How Accurate Is: Manhattan (TV Show, 2014-2016) S1E1

Hello everyone! Today’s post will focus on the first episode of Manhattan, a television show which aired from 2014-2016 on WGN America. The show focuses on the Manhattan Project, which produced the world’s first nuclear weapons from a secretive base in the New Mexican desert during the Second World War. It is an interesting show, one which covers fascinating topics; it is not, however, especially historically accurate. In a slight mitigating factor, the producers of the show were not aiming for full accuracy, only trying to bring to life the atmosphere which the scientists at Los Alamos would have experienced.[1] However, it is nonetheless important to discuss the inaccuracies in the show to avoid any confusion.

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How Accurate Is: Bridge of Spies (Movie, 2015, Steven Spielberg) Post 2

Donovan.
Donovan.

Hello everyone! Today’s post will be part 2 of the series on Bridge of Spies, focusing on the negotiations themselves and the treatment of the main character, James Donovan. Both historically and in the film, Donovan was a New York attorney and former prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials who was called upon to defend Abel in American court; he then became involved in the negotiations for the prisoner exchange because neither the American nor the Soviet government wanted to send officially recognized representatives. By and large, the film did a good job with the character of Donovan, with his arguments in court in particular lifted directly from the historical record (including his excellent arguments in front of the Supreme Court, which almost seem to have been made for a movie).[1] Donovan’s friendship with Abel was also accurate; historically, in fact, Abel sent Donovan 400-year old Latin commentaries on the Code of Justinian to thank him for his efforts on Abel’s behalf.[2] The role of Donovan in the negotiations was also more or less accurate with the major exception that attempting to free Pryor as well as Powers was not Donovan’s side project against direct orders from the CIA: in fact, the American government had always hoped to have Pryor freed as well.[3] This change was one of the largest because it made the CIA significantly less sympathetic than they come across as in the historical record, and increased Donovan’s role in the negotiations.

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How Accurate Is: Bridge of Spies (Film, 2015, Steven Spielberg) Post 1


Bridge Of Spies

Hello everyone! Today’s post is on the 2015 film Bridge of Spies, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks. The film focuses on one of the most dramatic moments of the Cold War: the 1962 spy swap of spy-plane pilot Francis Gary Powers and PhD student Frederic Pryor for “Rudolf Abel”, a high-ranking Soviet spy in the United States. The film was quite good, and Hanks in particular played his role to a tee; Mark Rylance, who played Abel, also did an excellent job. Overall, the film was also fairly accurate. It took its title and its inspiration from Giles Whittell’s Bridge of Spies, a book chronicling the events leading up to and comprising the spy swap. The film began its narration later than did the book; while the book, for example, devoted more than a chapter to Abel’s mission in the United States, the film began with his capture.

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How Accurate Is: Valkyrie (Film, 2008, Bryan Singer)

Valkyrie

Hello everyone! Today’s post will be on the film Valkyrie. Released in 2008, directed by Bryan Singer, and starring Tom Cruise, Valkyrie chronicles the 1944 assassination attempt against Hitler, in which a significant number of upper-ranking German military officers participated. The plot was equal parts desperation due to Germany’s looming defeat in the war and genuine disgust with Nazi methods; the conspirators were an odd combination of fervent anti-Nazis (such as Stauffenberg, Beck, and others) and former Nazis who had decided that Hitler’s time had come (including von Neurath, the former foreign minister and governor of Bohemia). Tom Cruise played the leader of the plot, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg; his primary co-conspirators in the film included Major-General Henning von Tresckow, General Friedrich Olbricht, and (former) General Ludwig Beck.

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How Accurate Is: Marco Polo (TV Show, 2014-, S1E1) Post 2

Kublai Khan
Kublai Khan

Hello everyone! Today’s post will be, as promised, on the first episode of Marco Polo, from the Mongol and Chinese point of view rather than that of Polo. In the previous post, it was discussed that the show was fairly faithful to the life of Polo principally because the surviving accounts of his life (including his own) were not especially detailed. The same cannot be said of Mongol and Chinese life during this period, however, so how does the show measure up in this respect? Before entering into a discussion of this subject, it should be noted that there are less personal details on the Mongol or Chinese characters than Polo, so a direct comparison between the treatment of the two cannot truly be made.

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How Accurate Is: Marco Polo (TV Show, 2014-, S1E1) Post 1

Marco POlo

Hello everyone! Today’s post will be on the first episode of the Netflix show Marco Polo, released in 2014. My personal opinion on this show was that it was a promising historical drama derailed by numerous and wholly unnecessary graphic scenes; however, for the sake of this review, that is neither here nor there. In terms of historical accuracy, the show was significantly more accurate than expected, with some caveats. The first is that nearly the only source on the life of the historical Marco Polo is his own book, Il Miliones, which he published upon his return; the second is that this book does not relate his life in great detail, giving the creators of the show significant leeway with their interpretation of events. In many ways, this makes Marco Polo the perfect historical drama from the perspective of television producers; they are permitted to tell a compelling historical story without having to worry too much about getting the details right.

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How Accurate Is: Rome, S1E2 (TV Show, HBO, 2005-7)

Mark Antony
Mark Antony

Hello everyone! Today’s post will be another post on Rome, this time Rome Season 1 Episode 2. There will be less to say about the episode this time, but as always there were certainly some inconsistencies present. I will add before I begin that, once again, the show has the potential to be enjoyable; however, it wastes that potential.

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How Accurate Is: Rome S1E1 (TV Show, HBO, 2005-7) Part 2

Marcus Licinius Crassus
Marcus Licinius Crassus

Hello everyone! Today’s post is part 2 of my post on Rome Episode 1. The topic of this post will be the Fact-Based Omissions in this episode of Rome. Although these were fairly common in this episode, they were much less common than the errors covered in the previous post.

One of the most important errors was the fact that Caesar was not consul when he and Pompey split, as depicted in the episode; rather, though he had been consul in 59 BCE, Pompey had just been elected as “consul without a colleague” for the first time in Roman history in 53 BCE.[1] This omission is fairly significant. It is possible that the writers of the show had wanted the alliance between Pompey and Caesar to be obvious without having to explain the circumstances of the First Triumvirate (which would also explain the complete absence of Crassus, who despite having died the same year this episode took place goes unmentioned[2]), and decided that the co-consulship was the easiest way to accomplish this.

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How Accurate Is: Rome S1E1 (Tv Show, HBO, 2005-7) Part 1

Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar

Hello everyone! Today’s post will be on Season 1, Episode 1, of the HBO show Rome. I know that it has been a while since anything appeared here, and I apologize; from now on, I will try to get posts up more often. Rome is in itself not a new show, but nonetheless made a significant impact on the world of historical dramas. The question, as always, however, is how rooted in history it actually is.

I should begin by saying that I am on the fence as to whether I enjoyed Rome. On the one hand, it presents a fascinating and complex picture of Roman history during the period of the Civil War and the Second Triumvirate; on the other, its mistakes (so far) are many, and it oversimplifies or flat out alters beyond recognition many of the leading players in the drama. The production values of the show are certainly excellent (which was an important factor in the cancellation of the well-received show after only two seasons); similarly, most of the actors do a wonderful job. It is the writing which, perhaps, could have stood improvement. In the vein of my recent posts on Troy, I am going to split my initial impressions of this episode into several categories, the first two of which will appear in this post. These categories are:

  1. Condensation.
  2. Hollywood (un)Romanticism
  3. Fact-Based Omissions.

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How Accurate Is: Renowned Explorers: International Society (Game, 2015)

REIS

Hello everyone! Today’s post is on the accuracy of Renowned Explorers: International Society, by Abbey Games. This game is an interesting case. While it does have its roots in history, it makes no pretense to be genuinely historical; however, I found the way in which it interprets history sufficiently interesting to justify a post regardless.

The background for this game is the age of exploration, in the seventeenth or eighteenth century. The Americas and most of the African coastline, as well as Asia, have been charted by Europeans, but besides the coastline mystery abounds. The game therefore makes liberal use of pop culture and historical references to populate its world with a variety of historical and semi-historical events and characters. One treasure which can be found in the game, for example, is King Kong (or an equivalent), who can then be brought back to Europe to be displayed. On a more historical note, the locales visited by the band of intrepid explorers controlled by the player include islands in the Caribbean (populated by smugglers) abandoned forts in Hungary, and the coast of West Africa, presenting an interesting mix of global locations.

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