Artistic License – History
aka: You Fail History Forever
King Xerxes: Hair vs. Nair.

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...

Not so. Large chunks of history are well-documented, with many living traces in contemporary life — roads paved on pathways carved by ancient civilizations, languages and slang that evolve from a particular regional starting point, architecture from various eras, fashions plucked from various times, materials used for tools and production, etc.

But all of this is secondary to telling a good story. In most cases, historical works focus on a particular event taken out of context, revolving around a set group of individuals and depict the events with the pictorial and narrative structure as per the fashions of the year of its exhibition. Real history is filled with Loads and Loads of Characters with plenty of Hero of Another Story. In addition, many writers commit what's called the "historian's mistake", which is 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).note  Likewise, works of art are not so cheap to create. It costs something in time and money to properly research, find and create the material needed to portray a given period with some degree of accuracy. There are also the limits of the medium to contend with. To play a famous painter believably, casting another famous painter is usually not considered a smart rule for casting. The best of actors will struggle to believably render genius convincingly. There are limits to the illusion cast by a work of art in portraying a historical reality, even in the best scenario. This also applies to writers who would struggle to render the thoughts and dialogues of the distant past in a manner that is convincing to the reader, that gives a believable impression of a past where society and values were different from the present, but not so different as to be unrelatable. In cases where the given period has very few records available, most of it has to be fictionalized anyway. Likewise, where history does lean on records, there is still room for interpretation and ambiguity, so in these cases historians and artists share common ground.

In most cases however, historians and artists don't really have the same job. A historian's job is to relate the facts, and update it as and when new information comes to life. But the artist's job is to reflect on history, showing why certain individuals and events were important and remain important decades and centuries later. Even when history is Written by the Winners and censorship dominates cultures (as it did for a long time in human history), artists tend to be drawn to particular events and figures more than others. Whether its the Folk Hero, the Founder of the Kingdom, the iconic Rebel Leader, certain people and events are interesting because they are more relatable to people than others. This often leads to a sense of distortion, where thanks to constant references in history, the impact of some historical figures looms larger than the facts would allow and in some cases, greatly exaggerates the given person or event's relative importance.

Still, while artists and historians have parallel jobs, in cases where the former doesn't keep up to pace with new research you can see the persistence of discredited information, decades and even centuries after being academically debunked. See Dated History for those rare cases where new evidence or insight actually does change the historical record. Compare Anachronism Stew, where the inaccuracies are not fictional inventions, just details drawn from different eras; Hollywood History, where the facts are mostly right, just caricatured and stereotyped, subject to Bowdlerization and 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.

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.


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    Various Media 
  • 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, elephants at the zoo being found delicious, monocled German officers peering down cannons from just beyond the city limits, and later, after the city had fallen, a revolutionary Commune set up, ending in Communards being shot dead by government firing squads. All this reality would spoil the Parisian ambiance, so it's all quietly ignored. Works that make this mistake include Joel Schumacher's The Phantom of the Opera adaptation 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 I.
  • 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 overanxious 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 in their late teens or 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 much later 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, since his nephew was supposedly illegitimate due to his father's being promised to another woman before his mother, making their marriage legally invalid. 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. It's useful to remember also that this particular exception was something of an emergency situation — the Lancasters to which both the Beauforts and the Tudors were satellite families were lacking in heirs at the time and facing the first rumbles of the discord with the other royal branch of York that became the Wars of the Roses. Getting a backup heir was more important than usual, which led to the very early consummation.

    "Marriageability" 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 center 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, 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 (Roman Kingdom, in Greek). 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.
    • 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 tortured people For the Evulz! Christian Emperors were traitors to the Empire! Lather, rinse, repeat. Until the Christians won.
  • Similarly, many supposed "acts" related to Christian martyrology are not only riddled with supposed supernatural apparitions and miracles, which are already kiiiiinda hard to believe for many, but some have glaring historical errors.note  A good example is the myth of Saint Philomena of Mugnano: supposed to be about a Greek Rebellious Princess who spurns the offer of an Arranged Marriage to Emperor Diocletian and gets martyred: there were no small kingdoms left by that time in Greece (it was divided in provinces, and Philomena's supposed kingdom was in the island of Corfu — back then, a part of the Macedonia province), Diocletian was a married man and both his wife Prisca and daughter Valeria outlived him for at least four years, Diocletian reigned from outside of Rome (more exactly from Nicomedia, Mediolanum, Antioch, and ultimately Trier) while the whole "tale" happened in Rome itself, etc. Many of the martyrologies were only written centuries after the fact in any case and some atrocities (such as the Christians being fed to lions in the Coliseum) don't have any evidence for them (the Coliseum was not even built when these atrocities supposedly took place, for instance).
  • The Wild West in particular is one.
    • In every Western movie you see, there's always the depiction of extreme violence running amok in the American frontier. Gunfighters shooting in the streets, the law being horribly useless or downright bloodthirsty vigilantes, and frequent bandit-attacks on banks and towns. Any Western aficionado nowadays know that these concepts aren't exactly true. Although law in the American frontier lacks the efficiency of those in the East (resorting instead to vigilantism and feuds), only an average of 5(!) homicides were recorded yearly in the big settlements in the Old West, because the wearing of guns was prohibited in many Western towns, and shooting up a town or killing one guy was borderline suicidal for gunfighters (they don't live that long).
    • Gunfights in the Old West in particular are exaggerated. Although there were cases of violence that occurred in the American frontier, they were not frequent, and were just episodic and far between. Old West gunfights were mostly made up of outlaws versus the law, family or political feuds, or range wars between farmers and big ranchers, and NOT about gunfighters challenging another gunfighter in the streets (it also doesn't help that carrying guns was frequently illegal). If it does happen, the law will always be there to prevent them from doing so. Most of the violence in the frontier occurred to the Indians.
    • Another cliche in the Old West is the notion that gunfighters fought in the streets with the use of the Quick Draw. Although duels did happen in the West, quick draw duels were extremely rare, close to unheard of. Historical gunfighters would rather have a pistol already in their hand as opposed to drawing them. It was also very rare to see two popular gunmen challenging one another to enlarge their reputation, although there were accounts of young guns commonly challenging a more experienced gunmen to make a name for themselves. Revolvers were very inaccurate, so quick draws were little help anyway.
    • The word gunslinger is a modern term.
    • The Cowboys vs. Indians conflicts are also heavily debated upon. Most of the battles white people did with Native Americans were military. Also, relationships between ranchers and Indians were quite friendly, and Indians would even let cowboys cross their land for a fee. However, in times of conflict, there were accounts of cowboys fighting off rogue Indians for various reasons such as war and scarcity of food. Cases like those of Oliver Loving and the Pinhook Massacre are among the most gruesome examples. Cowboys themselves weren't that chivalrous either, and they too were just as aggressive.
    • The monochrome casting of many early Westerns is also grossly wrong. You see, most of the "opening" of the West happened just after the Civil War (1861-1865). The Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869 (built mostly by Asian laborers) and most of the territory in question had been part of Mexico until 1848. But in 1950s Westerns all you will see in any major role are white males. Women will be shown as love interests at best and window dressing at worst and black people won't even show up at all. In reality many cowboys (you know, people who took care of cows and herded them to the next railroad station) were freedmen in search for work and fleeing discrimination in the old South.
  • Japanese media also tend to exaggerate their own period pieces (known as Jidai Geki). The Bushido Index code of honor for example, is actually a modern term created years after the samurai culture died.
    • Real life samurai were also not as loyal as they are perceived in movies. They would frequently betray their own masters for reasons such as money and being sore losers. Lampshaded very well during the Battle of Sekigahara. The samurai's legendary status of being calm and disciplined (to the point that this trait can be seen stereotypically to Japanese people in media) is also false. Most of the battles in the era were a butcher fest. Peasants themselves who unluckily gets the attention of sadistic samurais would get their heads chopped off... in public. They had the legal right to kill any peasants who offended them back then. Such an offense could be not housing and feeding a samurai with all they had, should they so desire.
    • The notion of a samurai only using the katana as his only weapon (honor wise) is also false. Historical samurai were depicted using bows, polearms and even firearms. Some samurai ninjas also used other despicable weapons in the eyes of the modern viewer. Katana duels were also very rare and frequently frowned upon. Miyamoto Musashi (the greatest Japanese samurai that ever lived) killed the opponent in his most famous duel using a wooden oar.
    • Ninja history is also misrepresented from time to time. They didn't carry straight swords, didn't use kunai knives and throwing stars, and never wore black jumpsuits (this misconception came from Japanese theater and art, used to differentiate ninjas from other characters). Ninja use of parkour is also horrendously exaggerated. And many historical ninjas weren't peasants themselves (except of course the Iga ninjas). Real ninjas were likely to dress as travelers, merchants, pilgrims, peasants, etc. (i.e. people who blend in).
    • Contrary to popular belief, most Ronins were not travelling swordsmen. They were more likely bandits and pirates.
  • One essay on The Battle of Epping Forest (the eponymous Forest being in the South of England) made the mistake (among 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...
    • America may be the first, though, to use the term "civil war" for an attempt at partition, rather than a struggle for control of the existing state as a whole.
  • 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. Additionally, although torture was supposed to be used only once, and any confession obtained from it was invalid unless repeated in court, the inquisitors got around this by "recessing" torture sessions and picking them up later.
    • 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 though, 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 people accused by the Inquisition. It also helped that prior to the early modern witch trials, the Catholic Church officially disbelieved in witchcraft, so it didn't take much to fall back on this position.
    • Compared to secular courts of the time, the reputation the Inquisition enjoyed was such that it was a common occurrence that people imprisoned by the latter would shout blasphemy or claim other religious wrongdoings just to be transferred under the authority 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. Furthermore, inquisitors were obliged to provide the accused with legal counsel, considered confession without factual corroboration an unfit grounds for sentence, and were forbidden to accept accusations from ex-convicts or people who could benefit from the sentence. None of these precautions were observed by most secular courts of the period.
    • It's rare for anyone to note that the Papal Inquisition ("the" Inquisition) and the Spanish Inquisition were completely separate organizations. It's hardly ever mentioned that Protestants had their own persecutions of heretics (both Catholics and often Protestants of different sects) and witches. In fact they killed more witches than the Church. It's even rarer to note that the Spanish Inquisition was the state ministry, not a papal organization and served the interests of the Spanish monarchy, not the Church as a whole. It was founded in 1480 and was active throughout the 16th to early 19th century (it was formally abolished in 1834) so its connection to the Middle Ages is rather weak.
    • Often torture is treated as an exceptional method. Torture was standard practice and used by every king, country, city, etc. into the early 18th century, just as fines and imprisonment are used today.
    • Some of the first people to criticize accusations of witchcraft and torture were actually priests, since they had experience in dealing with both. They just pointed out the obvious: that, for instance, a broom will not hold a woman's weight in flight, and people confess to impossible things if tortured.
    • The Church itself also never executed heretics—priests were forbidden to shed blood, as stated above. The convicts were given to the secular authorities, who executed them. The auto-da-fe (act of faith) was not the execution itself, but the public penance of the convicted heretic before the sentence was to be carried out (many were spared at the last moment if they confessed and repented).
  • Heretics are usually portrayed as peaceful if eccentric evangelists and are portrayed in a positive light. In reality, many heretical movements during the High Middle Ages, especially the millenarian sects, strove to reform not only religion but also secular life. Some of them tried to achieve it forcefully, by physical elimination of nobility and clergy, attracting simple criminals. Comparisons with fascists and Bolsheviks is sometimes not too stretched. Another important detail is that many seemingly minor points of doctrine are far more important than they appear at first glance. The argument over whether the Eucharist is really the Body and Blood of Christ or merely a symbol seems like hair-splitting until you consider that it is the difference between true worship and either idolatry or sacrilege (worshiping the Eucharist would be idolatry if it isn't really Jesus, and treating the Eucharist as a mere symbol is sacrilege if it is Jesus). Orthodoxy is Serious Business because of Fridge Horror. This is also why heresy as a whole was treated so deadly seriously: to them it was. If the wrong belief sends you to hell, heresy really is worse than murder, as some theologians like Augustine of Hippo said.
  • Bruno was not condemned for his defense of the Copernican system of astronomy, nor solely for his doctrine of the plurality of inhabited worlds-it was just one of a list of heresy charges, including: 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 refused. 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.
    • The reason, why Bruno was turned down to authority, was because he was fraid and he cheated some nobles, that he is is wizard and offered them his "service".
  • Galileo was never tortured by the church. He was threatened with torture before confessing, but this was standard (as in, any court anywhere, secular or otherwise, had little problem with torture at the time). His sentence for heresy was house arrest at his villa for the rest of his life. There were others, such as Giordano Bruno, who were burned at the stake as heretics. 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 grounds for war and rebellion on the part of both Catholics and Protestants, and that Galileo was practically in the Pope's backyard. Galileo claimed that the Bible is the final guide for the people, so all scientific discoveries should be included in the Scripture. It was the Pope who wanted to keep science and religion separate. Galileo didn't really get into trouble until he was asked by the Papacy to include a mention towards the Aristotelian 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 insulted his peers. Also, he mocked the Pope. More specifically, he made up a character called Simplicio, or "Simpleton" for an essay he wrote denouncing Aristotelian astronomy... and rather obviously based him on the Pope who'd been defending him.
  • 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 no one 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 have died, and nearly did.
  • Those Wacky Nazis used a non-historical definition for the term "Aryan."
    • The term predates the Nazi ideology by thousands of years. Originally, that group of "Indo-Europeans" that swept into the Indus valley and the Iranian plateau during the 1500's BC helped in part to establish the Hindi and Iranian civilizations along with the indigenous people there. You can rest assured those people were hardly blond, since there is evidence that the Aryans and other groups of Indo-Europeans originated in what is now Turkey. Early racist ideologues of the 19th century (Arthur de Gobineau, Houston Stewart Chamberlain et al. whom the Nazis took inspiration from) built up a largely fictional mythos around the term and declared that it applied to white Northern Europeans. Tolkien even wrote a letter pointing out how inaccurate Nazi conception of Aryans were, saying it was a linguistic term referring to speaker of Indo-Iranian languages.note 
    • The fictional definition of "Aryan" was strictly for ideological / propagandistic purposes, and after the Nuremberg Laws (1935) replaced it with "of German or related blood" ("deutschen oder artverwandten Bluts"), it was no longer used in official legal texts.
  • 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 that they started 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"-literally it means the "defense force") 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.
    • Yet another common fallacy about WW2 is that both the French and Italians were utter incompetents and total cowards who couldn't fight. The French were ferociously brave in much of their fighting, as they normally were; but they were trying to fight World War 1 all over again and seriously misused their tanks and planes. The Royal Italian Army for its part did very well when properly commanded and supplied; for example, the Italian ''Alpini'' and the paratroops were infamous for their ferocity in battle. It should also be mentioned that both countries were, along with Greece and Poland, home to some of the biggest Resistance movements in Europe; they bravely fought the Germans and gave precious help to the Allied troops.
      • The quick collapse of France is due mostly to the actions of their politicians rather than their military prowess. While most of the army was manning the Maginot Line in anticipation of a WWI trench warfare type battle, the Germans used their motorized units to strike through the Ardennesnote  and bypass the Maginot Line completely, reaching the major French cities before the army could react. At this point, the French army was completely ready to fight and drive the Germans out, however the French government had already capitulated and ordered the army to stand down.note  Had they known that the reason Germany used blitzkrieg techniques was because German industry at the time could not supply a prolonged conflict, history might have turned out quite differently.
    • Related to America Won World War II is the conspicuous absence of the incredibly badass French armies that were reconstituted during the war, such as the French First Army, whose motto, by the end of the war, was Rhin et Danube, referring to the rivers they had torn across during the course of their invasion of the Reich.
  • 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 his nickname le petit caporal ("the little Corporal"), given affectionately by his men for his humility rather than for 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; the island was settled by Pisans (yes, from the city of the Leaning Tower) and then it was conquered by the Genoese, who kept it as a possession until 1768 (the year before Napoleon's birth) when it was sold to the French. Moreover, the Corsican language itself is actually a dialect of Italian: if anything, it can be said that Napoleon spoke with a thick Italian 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 (along with many others) during the period so this may well have been the case.
    • Napoleon's Rags to Riches is often emphasized by his biographers and was part of the mystique of meritocracy that accompanied Napoleonic propaganda. The reality is still impressive, but not as plain. The Buonopartes were an aristocratic family in Corsica of relatively old stock. They were however a petty aristocracy grown poor due to circumstances. As a result of Corsica acceding to France shortly before his birth and a Royal Program to provide education to the sons of Corsican lords, Napoleon had an excellent education in the foremost military academy of the French Kingdom, but still faced racist mockery for his low-upbringing and Corsican accent. It was only during the French Revolution's Reign of Terror that Napoleon got his first promotion as a result of his loyalty to France over Corsica (which has allied with the Loyalists) and his exemplary military performance. He like many other generals were promoted as part of the overall army reforms, and Napoleon merely consolidated existing practises when he took over.
    • 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 necessary, he was nowhere in Hitlers league. For one thing, Napoleon ended centuries of feudal anti-semitism by de-ghettoization. Of course, Napoleon was following on from previous reforms made by the Revolution (which he couldn't repudiate). It should be noted that The Duke of Wellington who opposed Napoleon was an anti-semite who as Prime Minister voted down pro-Jewish legislation in the Parliament.
  • 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 gets morbidly funny when one realizes that French supporters of democracy (trying to establish and perpetuate the ideology) killed more people within a few years than the Inquisition (both Roman and Spanish) managed to sentence to death during its whole existence.
  • Death penalty:
    • 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 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. Even this was better than the death accorded to women who killed their husbands, even in self-defence: they were burned, and 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. It was a punishment, after all.
    • 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 more often burned (or in other parts of the world, buried alive, garrotted or beheaded) 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.
    • Being "broken on the wheel" was a method of execution, not the means to extract confessions or information. The victim would be strapped to a cart wheel, then have their arms and legs broken with sledge hammers. They would then bleed to death slowly. It was reserved for people such as heretics whom even the ordinary painful death by burning or hanging was considered too good for. In the Holy Roman Empire of the Habsburgs, it was the harshest punishment reserved for traitors and rebels against the State.
  • From this Frank Miller interview:
    Miller: Nobody questions why after Pearl Harbor we attacked the 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, though the USA did give tons of supplies to both England and Russia in their fight against Hitler. FDR wanted war very badly with Germany, he just needed the American people to want war too. Use Miller's analogy backwards?
  • 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.
    • 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. A modern estimate is that a gladiator had a 90% chance of surviving a non-death match. The approximately 10% that did die were due to complications from particularly severe wounds and not from a deliberate killing blow in the arena. Most gladiator schools had a physician on staff to treat illnesses and wounds sustained in training and combat, adding to the investment owners had in their gladiators.
  • 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.
    • In 18th century France just before The French Revolution, about 5% of the population was above 65 when the last pre-revolutionary census had been made. People needed good living conditions and food available mostly to the upper classes to live to an advanced age. In modern Europe, the percentage is almost four times greater.
    • Here is a list of the last surviving veterans of American wars. Count the ones that hit the big 100. And before you point that these are all post-Industrial Revolution examples, bear in mind that Ramesses II lived 90 years and reigned 66. In the second millennium before Christ.
  • 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. Also, death sentences were extremely rare among the peasants, because landlords needed any workforce they could have. And wise women were usually the only people around eligible for the role of local medic and midwife. More often than not anyone trying to denounce a 'witch' was considered a troublemaker and flogged for his or her troubles. Modern French researchers led by Jacques Le Goff (The Medieval World) had tried to prove how those who took the brunt of persecution in the Middle Ages were not "the poor" (peasant, petty laborer), but rather the marginals / outcasts, those who lived outside the society norms: the supposed thief, the supposed unbeliever, the unwed mother, the strange old woman living outside the village and so on. Conversely, as so many people died from now easily treatable conditions, for instance complications of childbirth, the midwife-cum-medic often took the blame when they did.
  • Witches in Salem weren't burned at the stake, they were hanged. And none of the accused were actually practicing witches, or pagans, or members of a minority belief system, and no one who "confessed" was executed. The 19 who were killed were the only accused who maintained their innocence. And the Salem Witch Trials didn't really happen in Salem, Massachusetts, but in nearby Salem Village, now called Danvers.
  • When it comes to persecution by the Church, people today tend to go a bit overboard. For instance, a lot of media portrays the historical Church as violently anti-science. This is simply not true. In fact, the Church sponsored a lot of scientific research, particularly medical research, and quite a few Catholic researchers have been credited as the fathers of many scientific fields— including evolution. This makes more sense when you consider that in medieval times there were generally only two institutions in a country that would have the money and resources to support large-scale research: the government and the Church.
  • ANY depiction of Vikings is almost certainly wrong, since they never wore helmets with the iconic horns. Either they wore hats out of leather, or metal helmets that deflect sword blows away from the head (standards varied depending on what the Viking could afford). A horned helmet would A. be more expensive to make B. easier to knock off, C. adds no real combat benefits what so ever, D. would catch blows rather than deflect them, and E. give the enemy a nice handle by which to grapple you. When the Vikings wore decorations on their helmets, it was always wings, and even then, it was most often for special occasions, not for actual battle.
  • No, the "Viet Cong" were not the official army of North Vietnam. They were a guerrilla group in South Vietnam. And the real name of the group was either "Mặt Trận Dân Tộc Giải" or the French "Front National pour la Libération du Sud Viêt Nam" (FNL for short) either of them will do, but it's NOT "Viet Cong". "Viet Cong" was a derogatory term meaning basically "Vietnamese Commie". Additionally, after the Tet Offensive in 1968, most combat actions involved NVA regulars, with the guerrillas mostly sidelined due to their heavy casualties.
  • The current King of Sweden, Carl 16. Gustaf, is actually only the tenth King of Sweden named Carl. 16th century Swedish historian Johannes Magnus (1488-1544) invented six extra Carls as part of a pissing contest with Danish historians about whose country was the oldest, and this fake chronology was later adopted by the Swedish kings.
  • The pyramids weren't built entirely or even mostly by slave labor, and definitely not by mass-enslaved Jews. They were public works that helped put off-season farm laborers to work and which used sophisticated labor-saving techniques we're still rediscovering today. Don't even get us started on the idea that they might have been granaries.
  • No, the Jews were never enslaved as an entire people in Egypt, but are actually thought to be a breakaway group of Canaanites. Yes, we know the Bible says otherwise. Even discounting the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea, there is simply no evidence that a large population of slaves (some sources will number them in the millions) migrated from Egypt to Israel. Mass migrations of this kind tend to leave a lot of archeaological evidence, plus people noticing and writing things down.
  • The flag flown nowadays as the Confederate Flag was never an official flag of the Confederate States of America. It's actually either a rectangular version of the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia or the Second Confederate Navy Jack. They are also incorrectly referred to as the Stars and Bars, which actually was an official flag of the Confederacy.
  • The Lost Cause is not an accurate understanding of the AmericanCivilWar.note note  In detail:
    • Southern generals were better in the early war, because more Southerners than Northerners had gone to West Point. There were quite a few incompetent Southern generals (A.P. Hill particularly comes to mind), but there were more Southern officers in general, so there were more good ones. They were more gentlemanly than their Yankee counterparts, because the South put more of an emphasis on presenting oneself as a gentleman, but they were not consistently kinder or more honorable — and some of the worst GeneralRippers of the war, like N.B. Forrest and the guerrilla William Quantrill, were Southerners.
    • Lee wasn't a wise, sagacious saint. He tried to invade the North twice, and met disaster both times (Antietam and Gettysburg), which proves that he could make military mistakes; at the Battle of Cold Harbor, he callously stalled for several days before permitting the Union to evacuate its wounded from before the Confederate entrenchments — during which time almost all of the wounded died of their wounds in the savage heat. (This would be a war crime today; the First Geneva Convention, signed among European powers in 1864 and joined by the US shortly after the war, requires all sides to allow speedy withdrawal of the wounded.)
    • Superior manpower (ultimately even Irish and German recruits fresh off the docks, who barely spoke a word of English) played a role in the North's victory, but so did having an actually functioning economy, and so did Lincoln's excellent sense of strategy. His blockade of food to the South, like Lee's conduct at Cold Harbor, would be a war crime today; but his most important contribution to the war was his decision to transfer about half of the Army of the Potomac to the western theater (around the Mississippi), gambling — correctly — that if a Southern force could hold back 1 1/2 as many Northern troops, a Northern force could hold back 1 1/2 as many Southerners too. Meanwhile, the South continued to grow cotton for export despite the blockade, instead of planting food in its plantations, which might have actually allowed them to keep fighting — and Davis made no attempt to move troops west to match Lincoln's move. Instead, Lee frittered away the Army of Northern Virginia on pointless offensives into Pennsylvania — meeting disaster at Antietam and Gettysburg.
    • Over the whole course of the war, Grant took the fewest losses of any general, and Lee took the most. Part of this was that Lee served longer against larger enemy forces than Grant did, but part of it was Lee's reckless aggressiveness — as shown at the Wilderness as well as in his two invasions.
    • Both sides' soldiers were mostly farmers; after all, most of the world was mostly farmers. (In the post-Civil War United States, manufacturing didn't displace farming as the main economic activity until the 1930s and 1940s.) The contrast between urban Yankee and country Rebel is false. Admittedly, New England farmers lived in villages (which they called "towns") while Southern farmers lived in isolated houses, but villagers are not at all the same as city folk. (As for the Irish and German recruits the Union eventually fielded, bear in mind that Ireland and the Germanies were less industrialized than the Union; you can probably guess what their occupation was.)
    • The South fought over slavery more than over states' rights. Several states explicitly said as much, and the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, said the same in his Cornerstone Speech on March 21, 1861.
      • The South's interactions with states' rights were odd. The Confederate central government was weak, but in a way that was all downside and no upside; this could be called support for states' rights. (Alabama, for example, successfully insisted for years that its soldiers could only be used to defend the borders of Alabama) The Confederate constitution, meanwhile, was almost identical to the US constitution (even including the Interstate Commerce Clause, a loophole large enough to drive a centralized government through), except that it was more restrictive on slavery. (The Confederate constitution forbade banning slavery, but also forbade importing slaves.) This was absolutely not support for states' rights. In short, states' rights weren't much of a concern for the Confederacy one way or the other. The South actually was hostile to states' rights when it went against them. For instance, many free states passed laws saying slaves brought into their territory were automatically freed. This naturally pissed off visiting Southerners who wanted to bring their cook or driver along. Also, the free states obstructed the return of fugitive slaves to their owners by measures like requiring that a jury find they were indeed fugitive slaves before returning them (some slave-catchers were known to misidentify free blacks). Juries often refused to do this. Because of such things, the issue became federalized by the Fugitive Slave Act, with federal marshals hunting down escaped slaves-hardly what a states' rights supporter would want. Of course the free states loudly protested this, and it helped move civil war closer.
      • The political ideology of state's rights was rarely mentioned in the run up to the Civil War. As shown by the Articles of Secession and other documents of the time, the predominant Southern concern was the maintenance of their way of life, which was heavily reliant on slavery. The South actively embraced federal power when it benefited them (i.e. the Dred Scot decision, the Fugitive Slave Act). Due to the infamous 3/5ths compromise, white southerners had a disproportionate influence in the Federal government, and it was only when the population of the North threatened this (the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 occurred without a single southern state voting for him) that secession picked up steam.
      • What might have been a concern for the Confederacy, other than their obvious and loudly-asserted desire to fight for slavery: fear of being ruled by a hostile tribe. (The same had held for New England in earlier periods, when the South had the upper hand.) Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America discusses the extreme differences in values among the four foundational cultures of the United States: the egalitarian, town-dwelling, well-armed Puritans; the proud Cavaliers, who imported slaves so that they could have peasants who wouldn't run away, and only found an economic use for them afterwards; the Quakers, who were the kind of pacifists that have a whipping post in every town square; and the wild, barbarous Scotch-Irish.
    • Lincoln had explicitly promised to allow slavery to function in existing areas, and to adopt compensated emancipation for the South just as had already been done in the North. (New Jersey, the last Northern state to ban slavery, bought out its last slaveholders in 1858.) And while he fought a brutal (if well-strategized) war, he intended to follow it with a very lenient peace; when Booth assassinated him, Lincoln was carrying Confederate as well as Union money. Booth killing Lincoln when he did was the worst of all possible worlds for the South; the war was already lost, and now the South would lose the peace as well.
    • The Articles of Confederation explicitly ruled out a right to secede from the Union. The Constitution is silent on the issue, and one could argue the case either way (New England had come close to secession in the 1830s, and certainly thought it was valid then). If the South had made a peaceful case for secession, the North would probably have let them go; but South Carolina shot first, bombarding a ship resupplying Fort Sumter, then the fort itself. It wasn't news of secession that inspired the North to fight to hold the South in the Union; it was news of the battle at Fort Sumter.
    Abraham Lincoln: Under all these circumstances, do you really feel yourselves justified to break up this Government unless such a court decision as yours is, shall be at once submitted to as a conclusive and final rule of political action? But you will not abide the election of a Republican president! In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That is cool.note  A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, "Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!"
    • How were slaves treated in the Old South?
      • Relations between masters and slaves were often polite and friendly on the surface, as shown by the slavery narratives collected by the US government in the 1930s.
      • Slaves did not have a legal right to own property, or a legal right to buy their freedom.
      • A minority of slave owners allowed their slaves to own property, and to buy their freedom; but most didn't, and this was at a master's discretion. A master was not obliged to accept any price for a slave's freedom, and he could seize a slave's savings if he wanted to.
      • Slavery, by definition, is holding people in a situation where they can be compelled to work for you whether they're paid or not, and where they aren't permitted to leave. If the value of their labor is greater than zero, it's economically exploitative (although many slaves did their level best to make the value of their labor less than zero, by feigning stupidity and carelessness); regardless, being forbidden to leave is exploitative in some sense.
      • Few masters mistreated their slaves if they stayed as slaves and made a show of being content with their lot; but all slaves knew that plotting to revolt meant torture (to reveal any co-conspirators) and death, and that attempts to escape meant severe beatings. After the war, it got worse: lynch mobs (originally a Scotch-Irish "custom" that mostly targeted whites-almost exclusively white-on-black in the lowland South after the war) could and did kill blacks cruelly (sometimes even burning them to death), based on nothing more than rumors.
      • Few or no laws regulated masters' conduct. Custom did, to an extent, but custom is not as powerful as law — and such laws as did exist were very laxly enforced. Physically abusive slave owners were rare, but not by any means non-existent; and slaves had no legal recourse if mistreated.
      • Many or most slave owners were guilty of breaking up slave families by selling one member of a family, but not the others with them.
      • Slaves were not normally permitted to contract Christian marriages — despite Christianization of the slaves being one of the arguments made in favor of slavery, both at the time and later.
      • In Virginia in 1860, it was illegal to teach slaves to read and write, thanks to the Nat Turner rebellion in 1830 (Turner was a slave preacher who used services to agitate for rebellion). Stonewall Jackson defied this law — and the Lost Cause celebrates him for doing so — but most masters didn't. Recall how Christianization of the slaves was an argument in favor of slavery, that the South was overwhelmingly Protestant, and that being a faithful Protestant more or less requires reading the Bible.

    Comic Books 
  • Chick Tracts. Where to begin? Dinosaurs lived into the Middle Ages, Allah is a moon god and the existence of the Inquisition iis apparently almost completely unknown.
  • Astérix, for Rule of Funny reasons (the aim was to be like how children imagine the history they learn at school).
    • This is so omnipresent that it doesn't really deserve breaking down further, but it's interesting to see historical accuracy flop back and forth depending on how seriously we are supposed to take a part. For instance, most of the times we see writing in the series, the characters carve it into tablets, even for disposable things like memos or personal letters or teaching to children — mostly because it's really funny imagining a Roman bureaucrat having to carve twelve huge slabs of rock just to induct a new legionnaire. However, in one scene where Asterix is planning a bank robbery and makes a diagram of their plan of attack, he does it on a diptych wax tablet, which is what someone in his time period would actually have used for making notes that would have to be quickly disposed of later.
    • Historical inaccuracy in Asterix comes in a few flavors — Purely Aesthetic Era anachronism for humour, deliberate Hollywood History, fudging dates for the plot to work and occasionally just total mistakes. It was extensively researched by the creators, who both visited museums to speak with expert historians and read primary sources, and then all of the research was ignored so they could do something they found funny instead.
    • Some fudged details and dates. Pompey is still alive (although without any power) but Vercingetorix is dead (in reality, Vercingetorix was being kept in prison for several years and Pompey was assassinated during the military campaign we see take place in Asterix the Legionary, leading the English translator to assume he was dead). Cassivelaunos's troops lost to Caesar and Britain was occupied (in reality, his troops won, twice, with Caesar's successor Emperor Claudius instead finally conquering Britain). The Colosseum appears and/or gets mentioned numerous times; it was commissioned by Emperor Vespasian more than a century after Caesar's death. Cleopatra and Caesar are husband and wife (Caesar had a different wife and Rome did not recognise marriages between Romans and non-Romans, although the upshot of this was that Cleo and Caesar's relationship was not considered adulterous)...
  • Disney comics had this one story where the Ducks travelled back in time to the year 1000. On the site of Duckburg (an American city, and located on the Pacific Coast at that!), they found a medieval European town. Fortunately, when the story was published in the United Statesnote , the translator changed it so that they only travelled back to the 1700's, though of course this leaves all the characters they meet with anachronistic clothes and names.
  • Tintin was guilty of this in its first few issues — and then became famous for averting it.
  • Medieval Lady Death takes place in the Novgorod Republic and shows Teutonic knights serving as local authority under Pope Paul V. Novgorod was an Eastern Orthodox state and as such as a Catholic order such as the Knights Teutonic would have absolutely no jurisdiction over it. To top it off, Honorius III was the correct Pope during that time, while Paul V would only be born two centuries afterwards.

    Comic Strips 
  • 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 old Swedish kings' style as "Suecorum, Gothorum et Vandalorum Rex" Vandalorum being the Wends (or the Vends), not the Vandals. This is however somewhat of a Real Life example, since the "Vandalorum" was meant to be (mis)interpreted as "Vandals", which were remembered as exercising impressive military force — not unlike the impression one in the 20th century could have derived from "King of the Vikings"note . That the Swedes started using this particular title (in 1540, a good 300 years after the Wends disappeared from history) is mostly as part of a pissing contest with the king of Denmark and Norway, who similarly claimed to be the king of the Wends and Goths.
  • This Bizarro strip.

    Fan Works 
  • Light and Dark The Adventures of Dark Yagami features a dungeon that was supposedly built in England 6 million years ago (which is before we can even confirm the existence of humans), and was used to execute "Guy Forks" by shooting (in actuality, Fawkes was hanged, and managed to break his neck before he could be drawn and quartered). The best part is that this somehow happened during Watari's short reign as Queen of England (don't ask) as a result of Dark using the Everything Note in Chapter 9. And since he went back in time 4 days before that happened, he's saying that this fortress was built in prehistoric times by a man who has not yet become Queen.
  • Practically every "Founders fic" in the Harry Potter fandom hits this hard. One particularly egregious example has Rowena Meredith Ravenclaw ("Meredith" was a male name up to the 20th century) take a train to America at one point. Yes, in the tenth century she uses a ground-based form of transportation which hasn't been invented to travel from Scotland across 5,000 km of ocean to a continent that had only been discovered by the Vikings among Europeans at that point. The language issue is usually glossed over too, even though Britons of the time would have spoken a profusion of Anglo-Saxon, Gaelic, Welsh, Cumbric, Pictish, Manx, Cornish and perhaps some learned people speaking Latin or Greek.
  • Eiga Sentai Scanranger has the all-powerful villain threaten to send one of his henchmen back to the Cro-Magnon era to be eaten alive by dinosaurs.
  • In Sherlock Season 4, David Cameron believes that Britan blew up the Nazis in WW2 with atomic bombs.
  • All He Ever Wanted. Well summed-up in this quote from a critic, though let's not discuss this further:
    "Ah, AHEW realism... I only read way in the beginning so maybe they fixed this, but did you know that it's totally easy for the Nazis to erase the French language from the world? Just take over a few European countries and bang! No more French!"
  • Axis Powers Hetalia fanfics or fanarts about former British colonies, with colonial America interacting with other British colonies, can be highly unlikely or just plain impossible depending on how it's portrayed. For example, the British visited Australia for the first time on 1770, 5 years before The American Revolutionary War started, and New Zealand the year before, so those two wouldn't have met baby America — if they ever met the guy in these days, they would've interacted with the older one that doesn't look hyper different from the actual one. Some writers and artists know this, but ignore it for Rule of Cute. There's also the number of fans who seem to believe that the American Revolution was the end of the British Empire. The number of de-ageing fics which get rid of the characters memories but have them a) still speaking their modern languages (particularly bad if the language, for example English, didn't exist in the time period the child is supposed to be from) and b) write them as having knowledge of modern technologies such as *cars* is also rather spectacular.
  • Played for Laughs in Calvin and Hobbes Get XTREME!, when Calvin remarks on how his father has fun by reading books and playing Monopoly:
    "You mean when Carter was president? That was a time of Great Depression! The depression came from lack of television."
  • In Supper Smash Bros Mishonh From God, Adolf Hitler was a communist who changed the name of Germany to the Soviet Union and was alive during the Cold War.
    • King George III crucified Jesus and George Washington killed King George to make America free
    • Mao Zhedong ruled the entirety of Asia. He bombed Pearl Habour and then changed his name to "Charlie" and fought the author's grandfather in the Vietnam War. Also, Kim Jong-il is his "lesban daughter"
  • Detsniy Off Skiword has made quite a few cases of this.
    • Kid Icarus Uprising 2: Hades Revenge shows an extreme amount of inaccuracy in it's 12th chapter. For one, Hitler and Stalin are working together, alongside Judge Claude Frollo, and David Cameron.
    • 'Shakespear' gets his position in history thrown around a bit throughout Kid Icarus Uprising 2. In chapter 2, some children get tortured with lessons about 'Romero and Julyt'. In chapter 13, Cloud has difficulty understanding a message that is written in Roman, since it's in Ancient Greece, "so Shakespear hadnt invented Roman yet". In chapter 17, we see the ruins of America being entered by "SHAKESPEAR, The King Of England!". So, let's put this together. At first, Romeo and Juliet has been around long enough that it is studied in schools, then we're told it's before 'Shakespear' invented Roman (which he did not do-it's not even a real language), and then 'Shakespear' is suddenly the King Of England.
    • In Profesor Layton Vs Jack The Raper, we also see 'Shakespear' as the King Of England.
    • Dahlia Hawthorne Escaps Form Pirson goes even further, with 'Shakespear' as the King of England again, during the aftermath of the EU Referendum of 2016. Even more egregious, since this story takes place between Dual Destinies and Spirit of Justice, which would leave a time frame of around 2027-2028. Egypt is also apparently still ruled by a Pharaoh at this time.

    Films — Animation 
  • Titanic: The Legend Goes On proudly states on the back of the DVD that "they embarked on the real adventures on board the Titanic.'' With talking geese, a rapping dog, and no deaths.
  • The Legend of the Titanic has a mouse who sneaked aboard the Titanic named Top Connors tells his grandchildren the "real" story of the Titanic where a giant octopus named Tentacles saves the ship and actually threw the iceberg at the Titanic.
  • 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, because he was believed to be capable of alleviating the Tsarevitch's severe 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 (he was a monk too, as mentioned previously). Furthermore, as far as we know, he was also a monarchist who never harbored any ill will towards the Tsar nor his family;
    • Anastasia's bones were found in 2008. After the film was made, but still...
    • The main plot is that Anya/Anastasia is trying to get to Paris to see the Dowager Empress (her possible grandmother). In Real Life, the Empress lived in her native Denmark after the Revolution.
      The Nostalgia Chick: I think it was mainly for recognizability and aesthetics. And "Together in Copenhagen" doesn't quite have the same ring to it.
  • The Secret of Anastasia is worse than the Don Bluth version. For one thing, the rest of the royal family didn't get turned into talking musical instruments in order to continue looking after Anastasia. That being said, however, it doesn't try and pretend that the Russian Revolution was caused by a sorcerer who wanted revenge on the Czar and his family.
  • 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).
  • El Cid is very loosely based on the life of the Spanish knight Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar and rife with inaccuracies such as the circumstances of his exile, his real-life political rival being turned into an romantic false lead for his love interest and softening Rodrigo's character a great deal; he is very (in)famous for having murdered his own father-in-law for insulting his own father, while in the film, he inadvertently kills him in self-defense after Jimena's father tried to get rid of him for disrupting her arranged marriage.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • American Gangster, presented as a biographical film about Harlem drug dealer Frank Lucas, is inaccurate concerning real events from Frank Lucas' life. Denzel Washington admitted much of the film was fabricated for dramatic effect. Lucas did not have a child and was not involved with the Drug Enforcement Administration to the extent portrayed in the film.
  • The Last Command: The film seems to be conflating the February revolution (which toppled the Romanovs) and the October Revolution (in which the Bolsheviks seized power). In the movie the Tsar's government is apparently directly replaced by the Bolsheviks, which did not happen in Real Life.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean:
    • The East India Trading Company had no authority in the West Indies. The name is a clue. The real company the EITC was based on was the East India Company (notice the lack of the word 'Trading'). "Authority" in the West Indies in the film seemed to stem more from political connections of the head of the company (Lord Becket) than any authority of the company.
  • 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, and a person of that time period would have known this. 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.
  • 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.
  • 1930 biopic Abraham Lincoln is just full of this. It has Lincoln give a speech from his box at Ford's Theatre, right before he gets shot.
  • 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!
  • Dreamgirls has a scene with the Dreams recording "Heavy" while there's a riot going on. This riot is actually the Detroit race riot of 1967. This, at first, is important for the sake of the era and to show how life was in Black America during the 60's. However, the next scene states that the year is actually 1966, making the riot scenes irrelevant.
  • The X-Files: Fight the Future starts off 35,000 years ago in North Texas, and depicts a pair of Neanderthals running through the snow. Evidence of humans in the New World so early is thin and disputed; if they were there, they were certainly not Neanderthal, who never ranged outside Eurasia.
  • 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.
  • For a Few Dollars More is set during the American Civil War, as shown by a safe full of Confederate money. One character comments that the bank's vault "weighs three tons and can't be opened with dynamite." Indeed it couldn't — dynamite wasn't invented, patented, or named until after the Civil War was over. But the line is delivered so effectively it's hard to picture it working as well with any other word.
  • Gangs of New York: The US Navy fires cannons at the US.
  • 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. Crowning 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).
    • There's no suggestion in the film that he invents the irrigation system, but there's a clear implication that he's the only person with the initiative to think of digging for water, or the skill to find it.
  • Gladiator has a number:
    • Subversion: 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. Word of God claims this was meant to be inaccurate in-universe.
    • 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 because he had ruled jointly with him for four years. 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. 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 strangled 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 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. The system of city-state democracy of the Roman Republic had proven itself to make the empire ungovernable once it expanded too far. They needed a concentration of power to establish order and keep the peace after the Civil Wars, which came about partially due to ambitious Generals filling the power void in the far away provinces and fighting the bogged-down Senate for authority by invading Rome.
  • 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."
    • Particularly egregious was how the film ignores the fact that Sparta, far from being an ancient bastion of democracy, had the most brutal caste system in Greece with the helots. Also there's a line contemptuously referring to the boy-lovers in Athens, when records suggest that Sparta was well-known for its own traditions of pederasty.
    • The army that fought against the Persians was actually at least five or six thousand strong, with units from all over Greece. The 300 refers to the number of Spartan hoplites in the pan-Greek army.
    • 300 propagated the image of an army of bare-chested soldiers, further copied by others attempting be "authentic", when the soldiers would have been wearing leather armor at the time.
  • Braveheart is particularly well known for its lack of historical accuracy, to the point that Scottish historians are still complaining about it 20 years later. No mercy is granted for the film essentially admitting its Hollywood History nature in the opening narration.
    • Queen Isabella was three years old at the time when the film is set, so there's no possibility she could have had an affair with Wallace.
    • 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. Its inclusion was planned but in the end it proved too expensive to build one. Also, Andrew Moray, a Scottish resistance leader, was vital to the planning and execution of the battle. Absent from the film. As is any hint of the discipline and tactical sense that won the battle for the Scots—the posturing and linear charge depicted in the film would doubtless have gotten them killed.
    • The Scots had stopped using the blue woad worn by Wallace and his men around the time of the Romans, though it's presented as something of a throwback within the film.
    • William Wallace always staunchly supported Robert the Bruce's claim to the throne. Bruce never directly betrayed William Wallace either. His victory over the English at Bannockburn also took many years of more struggle before it was achieved.
    • Wallace was hardly the simple highlander he is portrayed to be, but a minor aristocrat probably from the South of Scotland. For that matter almost everyone in his army should be lowlanders as well; the actual highlanders were essentially a separate culture (with their own language) at the time.
    • Moreover, one of the few things preserved about his character was his strictness as a disciplinarian...entirely at odds with the "summer camp" atmosphere portrayed in his camp.
    • 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 and 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 an overall more progressive system for England (one of his nicknames was "the English Justinian"). Edward I 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 on their wedding nights). In fact, primae noctis likely did not exist (certainly it would not have been legal). It's a throwaway line but Edward is mentioned as being "a cruel pagan" — no evidence that he was any less (or more) devout Christian than your average English king of his time.
    • Edward II is transformed into a Sissy Villain. The historical Edward almost certainly was gay or bi, but he was big and strong and more loutish than effeminate. Otherwise-exasperated contemporaries noted that at least he looked impressive. His (likely) lover Piers Gaveston, an avid jouster, is similarly transformed—and though the elder Edward disapproved of the closeness of their relationship, he didn't seem to hold that much animosity for Gaveston himself, sending him off to France with plenty of notice and a generous income.
  • Agora repeats popular myths about Hypatia and the Library of Alexandria to preach about atheism and rationalism vs. religious fanaticism. To what degree the movie does so is, however, somewhat open to debate. In Real Life, as you might expect, Hypatia was not atheist but a pagan. She was also a pure philosopher more than a scientist.
  • Batman: When looking at a collection of armor suits:
    Bruce Wayne: It's Japanese.
    Knox: How do you know?
    Bruce Wayne: Because I bought it in Japan.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit:
    • Judge Doom's ultimate goal 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", which was released in 1949.
    • Several cartoon characters in the movie would only make their debut several years later: Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner ("Fast and Furry-ous", 1949), Tinkerbell (Peter Pan, 1953), the penguin waiters (Mary Poppins, 1964)... However, the makers defended themselves by saying that these characters were simply not employed yet by their studios in those years.
  • The Experiment: Depicting a fictionalized account of the Stanford Prison Experiment, the organization responsible for conducting the experiment is the "Monad Corporation"; the word Stanford is never used.
  • Indiana Jones
    • 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. Egypt was also under British influence in 1936, when the movie is supposedly set.
    • Playing loose with locations is common through the franchise. The tiny village Marion's bar is in is identified in the novelization as Patan, the second biggest city in Nepal. The third act of Raiders takes place in a secret Nazi submarine base in Greece, which would have been objected to by the Greeks in real life, naturallynote .
    • In Last Crusade, set in 1938, Indy and his father drive from Venice to Berlin (passing a road sign with these two names on and no other place in between) to retrieve a book from a Nazi book burning (based on the one from 1933) and escape Germany in a commercial Zeppelin flight (all canceled after the Hindenburg's disaster in 1937). The third act takes them to Hatay, a short lived (but real) Turkish republic that is portrayed as an Arab monarchy. Even the Hatay flag is fictional.
    • Crystal Skull has a Mayan-speaking civilization in the Amazon and Indy claiming that he learned Quechua (Peru) from two guys in Pancho Villa's army (Mexico). This playing loose with the facts was typical of the old adventure movies that serve as inspiration to the franchise, however.
  • Confused Matthew went to great lengths to explain how Titanic (1997) went beyond Artistic License and outright falsified what happened on the Titanic to make the upperclassmen on the ship as unsympathetic as possible and thus try and make the main characters more sympathetic. His two biggest beefs seem to be: Falsely portraying First Officer (third in command of the ship, Chief Officer is 2nd in command) William Murdock as a corrupt individual who took bribes and shot people to ensure certain people spots on the lifeboats, and making up the idea that the ship's crew tried to keep the lower class men down in third class to let them all die.
  • Australia. In reality, the Japanese never set foot on the Australian mainland. (The famous battles along the Kokoda Track were what is now Papua New Guinea, which at the time was two separate territories administered by Australia.) They bombed Darwin, then left. The bombing also actually occurred in 1942, not 1941.
    • Japanese Sub Crews did occasionally go ashore in remote locations along the coast to gather fresh water, and float planes landed on the northern islands after the raid in an unsuccessful attempt to find and rescue downed Japanese aircrew. The large landing party shown exploring the beach for no logically explained reason in the movie was pure fiction.
    • Darwin was never ordered to be evacutated. After the end of the first raid (the Japanese carriers), the RAAF base commander ordered his command to muster outside of the base in order to prevent further unnecessary casualities. It was while exiting the base that some troops encounted civilians leaving Darwin and, from lack of clear orders, 'hitched lifts'. It was while this troop movement was happening that the second raid (54 Japanese land based Nell and Betty twin engined bombers - also not shown in the movie) arrived and carpet bombed the RAAF base with some 530 60kg bombs, causing a massive morale effect but little to no extra damage or casualities.
    • Zero fighters carried drop tanks, not the bombs that were shown attacking the mission station.
    • Bathust Island was straffed by Zeros, not bombed. Their target was the American transport aircraft that had previously forced landed on the RAAF Advanced Operational Base (read 'basic airstrip') there.
  • The Godfather Part III features the death of Popes Paul VI and John Paul I in the year 1979, while all these events actually took place in 1978!
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • X-Men Origins: Wolverine: The movie claims to start in 1845 Northwest Territories, Canada... Except that the Northwest Territories would not become a part of Canada until 1870 (and the borders of the vast area were gradually changed until 1905, which resulted in the creation of 4 provinces and 2 territories). Canada itself was only granted Dominion status in 1867.
    • X-Men: Days of Future Past:
      • RFK Stadium is shown with a baseball diamond, when in real life the Washington Senators baseball team had moved to Texas in 1971, two years before this film is set.
      • Hank tells Logan that most of the students and teachers were drafted for the The Vietnam War, which is why Charles had shut down the school. In real life, most—if not all—of them could have stayed through a student deferment, and it's hard to believe that Xavier couldn't push such a thing through if he really wanted to.
    • X-Men: Apocalypse:
      • It is nigh-impossible that a CNN reporter would have been allowed to film in a Polish town, especially given that Poland in 1983 was under martial law.
      • When Apocalypse is addressing the world, he speaks in Russian to a large group of churchgoers at a solemn Russian Orthodox Christian service. It is also highly improbable that the church would have that much attendance (religious life in the USSR was very strictly policed).
      • In the middle of the movie, there is a discussion about which Star Wars film is the best, which results in Jean Grey saying the third is usually the worst. While that is Truth in Television today and has been since the Special Edition release of the trilogy in 1997, in the '80s, it was the now universally praised Empire Strikes Back that was viewed as the lowest performing of the series while Return of the Jedi was seen as a return to form.
  • In The Outlaw Josey Wales, character Lone Watie (implied to be a relative to Confederate general Stand Watie), tells the title character that, when the The American Civil War broke out, the Cherokee chiefs declared war on the Union due to their mistreatment on the Trail of Tears and on the reservation. Actually the real Watie family was in favor of removal to Oklahoma, and settled there voluntarily before troops were sent in to force the matter. In addition, the Cherokee tribe was split on the matter; despite being slaveholders, many of them remembered that they were forced out from a Southern state by a Southern president. Principal Chief John Ross (who had always been opposed to removal) paid lip service to the Confederates at first, then emphatically threw his weight behind the Union as soon as he could without fear of reprisal.
  • The Social Network claims to be the real life story of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, but most of the scenes are made up for the film. There are several anachronisms with the 2003 time period: the Samsung SyncMaster 941BW was not available in 2003, Serato Scratch Live wasn't released until 2004, a can of Mountain Dew uses a newer logo introduced in 2005, the site "Cats That Look Like Hitler" wasn't there until 2006, Windows XP Service Pack 3, Fallout 3, and Dennis de Laat's "The Sound Of Violence" weren't released until 2008, Bing wasn't around until 2009, traffic to Facemash slowed down Harvard's network but did not cause a "network crash", Harvard had a "" e-mail address instead of "", Harvard dorms at the time required swiping a keycard instead of keyless entry. The film's ending claims Facebook is available in 207 countries; the last count has been no greater than 196 countries. The film depicts Mark as creating Facemash and Facebook as payback and an appeal to an ex-girlfriend, when he had a girlfriend (now his wife) during most of the film's events. Mark Zuckerberg reportedly spent the time sitting, programming and eating pizza with friends during Facebook's development.
  • In Undercover Blues, it is said that Paulina Novacek (villain of the movie and former STB agent) "left Prague two jumps ahead of the firing squad." There were no executions in Czechoslovakia after the Velvet Revolution (Czechoslovakia abolished the death penalty in 1990); before the revolution, executions were carried out by hanging.
  • Transformers claims that many of the advancements in technology in the 20th century were a result of reverse-engineering Megatron, who had been hidden under the Hoover Dam by the US government. The filmmakers include cars in this list of technologies. Apparently Michael Bay hasn't heard of Karl Benz (as in Mercedes-Benz), who patented the first internal combustion-powered car in 1895, thirty years before the Hoover Dam was even thought of.
  • Seven Samurai played with this trope both ways. It portrayed the main samurai of the cast as all being brave and noble, but also acknowledges that the majority of them were brutal thugs who uses their power of higher social class to oppress the weak. Kurosawa said he did this because he's descended from a samurai family, and wanted in some way to apologize for his ancestor's actions. The Japanese still regard this film as a classic, but they were not happy with him deciding to speak the truth on this historical matter.
  • In-universe example in Iron Sky, Renate uses a heavily edited version of The Great Dictator to teach schoolchildren that Hitler was a kind and grand man who only wanted the best for the world. Renate herself has been fooled by the same propaganda and is utterly crushed when she later sees the full version.
  • Sergeant York, while mostly accurate, takes some liberties with the real events of Alvin York's life:
    • York's friend "Pusher" Ross is killed by a captured German soldier who managed to get hold of a grenade. York then shoots the German in revenge. Pusher is fictional, and although one German did refuse to surrender, threw a grenade and was shot by York in response, the grenade didn't kill any Americans.
    • The German troops are shown being commanded by a major. They were actually commanded by Paul Vollmer, who was only a lieutenant. The fictional major in the movie isn't named.
    • York is seen using a Luger he takes from a captured German after losing his US Army Colt M1911. In truth, he never took a gun from a prisoner to use, and kept hold of his Army Colt for the entire battle. This was changed because the Luger the armorers provided was the only blank-adapted handgun available on the set. He is also seen using an M1903 Springfield, as opposed to the M1917 Enfield he had in real life.
    • The battle occurs in a very open and frankly desert-like environment, as compared to the thickly-wooded hills of the actual ravine in France. It's possible the filmmakers wanted to give the battlefield a more harsh and desolate-looking appearance in order to add tension.
  • An egregious example in Seabiscuit, though only to those who read Laura Hillenbrand's original book. The film depicts Seabiscuit's jockey, Red Pollard, as having been raised in an affluent family that lost its fortune in the 1929 Wall Street crash. While the real Pollard was indeed born into a wealthy family that lost its fortune, he had left home to become a jockey back in 1922, and the family had lost its fortune when a major flood of the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton destroyed the family business in 1915. A notable example both for readers of the book and informed horseracing fans in general, in the book's discussion of the match race, War Admiral is correctly described as being on the small side and a plain dark bay, who of similar breeding to Seabiscuit (War Admiral was sired by Man o' War out of a Ben Brush-line mare, Seabiscuit was sired by Hard Tack, a son of Man o' War, out of a Ben Brush mare, making him more or less War Admiral's "nephew" and related on the female line, too.) In the movie, War Admiral is depicted as a gigantic coal-black horse and his 'superior' breeding is played up.
  • The Hurricane starring Denzel Washington portrays boxer Rubin Carter as a totally innocent man who is wrongly convicted of two murders thanks largely to a racist cop who's had it out for him since his boyhood. No evidence exists that the lead detective held any grudge against Carter, and he was described as a jovial man, very different from Dan Hedaya's scowling, tight-lipped portrayal. The film whitewashes Carter's criminal history, depicting Carter as defending himself in boyhood against a pedophile, then being arrested and sent to a juvenile facility by this same racist detective. In reality, Carter was arrested for assaulting and robbing a man, a crime that is not disputed. This was only one of many offenses he committed. Moreover, while Carter's actual guilt or innocence continues to be debated, the film portrays him as having been exonerated by the efforts of three Canadian activists and a young African-American who wrote to him in prison. They did not find evidence showing he was innocent, however, but only some that had not been presented by the prosecution. He was ordered released or retried-New Jersey appealed this ruling, lost, and chose to not retry him again (he had already been retried before in 1976, with another guilty verdict resulting). Carter was thus never exonerated, or even acquitted. On a lesser note, to build up the idea of Carter being victimized by racism in the 1960s, he is shown defeating white boxer Joey Giardello, who is then declared to have won anyway. Carter himself agreed Giordello beat him, and he sued the film producers over this portrayal, settling for a hefty sum.
  • Memoirs of a Geisha: Though set in 1930's-40's Japan, the Geisha's traditional attention to detail given to kimonos is not present, some scenes are clearly California Doubling, and the "Snow Dance" performed is not accurate to any Japanese traditional dance.
  • In My Way during the climax D-Day scene
    • D-Day at Normandy was cloudy with rough waves and almost non-ideal weather for an amphibious landing. The movie depicts D-Day with clear, sunny skies and relatively calm waves.
    • Tatsuo at the end is captured by recently landed American paratroopers; no paratroopers landed on the beach during the invasion, only at pre-dawn and evening.
  • A given in Dracula Untold, since the premise is equating the historical Dracula with the fictional one. Although the film gets some things right, such as the complicated tribute/enemy situation with the Ottoman Turkish empire, and that Dracula's (first) wife died because of an Ottoman attack.
    • Vlad's kingdom is repeatedly called Transylvania rather than the historically accurate Wallachia, a different region.
    • Vlad's family was not known as the House of Dracul and associated with dragons since time immemorial, as implied - the Dracul name and motif only began with his father.
    • Vlad's wife and son have their names changed. In the course of his life he had two wives and three sons, none of whom share their names with the movie characters. The name of his first wife who died because of an Ottoman attack is unknown.
    • Vlad indeed spent years among the Ottomans, but as a noble hostage, not an enslaved soldier for them.
    • In the film Vlad gets his Impaler nickname for his deeds in the Turkish army. In real life he gained this reputation by doing that to the Turks (and his own people), not for them.
    • There's no mention whatsoever of Vlad Dracula's brother, Radu the Handsome. As boys they were taken hostage together by the Turks. But unlike Vlad, Radu came to support them, converted to Islam, and led the invading army in the campaign roughly corresponding to the Sultan's invasion in the film. He seems to have been combined with the Sultan, who claims to be a former friend.
    • Mehmet II dies in this film FAR earlier compared to his historical counterpart, and it was in a completely different way. Also, the details of the real Dracula's end are varied, convoluted and rather iffy, but however he died, the Turks removed his head and sent it to Istanbul as proof he was most definitely dead.
    • The Ottoman Janissary Corps is portrayed far worse than it actually was. In the Christian parts of the Ottoman Empire at least, parents would have reacted to their children becoming Janissaries the same way parents today react when their kids get an offer from a good university. Yes, Janissaries were slave soldiers. But they were also extremely high-ranking ones, received the best training, highest education and much better living conditions than would have ever been attainable in Christian Europe. Hell, they could even rise to become Viziers and end up running the Empire.
    • The fact that Vlad initially attained the Wallachian throne chiefly through Ottoman assistance is sadly glossed over in the film.
    • Mehmet is portrayed as wanting to forcibly convert all of Christian Europe to Islam. Not only are compelled conversions invalid according to the Qur'an (“Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth has been made clear from error. Whoever rejects false worship and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that never breaks. And Allah hears and knows all things.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 256]), but Mehmet II is in fact remembered for instituting the Ottoman Millet, under which various minority groups could conduct themselves according to their own legal codes, for example Jews and the Halakha, or, more to the point, Christians under Canon Law. He's also remembered for allowing the Byzantine Church to continue functioning even after his conquest of Constantinople and even ordered the Byzantine Patriarch Gennadius to translate Christian doctrines into Turkish.
    • Historically, the envoys Mehmet II sent to Wallachia only demanded a tithe of 500 boys, rather than 1000 as seen here.
    • The knights seen fleeing from Vlad in the opening narration are wearing 12th century armor, while Vlad lived in the 15th century.
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance brings up this trope In-Universe when a newspaper refuses to print the truth of the eponymous event even after Ransom told them what really happened.
    "This is the west. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."
  • A minor example in the 2011 film The 5th Quarter, an American football flick based on the true story of linebacker Jon Abbate and the 2006 Wake Forest team for which he was one of the central figures. In the film, Wake ties for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship. The real Demon Deacons team won the title outright.note 
  • Black Hawk Down is an extreme example which took advantage of the environment of fear and anger in America and the West in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. This is especially apparent if one has read the book that it is supposedly based on. This movie is often considered a prime example of a modern propaganda movie, for these reasons. To wit:
    • The famine depicted in the introduction had actually ended a year prior to the events of the battle. By 1993 90% of aid shipments were getting where they were going, and Aideed's militia never fired on civilians getting food from aid stations, nor did they have any particular reason to want to do so either. The UN also never impeded American efforts to protect aid convoys.
    • None of the back story is explained at all. The civil war and aforementioned famine had actually been caused by the policies of Siad Barre, the dictator who, with American aid given due to Cold War geopolitics, held control of Somalia from 1969 to 1991. The "international aid mission" was essentially just a convenient cover story for America to attempt to go back in with a force of 30,000 ground troops, and reassert control after Barre was driven into exile.
    • The actual reason the Somalis hated the Americans so much, which is not even mentioned in the movie, was due to the conduct of that "humanitarian aid" force prior to the events of the battle. In general, the task force harassed and terrified the population. They often fired mortars into populated areas, and in one particularly notorious incident bombed a meeting of clan elders who were discussing plans for making a peace to end the civil war. Thousands of civilians are believed to have been killed.
    • Local Somalians, in particular, hated the Black Hawks because pilots would often fly over the streets and use the rotor wash to harass the population. The updraft from a Black Hawk was strong enough to destroy weak buildings, throw market places into chaos, and tear off women's robes and babies from their mother's arms. Many of the interviewed Rangers compared doing this to riding a roller coaster.
    • In general, the depiction of the Rangers as an elite force of experienced, consummate professionals is incorrect. The average age of the Rangers in Mogadishu was 19 and the majority had never been under fire before. Discipline broke down when the bullets actually started flying, which is part of the reason that there were so many causalities to begin with.
    • The grim realities of war and many of the morally reprehensible things the Rangers did during the actual battle are also glossed over or not depicted at all. One of the crashed helicopters crushed a building with a child inside, and an incident where a group of Rangers took a family hostage is not in the movie. General Garrison himself and many of the Rangers interviewed also admitted to firing into crowds, and anything that moved by towards the end of the battle.
    • Finally, the Rangers and Delta members stranded in the city were ultimately rescued by a Pakistani armored brigade, which the Americans had almost nothing to do with. This is barely mentioned once in passing.
  • The Hoax tells the story of Clifford Irving's hoax involving publishing a made up biography of Howard Hughes, but author Clifford Irving claims the movie is a very distorted version of events, missing large coverage of what really happened while adding entirely fictional scenes, such as Irving receiving a mysterious package of files.
  • Hot Tub Time Machine:
    • Mötley Crüe's "Home Sweet Home" was already released in 1985; a year before it would have been possible for Lou to create the song.
    • A poster for Rambo III is seen on Blane's bedroom wall, despite the film being set over two years before Rambo III was released in May of 1988.
    • Poison performing at Kodiak Valley is seen as a big deal and April is covering the band for Spin Magazine, but in 1986 Poison had not yet achieved mainstream fame (that wouldn't happen until 1987).
    • Blaine references 21 Jump Street when he's arguing that the mains are Commie spies, but that didn't debut until 1987.
    • The first time Blaine and Chaz see Jacob, they act as though they've never seen a snowboard before and don't know what it is. Snowboarding has existed as a sport as far back as the 1970s, although in 1986 it was still a niche sport and most ski areas did not allow snowboarders. Still, the ski patrol personnel at Kodiak Valley would definitely know what a snowboard was.
    • The Denver Broncos' game winning drive in the AFC Championship game is lampooned despite it taking place in 1987.
    • Adam references Sweet Child O' Mine. Appetite For Destruction didn't come out until 1987, and the song itself wasn't released as a single until 1988.
  • Valkyrie has many inaccuracies concerning World War II, for example, the Fraktur type font used on a banner would have been banned in Nazi Germany.
  • Donovan's Reef takes place on an island in French Polynesia where there had been fighting between US and Japanese forces during World War II, only French Polynesia was some 2,200 miles away from the actual Pacific campaign and did not see any battles.
  • Bridge of Spies:
    • When attorney James Donovan is recruited to defend accused spy Rudolf Abel, he protests that he is primarily an insurance lawyer. However, the film does not mention that he was also General Counsel for the Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner to the CIA) during World War II (between 1943 to 1945, to be exact) and so was fully experienced dealing with spies.
    • Donovan was also fully experienced in dealing with big, controversial cases: he became assistant to Justice Robert H. Jackson at the Nuremberg trials. While he prepared for the trials, he was also working as an adviser for the documentary feature The Nazi Plan. Donovan was the presenter of visual evidence at the trial.
    • The Real Life Frederic Pryor has noted that his movie counterpart's romance with a German girl was created out of whole cloth, and that his arrest had more to do with genuine confusion than helping out dissidents. More importantly, his East German lawyer wasn't an Amoral Attorney, but did his best to represent Pryor's interests.
  • Witchboard: Brandon claims that Ouija boards were invented in 540 BCE. The first recording of anything like an Ouija board was in 1100 CE, and modern Ouija boards were invented in the 1800s.
  • Hussar Ballad: When Shura meets the wounded messenger in the beginning of her army career, he tells her that the message he carries is sent by Field Marshal. At this time, there were no Field Marshals in Russian army; both army leaders in this war, Kutuzov and de Tolly, would be promoted to this rank later.
  • U571 caused some controversy in the UK as it portrays an American submarine crew capturing a German Enigma code machine from a stranded U-Boat. In reality the British Royal Navy were the ones to board a sinking U-boat and capture the device. Also the depiction of German destroyers in the Atlantic hunting US and UK submarines is inaccurate as the German navy concentrated their resources on U-Boats, their surface fleet was unable to maintain any kind of presence in the Atlantic. The fact the British captured the Enigma code machines rather than the US is acknowledged just prior to the credits.
  • Dances with Wolves: Although more accurate than previous films in its depiction of the West and native peoples, it still has inaccuracies. First, the whites are shown as hunting buffalo solely to take skins. This was not yet the case in 1865, and would only begin in 1871. At that point buffalo were still hunted by the whites for meat. Secondly, the Lakota are portrayed as simply defending themselves, and the Pawnee are evil allies of the US government. However, it was actually the Lakota who had been the aggressors against the Pawnee, moving into the Plains in the late 1700s from the northeast. This is why tribes such as the Pawnee, Arikara and Crow were allies of the US government against the Lakota (not that it helped them later, of course), since the Lakota had been pushing them out of their land. While the Pawnee could be brutal, they were no more so than the Lakota. Of course, this is simply to show the viewer who the good and bad guys are, without complicating matters.
  • 1978's The Norseman mangles history on a level few others could touch. Even ignoring the Horny Vikings outfits and Lee Majors as a Leif Erikson Expy with a Kentucky drawl, the film's depiction of the failed settlement of Vinland is way, way off. Given that the one confirmed Viking site in America was in Newfoundland, the Florida location for the film seems way too sunny and tropical. Also, the film's promo material says the Vikings fought against "the savage warriors of the Iroquois Nation." The actual Skraelings were ancestors of the modern Inuit people. Also, there's no such thing as "the Iroquois Nation"; the Iroquois is a confederacy of several different nations, located in modern-day New York state, that formed long after the Vikings left Vinland. And those are just scratching the surface of the film.
  • The opening narration for A Bridge Too Far goes thusly: "In 1944, the Second World War was in its fifth year and still going Hitler's way. German troops controlled most of Europe. D-Day changed all that." By 1944, the war was quite definitely not going Hitler's way anymore. A constant barrage of defeats on the Eastern Front and Anglo-American air raids over German cities meant that, by 1944, Hitler's defeat was only a matter of time. And at no point during the war did German troops control "most" of Europe. If you count countries that were allied with Germany (such as Italy, Hungary, and Finland), sure, but they weren't being controlled by German troops.
  • Timeline: The film has the English treat a Frenchman as suspicious just for being French, and kill him as a spy. At the time however, most of the English nobles were themselves Norman-French, spoke French, and had French allies.
  • One of the biggest criticisms towards the movie Sully was the portrayal of the NTSB throughout the investigation into the incident that forced the titular airplane pilot to land in the Hudson River. In the film, the NTSB treat pilots Sully and Skiles with disdain and disrespect, acting antagonistic towards the two and trying to ruin them by proving that Sully acted poorly with the idea of gliding the plane into the Hudson. In reality, the pilots and the NTSB were cooperative to each other and the NTSB were more than certain that Sully had made the right call almost from the word go.
  • Wild Wild West shows President Grant attending the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869. (He didn't.) It also has him creating the Secret Service with the purpose of protecting the president. In reality, it was created in 1865 to investigate counterfeiting. The first president to be placed under their protection was Theodore Roosevelt in 1902.

  • 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. Under canon law, midwives (or anyone else) were (and are) allowed to baptize infants if there wasn't time to call in a priest, and indeed, you were expected to keep water on hand for exactly that situation. 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.
  • 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.
  • Alex Cross novel 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 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. 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).
  • 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 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 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.
    • Almost everything in the Book of Exodus. There is no evidence that the Israelites (or even a minority) lived in Egypt. The biblical account of forty years in the Sinai has no archealogical or contemporary historical evidence, in fact there is no evidence of any significant habitation in the Sinai for the entire 2nd millenium BCE. Exodus states that there were around 600,000 fighting men, combined with women, children and the elderly, this would put the number at 1.5-2 million, estimates of the entire population of Egypt are about 3-3.5 million.
    • 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, because it was repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt (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.
    • The Book of Esther: Although there really was a King Xerxes (actually, a couple of them, the one from this book is usually identified as Xerxes I), he did not have a primary wife by the name of Vashti. His primary queen was named Amestris. Although he did have a Royal Harem full of other, "lesser" queens, there is no record of any "beauty contest" held to obtain them. He most likely obtained these wives and concubines in the same way that most kings of that time and place obtained their wives and concubines: through Altar Diplomacy. Nor did Amestris ever get divorced by him, or deposed from her position as queen.
    • King Herod's massacre in Bethlehem is only recorded by Matthew; even chronographers that didn't like Herod don't mention it.
    • 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 return to the home town of their ancestors for the sake of a census (the logistics of that would be a nightmare, obviously-every census in recorded history also notes where people are presently living too). Since the whole Bethlehem episode is only present in the Gospels aimed at the Jews (to fulfill a prophecy stating the messiah was to be born there), modern historians consider it more likely that Jesus was actually born and raised in Nazareth. It's further supported by the custom of the period to name people after the town of their birth, not the one they settled in (where Nazareth was, on the other hand, is an open question).
    • 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.
    • As a 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.
    • Many cases of anachronism come from authors using dubious oral traditions or reading things wrong (Matthew's account of the triumphal entry is based on the author misreading Zechariah in Greek translation). Other times, the writers simply know that their original audience wouldn't know or care about details. For example, Luke is very confused about the geography of 1st century Palestine, but it was written for a non-Jewish readership for whom the geography didn't much matter. Other times, details are changed to better fit a narrative device or theme. Ancient historiography was more concerned with the story being told and its meaning than with accurate reporting.
  • Philippa Gregory tends to zig-zag this trope in her Tudor and Plantagenet novels - she clearly does her research and there's definitely scenes taken directly from the historical record, but while she can be excused somewhat for making full use of the juiciest rumors of the time given Rule of Drama, such as Richard III wanting to marry his niece, Elizabeth of York, or the fiddling with history and rumor in order to create the Magical Realism vibes of The White Queen, The Lady of the Rivers, The Queen's Fool, and to a somewhat lesser degree The White Princess and The Red Queen, other things are less forgivable. Two good examples are Henry VII raping Elizabeth of York prior to their marriage to ensure she's fertile before he marries her and, from her best-known work, painting Mary Boleyn as an innocent young teenager when she becomes Henry VIII's mistress. She was already a grown woman and had previously been the mistress of Francis I of France and some of his courtiers, having been given the name the "Great Prostitute". Although Mary's willingness with regards to some or all of her sexual experience in France is unclear. Anne Boleyn is also demonized beyond what she likely deserves in the same book, just as her daughter tends to be in Gregory books set later on.
  • Twilight. While there's a fair bit of general history fail, Carlisle's story is particularly bad. The sewers where he found fellow vampires didn't exist at the time, and that's 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 (that said, it's plausible when you take into consideration that there were over 30,000 banks in America before the Great Depression, and only about 15,000 banks failed. Realistically, only about 50% of American Banks failed while the other 50% stayed afloat and managed just fine).
  • The Oera Linda Book claims the Greek alphabet was based on a North European (Frisian) alphabet, among other things.
  • 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).
  • Within the story, in G. K. Chesterton's "The Curse of the Golden Cross", where Father Brown recognizes the murderer's made-up "history" as nonsense. "To anybody who happens to know a little about the Middle Ages, the whole story was about as probable as Gladstone offering Queen Victoria a cigar. But does anybody know anything about the Middle Ages? Do you know what a Guild was? Have you ever heard of salvo managio suo? Do you know what sort of people were Servi Regis? It was never a story of the Middle Ages; it was never even a legend about the Middle Ages. It was made up by somebody whose notions came from novels and newspapers, and probably made up on the spur of the moment."
  • 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.
    • As for Crowley being a "Satanist"... well, he essentially started his own religion; and there is no more support for labeling him a "Satanist" rather than a Buddhist, an atheist, an Egyptian polytheist or even an extremely heretical Christian. This was done to death on the old Magicknet boards, eliciting the comment "Satanists worship Satan, Crowley worshiped himself."
    • In a crossover with Artistic License – Religion, Satanism is Newer Than They Think and mostly came about only after Crowley's death. LaVeyan Satanism, the most well known sect in the United States, was founded in 1966. The Temple of Set came about in 1975. Our Lady of Endor Coven was founded in 1948, one year after Crowley died. Most Satanists also practice a form of humanism and see Satan as an allegorical figure or a good way to troll Christians.
  • 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 annexed by the Soviets a year or so before, and by that time, the Lecters and all other local aristocrats would have probably been off in Siberia.
  • Destroyermen author Taylor Anderson freely admits to fudging a couple of details for the sake of the story. In Real Life, the destroyers USS Walker and Mahan and the battlecruiser HIJMS Amagi never actually fought in World War II. The Amagi depicted in the series was badly damaged by an earthquake during construction and was scrapped in 1922; the one that appeared in WWII was a different vessel. The real USS Walker was scuttled seventeen days after Pearl Harbor, while Mahan was scrapped in 1931. He said in the afterword to book one that he used these ships because he didn't want to disrespect any sailors who actually did fight in the war. Otherwise carefully averted: Anderson is a historian by trade and does the research.
  • In The Heroes of Olympus, the Lare Vitellius claims to have been around Julius Caesar and to have fought in the Punic Wars. This is lampshaded when Hazel points out Caesar was around after the Punic Wars, though being a Ghost means Vitellius could have fought in the Punic Wars and been around Caesar.
  • 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.
  • Pam Jenoff The Kommandant's Girl is set in Nazi-occupied Poland, and yet features the Polish characters living in luxurious apartaments with refrigerators, as well as casually purchasing ice cream, oranges and chocolate.
  • Clement Attlee was not, as one character in World War Z suggests, a "third rate mediocrity" whose only claim to fame was unseating Winston Churchill, but one of the most efficient and effective British politicians of the 20th Century and a key figure in peace and war. This can be forgiven, though, as the speaker was an old, semi-senile, hard-left American politician nicknamed "The Whacko" who was known for getting very, very excited in debates.
  • Harry Potter states that Hogwarts was founded roughly one thousand years ago and that Merlin was one of its graduates. At the same time, King Arthur's rule is dated four or five centuries earlier, at which time Merlin was already a skilled wizard. Whether Merlin attended the school when he was already roughly five hundred years old is not addressed. (Unless, of course, he used a Time Turner to go back to King Arthur's day.)
  • In Jurassic Park, Grant muses that if 60 years were compressed into a single day, 80 million years would become 3652 yearsnote , which according to him is older than the pyramids. The pyramids of Giza are more than 4500 years old.
  • In Maximum Ride, Max said she chose her last name (Ride) to name herself after Sally Ride, the first woman in space. Actually, Sally Ride was just the first American woman in space; Valentina Tereshkova was the actual first woman, a Soviet explorer.
  • In The House of Night, Kalona was bound thousands of years ago by a group of Cherokee wise-women — in Oklahoma. Thousands of years ago, the Cherokee lived in Florida. They're only in Oklahoma because they were forced to move.
  • The Sano Ichiro series gets most of the details of 17th century Japanese society correct, as well as many major events and disasters, but plays fast and loose with the Historical Domain Characters in the shogun's court, particularly towards the end of the series. The last book actually changes at least one person's cause of death, causes another to undergo massive trauma they never had, and moves the death of a third up by five years.
  • The Red Tent, which takes place in Bible Times mentions a Rite of Passage for girls in Padan-Aram called the "Ritual of Opening." When a girl has her first period, she is dressed in simple garments but elaborately made up and decorated with jewelry, then given large amounts of fortified wine as part of the celebration. Then, after dark, she is taken outside, stripped naked and placed in a prone position on the ground, and masturbated with a fertility idol until she orgasms, in order to break her hymen and offer the resultant blood to Inanna, as well as to encourage her to dream about what her destiny holds and find her "personal goddess." The ritual's purpose is simultaneously to prepare the girl for marriage and to keep her worth under the control of Inanna, not under the control of men vis a vis her virginity. There is no record of such a ritual existing there, or anywhere in the Fertile Crescent. And considering that Mesopotamian society was very patriarchal, with women's chastity held as a reflection of their fathers' and husbands' honor, it's not likely that such a ritual did or would have existed there.
    • Also, Inanna was not a supreme Mother Goddess; she was one of many gods and goddesses. She was invoked for fertility and protection during childbirth, but her main dominions were war and sex.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Charmed episode "The Witch is Back" made the mistake of assuming that people were burned at the stake during the Salem Witch Trials.
  • 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?).
    • More weight is given to the alternate reality theory by the existence of the nation of Qumar and its pivotal role in many episodes. No such real nation exists.
  • 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 MythBusters during the Benjamin Franklin myths episode:
    Tory: We just killed a dead president!
    Grant: Ben Franklin was never president...
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the Victorian-era set 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. The first example may be justified by the villain in "Ghost Light" being very stupid and over-confident, although that doesn't excuse the second.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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?
  • Power Rangers Samurai fudges a samurai tradition or two, particularly naming Lauren as the rightful Red Ranger instead of Jayden. She's the firstborn, but in feudal Japan gender trumped age and official titles would've been inherited by sons first. But try putting that bit of sexism forward in modern America. This is a byproduct of importing the storyline wholesale from its Japanese base, Samurai Sentai Shinkenger, wherin Shiba Kaoru is Princess and true head of Shiba House, while Takeru, another vassal, is merely holding the position in her place. She ends up adopting him in the end, making him the next head of the Shiba house.
  • Bones:
    • An episode has a case where a crucial piece of evidence is the bones of a Salem witch, stolen from her grave, although 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 this episode, references to "The Salem Witches" 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.
  • Highlander:
    • The Series had the MacLeod clan leader living in a hut with the clan. But historically, and 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: 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!//
    • In season 2, Sue 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!"
    • Another example of Rule of Funny.
    Sam: That's my James Earl Jones impression.
    Santana: That is offensive. He shot Martin Luther King.
  • 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, most of whom view the doomsday stuff as a load of bunk, 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).
  • Leonardo:
    • The main plot of the series 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).
    • Another major inaccuracy is the presentation of Niccolò Machiavelli. Not only was Machiavelli not black, when the programme is meant to be set (1467), he hadn't even been born. Machiavelli was born in 1469 and Michelangelo Buonarroti, who turns up as a Jerk Jock, was born in 1475, a full eight years later! Moreover, Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci didn't know each other when they were teenagers, mostly because of the seventeen year age difference.
  • Young Blades:
    • The 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:
    • There's 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.
    • In another episode, Michael hires a Benjamin Franklin impersonator for Phyllis' bachelorette party. He refers to Franklin as having been a United States president, despite the actor's attempts to correct him.
  • 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. Same goes for M*A*S*H and Hogan's Heroes, both of which lasted longer than the war they were set during.
  • The Borgias has quite a few examples, including valiant but doomed-to-fail efforts to reduce how evil Rodrigo and Cesare really were, making Giovanni Sforza abuse and rape Lucrezia when he actually ignored her and only consummated the marriage fairly late into it, and putting Machiavelli in as an adviser to the Medici, which he never was, about 4 years before he had any position of power in Florence (he was also a bitter enemy of the Medicis, who had imprisoned and tortured him. The Prince is sometimes even interpreted partly as a Take That! against them).
    • Prince Djem arrives to live in exile under Pope Alexander and is poisoned to collect a reward from his brother, Sultan Beyazid, that is used to pay for Lucrezia's dowry in her first marriage (just as poor clueless Djem announced his intention to convert to Christianity!). In reality, Djem arrived in Rome during the reign of Innocent VIII, Alexander's precedessor, was asked repeatedly to convert to Christianity and head a crusade against the Turks but refused, and died years later while a captive of the French Army. Also, when Cesare tells Lucrezia that Djem died of malaria, she immediately speaks of mosquitos, but the connection between the disease and mosquitos wasn't established until the late 19th century.
    • When the French do invade, they are portrayed as an unstoppable hegemon that makes mincemeat of the Italian mercenary armies, which was true. The idea is conveyed, however, by having the French artillery fire chain-shots (a weapon invented in the next century and used mostly in naval warfare) to make literal mincemeat of the Roman army without engaging it in combat, and the Italians are portrayed as completely ignorant of the military applications of gunpowder (or maybe it's only the show's version of Juan Borgia-the real one was in Spain at the time and missed the war altogether). French artillery also destroys Lucca after it surrenders; in real life this happened to Rapallo (a Genoese city occupied by the Neapolitans in an attempt to stop the French advance) and Mordano (a Papal fortress), while Lucca (an independent micro-republic) was liberated from Florentine occupation by the French. King Ferrante of Naples dies from the shock of hearing that the French army is coming, when it was his death that prompted the French to invade, since they disputed his succession. They take Naples without a fight and are ravaged by the plague; in real life it was syphilis and the French soldiers caught it exactly how you'd expect. Finally, the French capture Prince Alfonso (much younger and never crowned king in the series) and kill him after torturing him with a pear of anguish, a 17th century device that might have never been used in reality. The real Alfonso abdicated in favor of his son (who led the Neapolitan armies) and fled to Spanish-ruled Sicily.
    • A lot is made of how the Borgias are hated for being Spanish, not Italian. Juan even recalls the children insulting them when they first arrived in Rome. Alexander's kids never "arrived" in Rome because they were born there. Their mother, Italian noblewoman Vanozza dei Cattanei, is regularly described as a "Spanish beauty" in the show, her obvious Italian name notwithstanding.
    • Lucrezia has her first son Giovanni before Juan dies. In real life, Giovanni was named after her deceased brother. He also was most probably not actually her son, but her half-brother, sired by her father Rodrigo on a mistress (Rodrigo admitted his paternity in a papal bull). She did raise him, however, and gave birth to at least six children (dying from complication of delivering the last one). The rumors of her committing incest and murder (especially through poisoning) are without proof.
  • The Vampire Diaries presents an interesting case. At the 50s Decade Dance, one of the songs played is "My Boyfriend's Back" from 1963. However, it very well could have been to show that 2009 teenagers don't know much when it comes to 50s music.
  • Used as a plot point in an episode of Head of the Class where the students are taking part in a historical reenactment competition, the principal Dr. Samuels insists on some popular history inaccuracies - for example their Marie Antoinette must say "Let them eat cake." The students call him out on the fact that she never said that. He maintains that the judges will not know that she didn't say it and will in fact expect her to say it, and will deduct points if she doesn't say it. So she says it, and the team loses for historical inaccuracy.
  • Heroes: In the episode "Four Months Later", legendary Japanese samurai Takezo Kensei turns out to really be an Englishman. It surprises Hiro but no one else seems to bat an eyelid, even though in 1671 Japan foreigners weren't just uncommon, they were forbidden in the country on penalty of death.
  • Outlander: Claire and Geillis Duncan are prosecuted for witchcraft. The year is 1743, and the British Parliament had abolished this crime in 1735. Under the Witchcraft Act they passed, it was actually a crime to accuse someone of this. The last prosecution for witchcraft was in 1727.
  • The Wonder Years: Many anachronisms with plot-relevant music being released later than the date the episode takes place. The pilot takes place in 1968; Tommy James and the Shondells' "Crystal Blue Persuasion" was released in 1969, and the book "Our Bodies Ourselves" was published in 1973. "Alice in Autoland" is set in 1973; Johnny Rivers' "Swayin' to the Music (Slow Dancing)" wasn't released until 1977, and the plumbing fixtures are from the 80's-90's. "Scenes from a Wedding" takes place in 1972, and Jim Croce's "Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown" was released in 1973. "Heart of Darkness" takes place in 1968-1969; The Doors' "Riders on the Storm" was released in 1971.
  • In the second part of the pilot of Legends of Tomorrow, Ray Palmer and Martin Stein realize that they can track the missing piece of Ray's supersuit because it emits alpha particles; the problem is that they have traveled back in time to the mid-seventies, when alpha particles were supposedly "unheard of". Alpha particles were in fact discovered in the last years of the nineteenth century. Of course, the idea that you can track something by alpha particle emissions is also an example of Artistic License – Physics.
    • In the fourth episode, the team visits the Soviet Union in 1984 in an effort to find out more about Vandal Savage's operations from a Soviet scientist. Ray Palmer, supposedly an educated man, approaches her and, in an effort to gain her confidence, offers to invest in her research. Read that again: to invest in her research. In the Soviet Union. Where all decisions about scientific research and what to invest in were made by the state. For some reason Ray is not arrested as an obvious foreign spy (or lunatic). Then, later, Leonard Snart is walking that same scientist home, and, as they walk down a clean, well-lit street, several cars, including a Volkswagen Beetle, are visible parked along the street. Ask anyone old enough to remember life in the Soviet Union about the availability of foreign cars, or really any cars, in the Soviet Union. It is true that high-ranking Party members would have had access to foreign luxury cars, but no one high-ranking enough to have a foreign car would have had an economy car like a Beetle. Then there is their ability to walk down the street without a care in the world, as though they were not in a police state.
  • Disney's live-action adaptation of Doctor Syn ("The Scarecrow"), not a model of accuracy to start with, starts with Walt's dishonest claim that the story is based on an historical figure rather than a fictional character. It also uses the usual inaccurate trope about the Press Gang—and has the firstborn son of not only a landed gentleman but the magistrate suffer this fate.note  Also, the King gets personally involved in the Scarecrow situation. (That said, the area was rife with smuggling during the 1700s, and local priests did sometimes get involved, so that part is accurate.)
  • Victoria does its research, but one of its key plot points takes historical liberties. While the series depicts Lord Melbourne and Queen Victoria as sharing a romantic spark, the real-life Melbourne was reportedly more like a father figure to Victoria.
    • Actually, this is disputed as numerous histories of Victoria dating back decades do suggest that there was some romantic inclination, with Elizabeth Longford's ''Victoria R.I." describing them as "one of the romances of history" and others referring to them as "half-lovers". There is no indication that Victoria considered proposing marriage to Lord M as depicted in the series, and the series depicts Lord M as more robust and attractive than the real-life counterpart, but on the topic of whether the two actually fell for each other in some way, there is no agreement in the history books. Victoria's own Word of God (her published diaries), offer no help given they were heavily censored by her heirs after her death, but even then Lord M dominates her memoirs.

  • The first line of "Sink the Bismarck" is "In May of 1941, the war had just begun." World War II had actually been going on for about two years prior to that, and no country first started getting involved in the war in May of 1941. (Britain, for example, had been trading air strikes with Germany since the second half of 1940.)
  • Steve Martin's One-Hit Wonder song "King Tut" uses the rhyme "Born in Arizona / Moved to Babylonia" which is a great rhyme, though Tutankhamun was neither born in Arizona nor ever went to Babylonia. Because the song is G-rated and catchy, some kids grew up singing it and then had to think about it.
  • Neil Young's song "Cortez the Killer" describes the Aztecs as being a peaceful people and "war was never known". The Aztecs often went to war with their neighbors, enslaved people, and practiced human sacrifice.
  • Played for Laughs in "Purple Toupee" by They Might Be Giants, which is about the narrator's fractured recollection of history during The '60s.
    I remember the year I went to camp
    Heard about a lady named Selma and some blacks
    Somebody put their fingers in the president's ear
    And it wasn't too much later they came out with Johnson's wax
  • U2's "Pride (In The Name of Love"): "Early morning, April 4/Shot rings out in the Memphis sky." Martin Luther King Jr. was actually shot at 6:01 P.M.
  • Invoked and Played for Laughs by The B-52's in "Mesopotamia". The band consulted an encyclopedia when writing the song just to make sure they got everything wrong.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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 7th 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 the 1700s (... while a Shout-Out to Louis XIV is at the height of his power and a Napoleon expy is making an Early-Bird Cameo). Woe betide the GM who tries to use its books for anything set in the real Cavalier Years.
  • In Arkham Horror, one of the Arkham Asylum encounters in the Innsmouth Horror expansion has you sneaking into a finger-painting session. Finger-painting is indeed used as a component of mental therapy at times, so that's done right. The problem? Art therapy in general dates only to the late 1940's, with finger painting as a later addition to the milieu. Finger painting itself dates to prehistoric times, but it wasn't part of art education until the 1930's.

  • The verismo opera Andrea Chenier by Umberto Giordano makes numerous changes to the historical record:
    • The opera portrays Chenier as a Girondin and Girondin sympathizer as well as a Republican, and someone who is critical of royalists. The real-life Chenier was a royalist constitutional monarchist who loathed both the Girondins and the Jacobins, served as a writer for the defense of Louis XVI during his trial. It's likely that the opera blends Andre with his Adapted Out brother Marie-Joseph Chenier who was a Republican, an ally initially of Girondins but later worked with Robespierre during his Festival of the Supreme Being, which presents its own problems.
    • The opera also has anachronistic touches such as Incroyables and Merveilluses in Paris during the Terror, when both of them were fashions of aristocratic and bourgeois men and women that were specifically counter-revolutionary in intent and date from the Thermidor and Directory periods. Later productions such as the 2016 David McVicar one also feature Robespierre prominently involved in Chenier's arrest and execution when at the time Robespierre was absent from the Committee of Public Safety for more than a month as a result of illness (or sulking in protest depending on the historian) and he had no involvement in the latter's death. The 2016 production also attributes a fake quote to Robespierre which justifies Chenier's death by stating, "Even Plato banned the poets from his Republic" which has never been traced to any of Robespierre's speeches.
    • Maddalena de Coigny is based on an inmate of Chenier's but unlike the opera she survived and had many children and certainly didn't join him Together in Death.
  • When William 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 Winter's Tale is set during pagan times, yet features the Kingdom of Sicily (1130), the Kingdom of Bohemia (1212) and the Tsardom of Russia (1547).
    • Richard III is Tudor propaganda based on dubious sources. Other than Richard's accession and defeat at Bosworth Field, the Bard gets everything wrong.
      • The story of the Princes in the Tower is questionable.
      • Much of what he says about Richard III was already "Common Knowledge" at this point, so it's not all his fault. 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.
    • The film version starring Laurence Olivier even admits it is inaccurate at the beginning but basically says they're telling it because it's a good story and keeps history interesting.
    • 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 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 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.
    • 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.
      • Likewise, Hal's single combat with Hotspur at the Battle of Shrewsbury in Henry VI: Part 1 is a total dramatic fabrication. Not only does Shakespeare portray them as the same age when Hotspur was really decades older, but in reality, rather than personally cross swords, both men were felled by arrows to the face (Henry barely survived; Hotspur wasn't so lucky).
    • 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 Hamlet which is set in the 11th century, well before gunpowder was introduced in Europe.
  • Christopher Marlowe, an Elizabethan dramatist who influenced Shakespeare, was also prone to this. In his Tamburlaine plays, the eponymous (anachronistic) Scythian conqueror ("Tamburlaine" was Turkic, not Scythian) 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).
  • Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Real history is mixed in with the story of the seventh president's fame as an emo rock star, but there's quite a bit of (presumably) entirely intentional inaccuracy.
  • 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. (Miller himself 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.
    • 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.
  • Claudio Monteverdi's opera 'L'Incoronazione di Poppea', dramatises the Roman Emperor Nero's adulterous affair with, marriage to and crowning of Poppea Sabina. Busenello, the librettist, based the story on the histories of Tacitus, taking a lot of liberties (removing some important characters, adding invented ones, condensing the events of several months into a single day) for which he was neither ashamed nor apologetic; when the libretto was published in his collected works, his synopsis included the line 'here we represent these actions differently'.
  • When Handel's opera Serse was premiered, its creators were disarmingly up-front about most of the story being made up, despite the title character being a historical King of Persia: "Some imbicilities, and the temerity of Xerxes (such as his being deeply enamour’d with a plane tree, and the building of a bridge over the Hellespont to unite Asia to Europe) are the basis of the story, the rest is fiction."
  • 1776... apart from the fact that it's Founding Fathers singing and dancing about independence? The show is actually fairly accurate to history as it was known at the time, with many things taken from the writings of the people involved, but there are some digressions explained in the book:
    • Many of the Congressmen were cut because there were over fifty of them and they just wouldn't fit. Some of Sam Adams' traits were combined with his cousin John, including his eerily accurate prediction of the The American Civil War.
    • Dickinson was given a Historical Villain Upgrade and cast as John Adams' main antagonist in the vote for independence.
    • The Declaration wasn't actually decided as a stalling tactic. In a surprisingly sensible move, Congress voted on independence first and debated over the wording later.
    • Martha Jefferson didn't visit Jefferson in Philadelphia. (The actual reason Jefferson was so anxious to get home was because she was quite ill at the time.)
    • Unanimity was not an official condition of independence, but it was understood that they all needed to do it for the reasons Hancock stated.
    • The final vote didn't come down to the issue of slavery and a Southern walkout. To a modern audience, the issue had to be addressed—it was a fundamental hypocrisy that later ripped the country apart. Plus, Franklin pointing out that they were also Americans was pointed in an era where phrases like "un-American" were freely hurled at political opponents. In reality, Congress removed the anti-slavery clause without that much fuss, quietly passing the buck to the next generation.
    • In general, details were moved around and filled in when they were absent. Today, historians believe that James Wilson was similar to Lyman Hall, being a committed independence man who only delayed his vote so he could check with his constituents. But when the play was written, all they could find was that he'd abruptly switched his vote, so they wrote him as an indecisive Yes-Man to Dickinson.
  • Hamilton in general strives to be as historically accurate as possible, but squeezing together a person's entire life into a single two-act show was always going to reuire some consolidation, which Lin-Manuel Miranda is pretty open about admitting.
    • Aaron Burr, Sir plays pretty fast and loose with the timeline regarding the beginning of the war (in reality, it had started by now, but Hamilton acts as though it hasn't), and simplifies Hamilton's friend situation greatly: in real life, he really did meet Hercules Mulligan shortly after arriving in America, but he didn't meet Laurens and Lafayette until he joined as Washington's aide, and they weren't really friends with Mulligan. Notably, Chernow was apparently resistant to the latter change, and earlier drafts have Hamilton only meeting Mulligan during this song, but presumably it would've split up the action too much to have another meeting later.
    • Satisfied claims that Angelica doesn't have any brothers and wasn't married when she met Alexander - in reality, she did and she was. Miranda has stated outright that he changed this because he felt it was way more dramatically interesting if she and Alexander really could have gotten together at some point.
    • The depiction of the Laurens/Lee duel was also changed a fair bit: it actually happened before Hamilton got married, and not only was Washington not really upset about it, even Lee himself apparently only gained respect for Laurens afterwards. While Hamilton did quit the army at one point, that didn't happen until much later, and it was simply a result of Hamilton's growing frustration at being refused command having reached breaking point. Of course, the duel was necessary to set up the correct way a duel is to be run for contrast in later songs, to give some dramatic reason for Hamilton's departure, and to show off the strained Hamilton/Washington relationship of the time.
    • There were actually two elections where Jefferson and Burr ran against one another, in 1800 and 1804. Phillip Hamilton died in between them, and it was after the latter that the Hamilton/Burr dueled happened, so for obvious reasons of time and drama they were consolidated into a single election.
    • The musical makes Burr much more remorseful about shooting Hamilton than he actually was. In real life, despite the occasional show of regret, he was fairly cavalier about the duel and its outcome, sometimes even making jokes about it. This change was probably made because Burr is the narrator—he's almost always onstage, and so he can't be too unlikable or no one will enjoy the show.
    • The musical also makes Hamilton far more "progressive" than he was. The show gives the impression that he was as serious an abolitionist as his friend John Laurens, purely on the basis of the real-life Hamilton's involvement in the New York Manumission Society. In truth, Hamilton never once made any serious speeches against abolition publicly nor wrote any articles to such an effect, or ever proposed policies against it, because as historian Eric Foner noted, he cared far more about property rights and elitism than abolitionism. The show also makes much of Hamilton's immigrant origins to make him relatable when Hamilton in fact made it harder for immigrants to settle, and that it was Aaron Burr who was more important on that front.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed on the whole gets credit for being slightly more accurate than usual, as far as video games go. Bear in mind this is "slightly more accurate than usual" by video game standards so there are still dollops of Artistic License. On the whole the series sits comfortably between Alternate Universe and Like Reality Unless Noted. It uses the rhetoric of historical revisionism to justify the inclusion and insertion of fictional Assassins and Templars into a historical context, justifying their presence by stating that modern day Templars have modified history to hide the truth. On the other hand, historical events and figures largely do act the way they did in a certain time and place and the backgrounds are generally accurate, with some of the details being Shown Their Work on the part of developers.
    • Assassin's Creed I gives a vision of The Crusades modified into a fight between The Knights Templar and The Hashshashin, neither of them being religious orders as we know them from history, but proto-secular humanist secret societies who fight over the use and abuse of Magitek artifacts left by Precursors. In reality, the Templars had the mundane duty of safeguarding the lives and possessions of travellers journeying to the Holy Land, the Assassins mostly attacked local rulers and corrupt officials and never came into conflict with the Templars. The game does provide a more nuanced look at Richard the Lionheart than usual however. Notably having him speak in a French accentnote , and likewise does portray the Hashshashin as "the Asasiyun", demolishing the hashish-smoking Hollywood History.
    • Assassin's Creed II generally gets the Renaissance background and history right, doing as much as possible as to avoid anachronistic architecture, especially compared to later games. It also shows Leonardo da Vinci as a young handsome man (rather than the older man based on a drawing never attributed to Leonardo), Niccolò Machiavelli as a republican statesman and a more nuanced portrayal of Caterina Sforza then elsewhere. However it's depiction of the Medici and the Borgia falls within conventional parameters of Historical Hero Upgrade/Historical Villain Upgrade common to Hollywood History rather than the Gray and Grey Morality in realiy.
    • Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood started introducing Baroque architecture into the Renaissance, features workable Da Vinci machines, and presents a fantastic internal La Résistance against Cesare Borgia that needless to say goes against actual history. Assassin's Creed: Revelations also anachronistically calls the fallen Eastern Roman Empire as "the Byzantines" though it generally does get some features of the Ottoman Empire correct, showing them as a multi-cultural society with a good look at the fratricidal politics of the Ottoman Empire's Deadly Decadent Court and the manoeuvering of the Janisarry Praetorian Guard. Architecturally it avoids anachronism except for providing Hagia Sophia minarets far earlier than recorded.
    • Assassin's Creed III was praised for its broadly accurate chart of the American Revolution, background and causes. Some of the Artistic License however is that nearly everything about the game's depiction of the Boston Tea Party is wrong. The game depicts it as a riot in which a few dozen British soldiers get killed when it was in fact a non-violent incident; also, Robert Faulkner, the First Mate, makes references to Singapore, which had fallen into obscurity centuries before. The gameplay also moves ahead certain activities (Fort liberation) earlier than the context would allow. It also features a Historical Villain Upgrade of Charles Lee, though it does put forth the shortcomings and hypocrisy of the founding fathers, in one extent going further, by attributing the destruction of Connor's village to George Washington... in 1761, a whole three years after Washington retired from the military.
    • Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag was likewise praised by historians for a more nuanced look at the pirate era, though the gameplay's violent approach to naval combat was far away from how pirates actually operated. It still made odd changes however. In real life, Mary Read used and was raised under a male persona based on her late older brother, Mark Read. In Black Flag, her disguise is inexplicably changed to that of James Kidd, supposedly an illegitimate son of the historical William Kidd. This is lampshaded in the codex, where an entry on a landmark has the art director comment that it hadn't been constructed at the time the game took place. The producer tells him to put it in anyway.
    • Assassin's Creed: Unity, in contrast to the other games above, plays it straight. It portrays a highly conventional look at The French Revolution and its social and political issues.
  • 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.
  • Part of the backstory for Killer7 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.
  • God of War didn't even try to portray Kratos realistically, it seems. To give one example, he was bald. Real soldiers of that time period wore their hair long, and were very proud of it, doing their best to keep it groomed.
  • The Soldier in Team Fortress 2 has a... unique take on Sun Tzu.
    Soldier: Then he used his fight money to buy two of every animal on earth, and then he herded them onto a boat, and then he beat the crap out of every single one! ... And from that day forward, any time a bunch of animals are together in one place, it's called a zoo! Unless it's a farm!
  • In the 2006 E3 press conference, Genji was advertised as being "historically accurate". A minute or so after the spokesperson said this, his player character was attacked by a Giant Enemy Crab, right as the spokesman claimed that the game features "famous battles which actually took place in Ancient Japan". It was poked fun at in Sony's E3 2013 press conference - an indie developer stopped while describing his game and said, "and while historically accurate, it doesn't feature any Giant Enemy Crabs".
  • Used in-game in BioShock Infinite. The citizens of Columbia venerate the Founding Fathers (Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin) as prophets and messiahs, while in reality, they would have been appalled at the fanaticism, oppression, racism, elitism, and abuse of power the Columbians preach and practice. (Jefferson established the "separation of church and state", Franklin protested against the caste system and was a deist to boot, and Washington was racially and religiously tolerant, and is against a permanent office position.)
  • All the Civilization games seem to think that Persia historically ended with Alexander's conquest. In reality, there was a country called Persia right up until 1935. After that date it was called by its native name, Iran.
  • The creators of Ryse: Son of Rome, Crytek, have admitted to not be aiming for historical accuracy with their game. It certainly shows when Boudicca sacks Rome with war elephantsnote . And the historical silliness doesn't stop there.
  • The narration in the first Onimusha says that Tokichiro will eventually go on to conquer the entire world under a different name. Uh...sure, if by the world you mean the majority of Japan.
  • Crusader Kings:
    • Paradox Interactive by and large did its research, so the starting scenarios are reasonably historically accurate (see below), but AI rulers tend to have little if any interest in directly mimicking the behavior of their historical counterparts, never mind player-created insanity such as a Slavic Empire ruling the Holy Land.
    • Particularly in earlier start dates, the lack of accurate records for many regions means that even the most dubious dynastic lineages, from 90% of Swedish rulers claiming descent from the legendary Viking Ragnar Lodbrok to Irish counts insisting they were spawned by Conn of the Hundred Battles, are given the benefit of the doubt by the developers. Ragnar even becomes a playable character with the Charlemagne DLC's 769 AD start. Paradox didn't have much choice here: the alternative in many cases was to make people up entirely (and in the time periods in question, people really did take these kinds of claims seriously). Still, several playable early Yemeni rulers are known to be completely fictional.
    • Historically, when a Mongol Great Khan died, all other Mongol military activity was to cease and the leaders were obliged to return with their armies to Mongolia to see the "election" of the successor. This was one of the only things that saved Western Europe from annihilation when Ogedei Khan died in 1241. This rule does not apply to the Mongols in either Crusader Kings game, even when other such unusual succession behavior such as Muslim open succession is kept.
  • Eiyuu Senki: The World Conquest not only has numerous historical figures interacting with each other beyond the limits of both time and fiction- King Arthur meeting Billy the Kid for example- but every single one of them in that universe is a woman.
  • Comes up a lot in the Total War series:
    • In Rome: Total War, Egypt fields a number of units that look straight from the New Kingdom, i.e, several centuries before the game is set. The developers acknowledged that the faction's appearance and unit selection were anachronistic but said it was a deliberate choice to avoid them being too similar to other factions. One popular conversion mod, Europa Barbarorum, converts the Egyptian faction to be more authentic, as a Macedonian/Greek inspired faction. Also, we're pretty sure the ancient Britons didn't throw severed heads at their enemies.
    • Medieval II: Total War:
      • While Scotland historically was relatively poor and isolated, it was a feudal nation which fielded men-at-arms and knights just like any other European nation at the time - most of the fighting men were recruited from the lowlands and borders. Of course, this is not the case in Medieval 2, where Scotland is Braveheart Land and every soldier is a highlander is wrapped in a kilt (which wasn't around back then) and has blue woad all over his face.
      • Helsinki is portrayed as a castle and the capital of Finland. Not only did Finland not exist as an entity at the time, but Helsinki was just a simple fishing village.
      • England's generals, princesses and ruling family members all have Anglo-Saxon names and speak English with a familiar English accent. The real-life Plantagenet dynasty would never have used Anglo-Saxon names, and every single monarch in England from 1066 to 1399 spoke French as their first language.
    • In Empire: Total War, Moscow is the capital of Russia. Historically, St. Petersburg was the capital from 1713 to 1918. The Winter Palace and the Kunstkamera museum, both in St. Petersburg in real life, can only be built in Moscow in the game.
    • In Total War: Shogun 2, the Boshin War of 1868 can be a titanic conflict which can last years, rack up a death toll similar to that of the American Civil War (600,000 lives lost through various causes) and involve troops from the United States and the British Empire. In reality, it was just a small-scale conflict which ended with 3,500 deaths.
    • In Total War: Attila, it's possible to meet a Germanic tribe which worships Tengriism decades before the Huns ever really arrived in Europe in real life. And the Visigoths were Christians, not pagan.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • In Educomix, World War II was fought between Ireland and the South Pole, and one of the combatants was Jesus.

    Web Original 
  • 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 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.
  • During The Nostalgia Critic's review of Pearl Harbor, he gives an extremely long rant about the undisciplined and unpreparedness of the American Military during the attack. What he fails to realize? It was a surprise attack, many of the people on the ships weren't only their compliment, but workers from all over the base so it makes sense that a few can't swim. And he claims that the Doolittle Raid killed many civilians... when in reality only a few died (although the targets were factories which are military targets). Note: he could have gotten this all right if he just took the time to review the Other Wiki's page on both subjects, or asked his navy father.
  • Francis E. Dec's worldview is just choke full of this. Among others:
    • He claimed that the Roman Empire never existed, that there was once a world-wide Slovene Empire and that Computer God interbred Slovene and black people to create "Jew-mulattos".
    • His version of World War II is even crazier. According to him, the Nazis were actually Jews exterminating Polish; the ghettos were posh and luxurious Jew districts; there were only six million Polish and all of them were killed and made into human meat; somehow some of them survived to be later sacrificed for USA and Great Britain; the 1943 ghetto uprising is a fabrication by Gangster Computer God; and pope Pius apparently ate Polish human meat. What?
  • 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
    hich 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
  • This Demotivational Poster.
  • Played for laughs in the Atop the Fourth Wall review of the Doom comic. 90s Kid actually believes the soldiers in WWII had to fight space aliens.
  • Some of the editors of the article on the history of the Icelandic Commonwealth on That Other Wiki seem to be (very unsubtly) shilling in their ideas about it as "a model anarchist commune".
  • This is the basic premise of Drunk History.
  • A very minor one in Stuart Ashen 's Hitler Cartoon: Hitler's "rainbow" is of the modern day/Weimar Germany flag, although Hitler changed the flag immediately after getting into power.

    Western Animation 
  • 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. And so do all but one of the people playing the British. One kid attempts to point out the Trojan War as precisely why they should not let that wooden pig in their fort, and he is promptly ignored.
  • Back to the Future, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures, and Histeria! may be focused on the past, but please don't use any facts you've learned from these shows on a test.
  • South Park's "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 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 MythBusters 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.
  • Played for Laughs in Teen Titans where Beast Boy proclaims "Now I know how George Washington felt when Napoleon beat him at Pearl Harbor". And at the beginning of the same episode, Beast Boy gives an account of the start of The Revolutionary War, thinking that it started in 1492, and was caused because the colonists getting tired of only being allowed to eat english muffins and drink tea. Raven replies by wondering if he got all of that from a cereal box (he did).
  • Any and all witch burning scenes that claim they are from the Salem Witch Trials. Example of both used in The Fairly Oddparents and Danny Phantom.
  • From Family Guy:
    • There's the episode "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." This joke and much of the episode 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 Bf 109 were a year away from being deployed, thus they only had metal biplanes and the already obsolete P-35 and obsolescent P-36 Hawk. The notable exceptions being the US Navy and the small but cutting edge strategic bomber force.
      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.note  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. It didn't help (well, from the perspective of anyone not in Nazi Germany, it did help) that Germany had driven out many of their best nuclear and/or theoretical physicists (such as one Albert Einstein) due to Germany's anti-Semitic policies.
      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. In fact, part of Japan's casus belli in 1941 was that Roosevelt had embargoed US oil from Japan over the Second Sino-Japanese War, especially Japan's conduct in Nanking. So, if anything, it was Japan that went to war (partly) for oil against the United States, not the other way around.
      5. 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, many speculate he was gay.
    • "Road to the Multiverse" makes the utterly incorrect Hollywood History assumption that it was Christianity that caused the Dark Ages. And while there have been multiple times were Christianity has attempted to trump on knowledge there are multiple other (non-religious) causes for the Dark Ages, and much of our knowledge of science and philosophy were preserved by Catholic monks, and the Catholic Church openly willing to support science and learning throughout this time and the renaissance. Also in this episode, they also assume that Walt Disney was an anti-semite despite him hiring and working with Jewish employees, none of which have said that he showed any kind of hatred or bigotry.
    • Another time they had the aforementioned Lancaster Bombers... with the American Air Force insignia. The United States Army Air Force never had the Lancaster Bomber, instead used the B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator. It might be forgivable if they just mixed up the B-24 with the Lancaster, considering their similar appearance.
  • Frequently parodied and Played for Laughs on The Simpsons:
    • Grandpa Simpson very often mixes historical events and/or relates them in a 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) in "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming":
      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.
    • From "The Sweetest Apu":
      Homer: Are you sure you don't want to come? In a Civil War re-enactment we need lots of Indians to shoot!
      Apu: [beat] I don't know what part of that sentence to correct first.
    • In "Much Apu About Nothing", when Homer is trying to teach Apu what he needs to become a US citizen:
      Homer: Now we all know that the thirteen stripes are for good luck. But can you tell me why the American flag has exactly forty-seven stars?
      Apu: Because that flag is ridiculously out of date. It must have been made during the brief period in 1912 after New Mexico became a State but before Arizona did.
      Homer: Er... partial credit.
    • During his exam to become a citizen, Apu is asked a final question:
      Examiner: What was the cause of the Civil War?
      Apu: Actually, there were many factors. Apart from the obvious schism between abolitionists and anti-abolitionists, economic factors as well as—
      Examiner: Slavery. Just say slavery.
      Apu: Slavery it is, sir!
  • In Danny Phantom:
    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's 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?")
  • Parodied in an episode of The Powerpuff Girls. Mojo Jojo, drafted into babysitting the girls, tells them a horribly inaccurate version of Napoleon Bonaparte's life (namely that he conquered the entire world). Once he finishes, the girls (who are in kindergarten) shut him down by thoroughly telling him the real story of Napoleon's life in between hitting him with pillows.
  • Robot Chicken:
    • The trailer for 1776. "It ain't accurate, but it'll blow your fucking mind!"
    • In the Lil' Hitler sketch, the first nation (or student's desk) annexed by Hitler is Poland, followed by Czechoslovakia. This should have been the other way around; and Austria isn't even brought up. Japan also seems to lack any of China's desk. In addition, the USA is portrayed as "Not my problem!" until Japan knocks over his juice; by December 1941, America had already been providing supplies for the British and Chinese.
  • Schoolhouse Rock:
    • Although the old 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 that Woodrow Wilson brought America into World War I in 1913. Not only is this four years before America joined in, it's one year before the war actually started.
  • Parodied in Arthur where Arthur, Francine and Buster try making comic strips for a presentation on Rome. Arthur does one in which the Empire is apparently run by the scroll of Roman Law, and features skeleton warriors and a Cyclops. When Prunella points out he hasn't used any real history Arthur admits this is true. Francine's one has her winning the Olympic Games. Brain points out they took place in Greece and the Romans banned the Games in 194 BC (though this could have been set before the ban) and she admits she didn't do any research. Though this isn't pointed out, she couldn't have competed anyway, as only men were allowed. Buster has Spartacus defending pizzas from soldiers hidden in a horse who are attacking the Pyramids, and Julius Caesar on a hang glider, which he justifies by saying they didn't have jet-packs back then. Ironically enough, their eventual, more accurate presentation still gets things inaccurate in claiming Julius Caesar was an Emperor. They also apparently have pizzas being delivered to the Senate, though their teacher points this out.
  • Class of the Titans generally averts the trope, as the creators did a lot of research into Greek mythology and history. However, the gods occasionally are shown to have objects engraved with various dates "B.C." While the time of the Greek gods was indeed in the B.C. era, there is of course no way that someone who lived in that time period would know that. Like many other examples, this one is almost certainly designed to fall under Rule of Funny.
  • Plastic Man in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Cry Freedom Fighters!" is unusually dense about American history. He eventually inspires an oppressed alien race with a rousing (if not completely accurate) speech:
    Plastic Man: They were freedom fighters! And you can be, too.
    Qwardian: But we would be facing impossible odds.
    Plastic Man: Did that stop Abraham Lincoln when he was outnumbered by the Redcoats on the D-Day? No. And when John Paul Jones and Ringo ran out of tea in Boston, did that stop them from throwing their party? Of course not. Yes, my friends. I, like George Jefferson before me, cannot tell a lie. Help me, and together we shall let freedom ring.

Alternative Title(s): Artistic Licence History, You Fail History Forever