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 offers an example 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 a 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 diverges from 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'sHomer 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 start 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.
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 fictionalising of history, 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. It's widely regarded as a hoax or forgery by historians.
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."
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. As additional Alternate Timelines are discovered later in the series, it's also possible the protagonists were never from our real-life history to begin with but rather from one that is Like Reality Unless Noted.
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's The Kommandant's Girl is set in Nazi-occupied Poland, and yet features the Polish characters living in luxurious apartments 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.
Witches weren't being burned at the stake or persecuted in any noticeable way in the 10th century, and the Founders probably wouldn't have had surnames.
The books also state 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). Assuming time turners existed back then it's unlikely he used one as travelling too far back in time is known to be extremely dangerous. More likely is that history is different in the Potterverse compared to real life and Merlin and King Arthur were born at a later time in history and certain known historical events from that time happened differently or not at all like in real life.
In Jurassic Park, Grant muses that if 60 years were compressed into a single day, 80 million years would become 3652 years,note Actually closer to 3653 (3652.968...), assuming 365 days per year, or 3650 (3650.467...) counting leap years 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.
In The Alienist, several characters refer to "homosexuals." At that time homosexuality was not something one was, but something one did. Many works of late nineteenth-century written erotica had protagonists who, while mainly focused on one gender, would cheerfully cross gender lines; in some of them, this is so ubiquitous that it seems that Everyone Is Bi. "Homosexuality" also was a fairly new term at the time, having been coined c. the 1860s, as a medical disorder.
The ancient Greek historian Herodotus has been the subject of criticism from his era to the present. In some cases, his accounts have been confirmed, but many are doubtful or proven entirely false. This is not always his fault, as Herodotus had to rely on stories people told of distant events and couldn't always verify them. Others though are highly suspected to have been invented by him. Thus he is known as both the "Father of History" and "Father of Lies".
Similarly, the 6th century Byzantine historian Procopius became very disenchanted with the reign of Justinian I and composed a text now called the Secret History. It alleges, among other things, that Justinian was a demon and a mass murderer who killed untold numbers of people. The text is so outrageous that some historians doubted its authenticity, though it's now thought to have been authentic, and written by Procopius - probably as a way to vent in between imperial commissions.
Atonement briefly mentioned the Balham station disaster (a German bomb was dropped on the road above the station - the tube platforms of which were being used as air-raid shelters - causing the northbound tunnel to partially collapse, flooding both platforms with water and earth from the ruptured water mains and sewers above), but stated that it happened in September 1940 rather than October 1940.
Black Man. Marsalis, the 'black man' of the title, is told the .357 Magnum round was specifically developed to shoot cocaine-fueled black men, the 'urban monster' of the time. That round was actually developed in The '30s, in response to gangsters equipped with automatic weapons and bulletproof vests.
Ivanhoe: Until the fourteenth century, more than a hundred years after the novel takes place, the Catholic Church actually judged belief in witchcraft as heretical, so Rebecca wouldn't have been put on trial for it. The idea of lingering animosity between the Saxons and Normans by the time of the novel is also ahistorical, except for some diehard eccentrics.
I Am Mordred: The druidic Celts didn't allow the king to simply have sex with anyone he pleased. Given this is historical fantasy though, some departures are expected.
Trigger Warning: When expressing his disgust for college students wanting "safe spaces," the protagonist describes Audie Murphy as a stoic and unflinching war hero whose "safe space was a 50-caliber machine gun." In reality, Murphy suffered PTSD throughout his life and publicly advocated for greater mental health support and sensitivity to traumatized veterans. Ironically, Murphy often slept with a gun under his pillow because he literally didn't feel safe.
The Dresden Files: In the short story A Fistful of Warlocks, which is set in Dodge City, Kansas in the 1870s, the villain, Kemmler, uses what's obviously a swastika as part of his symbol, apparently for no other reason than his being an evil German. Moreover, Captain Luccio doesn't appear to know what the symbol is called (simply referring to it as a bent cross) despite swastikas being something that should be very familiar to someone with her training in religious symbology, occultism, and magic.
Victoria: John Rumford, the horribly sexist protagonist (the novel is pretty much a far-right Author Tract), insists that no army that ever saw actual combat ever included women (a derisive comment directed at Azania, a high-tech Lady Land he plans to conquer). He also has a great admiration for the Soviet T-34 tank... several of which were crewed by women. In fact, in World War II the Soviets fielded female personnel in nearly every specialty except the regular infantry, some of whom, such as sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko, became international celebrities. In all, 90 women were named Hero of the Soviet Union during the war, most for service in front line combat or in La Résistance against Axis occupation forces.
Area 51: The Aymara are mentioned as having vanished mysteriously, much like the Anazazi. However, not only are they still around (nearly two million strong across five countries) one of them, Evo Morales, was elected as President of Bolivia since the books came out.
The Stranger: As more than one critic has noted, this book takes place in French-colonial Algeria before it won independence, and the main character, an ethnically French colonist (in the phraseology of the period, a piednoir) murders an Arab man that he doesn't know and has no reason to kill — and yet he is arrested and tried for murder and found guilty, and sentenced to death. In real-life colonial Algeria, he probably wouldn't have been arrested, and even if he had been, he almost certainly wouldn't have been found guilty. Of course, in the story it's clear he would probably have been let off if he hadn't admitted being an atheist. That convinces the authorities he's a monster, and it's this he really gets condemned for. See the entry under Kangaroo Court; it appears that the particular court that tries Meursault is more belligerent than normal, and appears to be doing whatever it can to find him guilty.
In Felicity Floo Visits The Zoo, it's implied that the flu got its name because Patient Zero was a young girl with the last name of Floo. In reality, flu is short for influenza and it was first discovered in pigs, by scientists, and in 1918 (and Felicity doesn't dress like a girl in the late 1910s).
The High Crusade: Parvus is portrayed as astonished when Branithat says the Earth is round, though he's aware of the idea from the ancient Greeks, and thinks it's absurd at first. However, that was actually well known by educated Medieval people (monks like him being at the forefront of education). Poul Anderson usually got history correct (from what was known then) but apparently didn't know flat earth belief in the Middle Ages is a myth (among the educated people at least).
Sir John Hackett's The Third World War: The Untold Story:
The author seems to confuse political officers and commissars. For reference, there haven't been any military commissars in the Red Army since the fall of 1942. They were retrained and became commissioned officers with regular ranks. Why? Precisely to prevent incompetent civilians from interfering with competent commanders.
Apparently, only NATO sissy boys require field kitchens. A true Soviet soldier subsists only on dry rations during training exercises and in wartime, right? In reality, field kitchens appeared in the Russian army back during the time of Peter the Great. In the Red Army, a sergeant could easily find himself demoted back to private for failing to provide hot meals for over three days in a row.
John Schettler's Kirov series:
After ending up in 1941, the officers of the eponymous Russian missile cruiser joke that the first thing Stalin is going to do after getting his hands on the Kirov is to rename the ship, since Sergei Kirov was supposedly purged after going against the party line. Apparently, they don't know that the real Kirov one of Stalin's staunchest allies and was officially assassinated by a lone gunman seeking to "strike a blow" against the Soviet state. In any case, the Project 1144 Kirov wasn't actually named after the Soviet politician. It was, in fact, named after another cruiser named Kirov that served from 1938 until 1974 and could conceivably encounter its namesake, provided the missile cruiser ended up in the Baltic. Also, Stalin had nothing against the name "Kirov" and there were cities and streets named after him.
The first novel claims that there was no Northern Fleet in the Soviet Union in 1941, just the White Sea Flotilla. The Northern Fleet was actually formed in 1937 from the Northern Flotilla preceding it. In the following books, the Northern Fleet does appear, but the author keeps calling it the Red Banner Northern Fleet, apparently assuming "Red Banner" is just a fancy way of saying "Soviet". In fact, the fleet received the Order of the Red Banner and its new name in 1965 due to its actions in World War II.
When Churchill arrives to his meeting with FDR, the band plays "God Save the Queen". The sequels also refer to a queen and "Her Majesty". Did George VI get a sex change or something? He ruled until his death in 1952, at which point Elizabeth II became the queen.
Also, Churchill is constantly referred to as "Sir Winston", except he only got knighted in 1953.
According to the author, the WWII-era Soviet navy used the St Andrew's Flag (a tilted blue cross on a white background). Except that flag was used by the Tsarist navy and later by the modern Russian navy. While it made an appearance in 1944-46, it wasn't in use by the Soviet navy. Apparently, the author was trying to explain how WWII-era Americans could mistake a modern Russian warship for a Soviet one.
The Soviet declaration of war against Japan is treated as baseless imperialism, with the Americans claiming that they've just about convinced the Japanese to surrender without dropping the A-bomb, when the Soviets came and ruined everything. Naturally, the Americans never asked the USSR to get involved (what Tehran Conference?), and the Soviets limited themselves to a pitiful assault on the Kuril Islands. No mention of Manchuria or the three Soviet fronts in the Far East.
In order to avoid scaring the people of Vladivostok in 1908, the crew of the Kirov don't use the launch's motor, preferring to use oars instead. Why anyone in 1908 would be scared of an internal combustion engine, especially since it might be confused for a steam engine, is odd.
One of the time travelers finds himself in the town of Ilansky on the day the Tunguska meteorite is supposed to fall. He sees a calendar with the date of June 30 1908 and a log entry that says 30.08.1908. Except in pre-revolutionary Russia it's supposed to be June 17, as they haven't switched to the Gregorian calendar yet. There's also no mention of the guy being confused by the pre-revolutionary writing or by a paper log with a quill and ink instead of a computer. Apparently that's perfectly normal for 2021 Russia.
In 1908, one of the warships in the Japanese navy is the battleship Tango, formerly known as the Russian Poltava, which was armed with 40-caliber 305 mm Krupp guns, which were standard for Russian battleships of the time. First of all, these so-called "40-caliber Krupp guns" were actually 35-caliber 12-inch (305 mm) Obukhov Model 1886 and had nothing to do with Krupp. Second, they were installed on exactly three Russian battleships: Navarin, Georgii Pobedonosets, and Chesma, so not exactly the "standard". Third, the Poltava's guns were scuttled by the crew, so the Japanese had to install the British-made Armstrong Whitworth 12-inch naval guns instead. Finally, the Tango didn't enter service until 1909.
Stalin is portrayed as the singular leader of the USSR since the Civil War. In fact, in the book's alternate history, his assassination in 1908 results in the Civil War ending with three remnants of the Russian Empire fighting among themselves rather than a united Soviet state. In reality, during the Civil War, Stalin was nowhere near high enough in the pecking order to keep the empire from falling apart.
The Vampire Chronicles: The vampire Armand is said to have been born in the Kievan Rus' in the second half of the 15th century before being captured and enslaved during the Mongol invasion. Except this is the time of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Kievan Rus' hasn't been around since the 14th century. And Batu Khan's invasion happened even earlier, in the 13th century.
In Crusade in Jeans, the protagonist time travels to the 13th century and joins the Children's Crusade in 1212, meeting among them a young Leonardo Fibonacci, who will grow up to be a great mathematician. Except the real Fibonacci was already in his forties in 1212 and had published a number of great works by then.
The book states that Russians found oil in 2001, which was a big deal because Russia had no other exports before that except for vodka. So... was the Yamal-Europe pipeline used to transport vodka then? Not natural gas?
According to the author, it's natural for Russians to fear China, because it was conquered by Genghis Khan in the 13th century. First of all, Genghis Khan wasn't Chinese, he was a Mongol. Second, Genghis Khan never invaded Rus', he died in 1227. The Golden Horde was created by his grandson Batu Khan.
Apparently, Russia is supposed to have invaded Dagestan in 1999. Except Dagestan is a part of Russia, so there's really no need for Russia to invade itself. Dagestan was indeed invaded in 1999, but it was done by an Islamic group from Chechnya.
The War in 2020 by Ralph Peters: General Noburu Kabata's aide can't believe that the Islamic fanatics have turned against their former Japanese allies so much that they used human wave tactics against machine guns, seeing an American ploy behind this. The General comes to the conclusion that the calculating Japanese are simply incapable of understanding the power of blind faith. Yep, after all, we all know that the Japanese culture is extremely rational and would never create something like the kamikaze.
"The Nightingale" by Hans Christian Andersen: Besides the massive misunderstanding of Chinese culture, the fairy tale also starts with "In China, you know, the emperor is a Chinese, and all those about him are Chinamen also." Except China is home to dozens of ethnic groups. And the Emperor in 1844, when the story was written, was actually a Manchu of the Qing Dynasty, which was in power for two centuries at that point.
According to Tolstoy, soldiers wore epaulets in 1805. They actually didn't until 1807.
In 1806, Nikolai Rostov takes a vacation. Except vacations were strictly forbidden for soldiers during that time. The only way to get one was with the Emperor's permission, and Alexander I always replied to such requests with, "If you need to leave the army, resign."
Gendarmes are shown as keeping the peace at a ball in 1810, but gendarme divisions would only appear in Saint Petersburg seven years later.
Denisov arrives to the ball in boots with spurs and is tapping his saber in rhythm with the music. In reality, it was strictly forbidden for everyone, including the Emperor, to go to a ball with a weapon or any other sharp object.
The Pavlograd Hussars in the book are moving in a column 4 men wide during the campaign of 1805, but regulations state that they should be moving in a column 3 men wide.
There's More Than One Way Home, set in 2004, has a mild example. Jack makes a reference to Pluto not being a planet anymore, although Pluto wasn't demoted until 2006.
Harry Kemelman's Rabbi Small series has a minor example in the last book, That Day the Rabbi Left Town. A mention is made of a woman who's descended from the "North Shore Leveretts", members of the Leverett family who came to America on the Mayflower. In real life, the full list of the Mayflower passengers included no Leveretts; the first of that family to emigrate to America did so in 1633, thirteen years after the Mayflower landed.