revolution, he still very much plotted World Domination, and Moscow continued to directed Communist parties throughout the world to this end (though it came second to Stalin's interests and was sometimes quite disastorous for the parties in question, especially in Spain and Germany). His plan was to make Russia the industrial equal of any Western Great Power (he half-succeeded, at huge human cost) and then wait for the predicted and (to Marxists everywhere, and some others) inevitable next big economic crisis and next big global conflict (planning for Russia to stay out of it and then taking over Europe after the dust settled, though only partly by armed force, mainly by inspiring working class revolution in these countries-in-crisis thus sweeping the native Communist parties into power (either by election or armed revolution). This is mostly what happened, though it was hampered when Hitler invaded Russia so he only got Eastern Europe (though Hitler's actions did give him a much better excuse to march over Europe).
    • Viktor Suvorov's The Chief Culprit would provide significant support for the Red Alert timeline... were it not for the fact that it was published in 2008 (and Red Alert came out in 1996). So maybe it was a lucky guess... the 1945 borders are a pure mistake, though.
      • Viktor Suvorov would also provide significant support to the timeline if he was actual a credible historian too.
    • It's also stated at one point that there is a United Nations. What happened to the League of Nations?
  • Part of the backstory for Killer 7 involves an elementary school that has decided who the president of the United States would be since George Washington, located in Seattle, Washington. At the time of Washington's presidency, Seattle didn't exist, only populated by the tribes already living in the area. Seattle wouldn't be founded until 1851, sixty two years after Washington's election. Even with the extremely bizarre nature of the game, there is no reason to make such a mistake.
  • The game Imperium Romanum has a scenario set in 132 BC. The very first words of the description claim that Augustus Caesar currently has a firm hold on Rome as the first Emperor. This is off by more than a hundred years: Julius Caesar (let alone his adoptive son Augustus) hadn't even been born yet. This is not hard to notice if you're aware of the widely known fact that Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC.


Webcomics Edit

  • Homestuck features the female (and referred to as such) Marquise Mindfang. The proper title for a female marquise is marchioness. Granted, the character is from another planet, so the rules of titles may be different.
    • Marquise is actually the proper term, in French.
    • There is also the fact that Marquise fits the number requirement in the Ancestor's titles while Marchioness does not. The title is entirely intentional.


Web Original Edit

  • Associated Space has the following exchange in the spirit of Animal House:

 Fatebane: Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man. Admiral Patton punched right through the Western Wall and sank the Japanese fleet. And that was in the days of triremes: oar-powered ships that couldn't fire back as well as coastal fortresses.

Nazar: And how many ships did he lose in that battle?

Fatebane: It's the principle that matters! If she could do it, so can we!

  • This Xkcd
  • This article on a Tarot Poker game in a fantasy novel claims that the Tarot deck is the ancestor of the modern playing card deck. Modern European playing cards only appeared sometime around 1370, and the earliest Tarot decks appeared circa 1440.
  • In 2009, the dressup game site Poupeegirl held a Time Travel event, with avatar items representing "Western" and "Middle Ages" themes. Which was all well and good, except the Middle Ages themed items were all Rococo-era styles.
  • In "Invention Pioneers of Note", the episode on Alexander Graham Bell asserts, among other things, that he fought in World War 2. While the error is definitely intentional, it's not as clear if this is supposed to be a Critical Research Failure, or Blatant Lies, or something else.
  • Parodied in Jon Lajoie's "WTF Collective 2" song with MC Historical Inaccuracy:

 I drop lyrical bombs like Hiroshima in '73

I write rhymes like Shakespeare when he wrote Anne Frank's Diary

Which is about the civil war of 1812 in Germany

I'm like the Spanish Inquisition when they killed Jesus

And Abe Lincoln's suicide was the theme for my thesis

Like Moses when I focus I can split the red sea

Like he did in 1950 with the Chinese army


Western Animation Edit

  • In the Hey Arnold episode "pig war" the kids pull a Trojan Horse knock off using a giant wooden pig. While doing so Arnold states with great certainty "This worked for the trojans because they knew their enemies were easily flattered and loved gifts". Arnold, you fail history forever.
  • South Parks "I'm a Little Bit Country" presents a massive historical failure on the American Revolution. Determining exactly how the Founding Fathers would view the invasion of Iraq is a debate much too large for this page, but the armed conflict of the Revolution itself was already raging in the Colonies. The battles of Lexington and Concord had been fought in 1775, Benedict Arnold had captured a crucial British fort to help break the siege of Boston, and several other battles were fought. Not everyone wanted to go to war, and many of the Founding Fathers even opposed independence itself, but they recognized that the violent struggle was an inevitability.
  • The Transformers movie gets a pass for a lot of things based on Rule of Cool, but a few things are still outright mistakes.
  • The popular notion is that Walt Disney's animated cartoon Ben and Me is what started the misconception of Benjamin Franklin's famous kite experiment, which has found its way into every adaptation of the event. Though he did come up with the idea, there's no clear evidence that Franklin ever performed it himself, and the Myth Busters clearly showed that if Franklin attempted the experiment the way it's popularly portrayed, he would have been fried to a crisp by the lightning bolt.
  • At one point in Teen Titans Beast Boy proclaims "Now I know how George Washington felt when Napoleon beat him at Pearl Harbor." Raven smacks him for the condensed stupidity and wonders if he got that off of a cereal box (he did).
    • Not to mention that, in a sort of pathetic way, Mad Mod tries to pass off everything in American history as never happening and declares himself king, probably to make Big Ben look even bigger.
  • Any and all witch burning scenes that claim they are from the Salem Witch Trials (see Teaching Mrs. Tingle under Film). Example of both used in The Fairly Odd Parents and Danny Phantom.
  • From Family Guy we have the episode The Road to Germany where Stewie and Brian travel back to 1939 to save a wayward Mort Goldman who accidentally went crap in Stewie's Time Machine. When learning that Nazi Germany was making a Nuclear Bomb, Brian attempts to pull an Author Filibuster when Stewie asked 'Why doesn't America go and kick their asses?' which Brian replies 'Probably because they didn't have any oil'. Well, this joke falls flat for several reasons.
    1. In 1939, the American Army was well, crap, and its Air Force was still using outdated aircraft, many of which were behind the rest of the world (and moreover, it was Nazi Germany that had perhaps the most advanced in the world). So even if they wanted to attack at that time...they didn't have the means. The army at the time couldn't even afford enough guns and was using wooden replicas during live-fire drills, and they had no comparable tanks to face the German Panzer Divisions. And the Army Air Force, the P-40 and P-39, two planes which could compete (but not very well) against the FW-190 and BF-109 were a year away from being deployed, thus they only had metal biplanes and the already obsolete P-35 Hawk.
    2. In 1939, the United States was still gripped in The Great Depression and was firmly Isolationist despite Roosevelt's attempt to send aid to Great Britain.
    3. Nazi Germany's nuclear program...was kind of crap. They hadn't even produced enough uranium to produce a bomb at that point, and Hitler...frankly didn't care. Additionally, German physicists had messed up the math, and didn't think an atomic bomb was even possible.
    4. America at that point had all the oil they needed and didn't have to rely on foreign supplies. In fact, America was producing more oil than the rest of the world combined (the oil fields in the Middle East were largely undeveloped). And oil at that time was generally cheaper than water unless you were at war with half of the world.
    • Note that Brian glares at the viewer when saying this, and Stewie's acknowledgement of the obvious filibuster suggests that the joke is about a deliberately weak "Author Filibuster" rather than the writers actually screwing up history to to push their politics.
    1. On the Invasion of Poland itself...they forgot to add Stuka Dive Bombers as part of the German arsenal, as well as the twin engined Medium Bombers.
    2. Another error: The British never went for daytime bombing raids after the early 1940s. They instead relied on a night-time campaign. It was the Americans who did the daytime raids. Not only that, the Lancaster Bombers weren't even on the drawing board in 1939.
    • Another from Family Guy, this one from "The Big Bang Theory". It is shown that Leonardo da Vinci was Stewie's ancestor. However, Leonardo never married or had any by blood children, legitimate or otherwise. In fact, he was almost certainly gay.
  • Grandpa Simpson very often mixes historical events and/or relates them in a totally surrealistic and nonsensical way, and often claiming to have taken an active part in them. This might be a result of ignorance, severe senility, or both. Nobody around ever corrects him, however. In fact Bart did once praise his knowledge on early aviation (without realizing it was all bollocks):

 Bart: What a piece of junk.

Grandpa: Junk?! That's the Wright Brothers' plane! At Kitty Hawk in 1902, Charles Lindbergh flew that on a thimble-full of corn oil. Single-handedly won us the Civil War, it did!

Bart: How do you know so much about history?

Grandpa: I pieced it together, mostly from sugar packets.

    • Not to mention this:

 Homer: Are you sure you don't want to come? In a Civil War re-enactment we need lots of Indians to shoot!

Apu: I don't know what part of that sentence to correct first.

  Vlad Plasmius: If I can destroy the world's first airplane, then man will never fly.

  • The Looney Tunes short Yankee Doodle Bugs has Bugs Bunny helping his nephew Clyde study for a test by giving him a crash course in early American history. The accuracy of Bugs' accounts can be measured by Clyde's response after he returns home from school and Bugs asks how he did: glaring angrily, pulling out a Dunce Cap, and placing it on his head. ("Does this answer your question?")
  • Hilariously parodied in an episode of The Powerpuff Girls. Mojo Jojo, drafted into babysitting the girls, tells them a horribly inaccurate version of Napoleon's life. Before he can finish, the girls shut him down by pointing out the flaws in his story in between hitting him with pillows.
  • Robot Chicken's trailer for 1776. "It ain't accurate, but it'll blow your fucking mind!"
  • Although the old Schoolhouse Rock shorts could be remarkably informative for young audiences, "No More Kings", the one about the American colonies and Revolution ("Rockin' and a-rollin', splishin' and a-splashin'", etc) harps on and on about George III's tyrannical unfairness. King George's recurrent mental illness was such that he seldom exerted true control over Britain, let alone the colonies; it was Parliament which instituted the tax policies which (some) American colonists found so intolerable.
    • His illness didn't really hit him until later on in life; the British constitution on the other hand did limit his role in government anyway. He also was probably one of the nicest Kings Britain ever had; not a saint or anything but very much considering the crown a duty rather than something that gave him the right to be a dick, so he wasn't a tyrant by any real stretch of the imagination. He supported the war on the colonies because countries generally do not tolerate armed internal rebellions, and for all that was still happy to make peace once his side lost, treating the other side as a Worthy Opponent if anything.
    • It also suggests that England directly governed the colonies before the 1770s. In fact, the colonies had been largely allowed to govern themselves before then, and it was Parliament's attempts to impose more control on the colonies that was met with resistance.
    • Acknowledging that Parliament was to blame for the excesses would have amounted to a de facto recognition of Parliament's ability to govern and control the colonies; the colonials were subjects of the King, but not citizens of Great Britain.
  • In an episode of Camp Lazlo, a very excited Lazlo makes an incredibly inspired speech to encourage the other campers.

  Lazlo: Did Napoleon give up the moon to the Swiss? Don't you think he would've planted his butt on a pinecone to keep the moon base from falling to the barbarians?!

    • The others do appear confused by this, but the speech does its job anyway.
  • Animaniacs, with an example not covered by the Rule of Funny: in the Presidents Song, the Warner siblings inform us that Woodrow Wilson brought America into World War 1 in 1913. Not only is this four years before America joined in, it's one year before the war actually started.
  • The Anastasia film feature is plagued by this, granted, it was directed mainly at children but still:
    • Rasputin was a monk summoned to the court by the Tsar's wife herself, and it was because he was believed to be capable of alleviating the Tsarevitch's uncontrollable hemophilia.
    • Rasputin died before the Russian Revolution at the hands of a few young aristocrats resentful of his influence over the Imperial family.
    • Although he wasn't even remotely a saint by any means, he considered himself a Christian and would never deliberately indulge in any occult practices. Furthermore he was also a loyal Russian who never harbored any ill will towards the Tsar nor his family.
    • Not to mention Anastasia's bones were found in 2008. Past the time of the film, but still...

Notes

  1. Debateable, since there is evidence that the Aryans ultimately originated in what is now Ukraine and southern Russia, and their ancient remains show that at least some of them had blond hair. Even today, there are blond people in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran. Of course, the Aryans were probably not all or even mostly blond.