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The Greatest History Never Told

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Our historical novels have fallen with terrible sameness into two or three grooves. We might almost say that a man is not allowed to write an historical novel except about four different historical periods, about six different historical characters; and even about them he is not allowed to take any view except that taken by the other romances on the same subject. Now, considering the countless millions of marvelous, amusing, unique, and picturesque things that have thronged on top of each other through all our wonderful three thousand years of European history, this state of affairs is as Byzantine and benighted as if no landscape painter ever painted anything but a larch tree, or as if none of our sculptors could model anything except the left leg.

A side effect of Hollywood History, these are time periods that rarely, if ever, appear in fiction. Maybe the writers/executives/etc. aren't aware of or familiar with them. Maybe they fear the ignorance of the viewers. Maybe they actively dislike the people not portrayed, and have personal reasons for ignoring or misrepresenting them. Whatever the reason, mentioning these time periods will leave the audience confused over some details and the history buffs cheering.

Some periods really lend themselves to fiction - there's just something compelling about Ancient Egypt and Nazi Germany that means it's not surprising how often they show up. However, after a while it gets a little baffling why equally fascinating periods get left out. Ancient China was as imperial and decadent as Rome, with the technological progress of Renaissance Europe and ships the size of small castles, but where's their summer blockbuster?


One not-unsubstantiated theory is that most Hollywood movies are aimed at white people. Studio executives will often fear that white audiences will stay away if there are too many people of color in a film. Places and times that white people are notably absent from won't often get featured unless Fake Nationality is rife for the main cast (note how many times movies set in pre-Ptolemaic era Ancient Egypt feature an all-white cast), or a white person or persons are inserted into the story, to give the (mostly white) target audience someone who looks like them, with whom they can sympathize. Even if the setting does have white people in it, if said people aren't part of British or American history, they can still be largely ignored by the (mostly American) Hollywood film industry..

This page is intended to be a resource of particularly interesting periods almost-forgotten, in the hope that they will get more exposure over time, if only to the wiki.


Time Periods are roughly organized into the following:

  1. Pre-History: The time before the written word, before civilization, farming, etc., and thus far too boring to depict. Older Than Dirt.
  2. Ancient History: Older Than Dirt or Older Than Feudalism. If you aren't one of the 4 main civilizations, you didn't exist. See below for more details.
  3. Middle History: Older Than Print. Typically depicted in Medieval Stasis, despite many flourishing contemporary empires.
  4. Modern History: Older Than Steam, Older Than Radio, etc.

Just some notes:

  • If you know of any works related to a given time period, please create a list under the related folder if one doesn't already exist and then add the works.
  • If a wiki page exists for the time period, please link it in.
  • If you know something about the period, and know that it isn't featured somewhere else in the wiki, please add the information to the text for that time period.
    • If said text becomes big enough, it may warrant moving to a more isolated spot on the page, such as the example Roman Empire under Christianity below. Surrounding it with folder tags will also keep it manageable
    • If said text becomes too big for a folder, recommend it as a YKTTW, using the information in the folder as a starting point. If you are successful, remove all but the basic information from this page and place it on the new one. Ensure a wiki link is available for anyone who wishes to follow up on it.

Creator Provincialism can result in a specific time period having a lot of coverage in the media of a particular region and being virtually unknown outside that area.

If you know anyone looking to do a Troper Work or Fan Fic, but who needs a setting, point them to this page.

Contrast Hollywood History, and many others. For the biology-related Sister Trope, check out Seldom-Seen Species. Not to be confused with The Greatest Story Never Told.

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Pre-Ancient Times

  • After the dinosaurs died out, but before the ice ages and way before humans began migrating. The entire span between the dinosaur extinction and the ice age (a span of some 63 million years full of many prehistoric animals) do not show up in fiction that often, whether magical-based, time-travel, science-based, etc.
  • Although the Mesozoic period as a whole is rather well-represented, the Triassic period is left mostly forgotten. The late-Jurassic and the late-Cretaceous are where most Stock Dinosaurs come from.
  • You don't get much Prehistory before the dinosaurs, either. You'll never see an eccentric billionaire extracting fossil DNA from coal deposits to create Carboniferous Park, nor many time-travellers going to those long-lasting times in which Earth's most advanced lifeforms were -at best- single-celled, eukaryote, organisms.
    • Anime and Manga
      • Ponyo takes place in contemporary times, but much of the aquatic sea life present during the abnormal-seas portions of the film are intended to be from the Devonian period (416–359.2mya), where most of the planet was submerged (which figures in a major plot point). Shown Their Work indeed.
      • The Nontolma, an undersea-dwelling precursor race from Sgt. Frog, seem to take the form of Anomalocaris, an arthropod from the Cambrian period.
      • Anomalocaris actually seems to be pretty popular in Japan for some reason. There's both a Pokémon and Digimon based on it as well as Sandalphon's evolved form in Neon Genesis Evangelion and a character in After War Gundam X, Caris Nautilus named after them. In Heaven's Design Team, Pluto carries around a plush Anomalocaris, though the anime doesn't show a live one.
      • Heaven's Design Team also includes an episode in which they (accidentally) create the Hallucigenia. However, the story itself takes place in a time outside time.
    • Literature
      • The underwater territory of the Transparent Adept in the Apprentice Adept series is home to sea scorpions, ammonites, and other Paleozoic sea creatures, evidently because cool.
    • Live-Action TV
      • Prehistoric Park featured some Carboniferous creatures: Meganeura (a giant dragonfly), Arthropleura (a giant milipede), and Pulmonoscorpius (a giant scorpion). They had to be kept in a special oxygenated room due to the changes in the Earth's atmosphere since then.
      • Walking with Monsters covers this era, though not quite to the extent that Walking With Dinosaurs and Walking With Beasts did with the Mesozoic and Cenozoic.
      • Primeval gets credits for including quite a few Paleozoic creatures, even if they aren't portrayed accurately most of the time. The most prominent of them is Series Mascot Rex, a Coelurosauravus. In fact, no dinosaurs— at least non-avian ones, since there are a Hesperornis and a dodo— appear at all in the first season.
  • The Ice Age itself is pretty thin as well, and when it appears, all the glaciations are lumped together with Misplaced Wildlife— see Mammoths Mean Ice Age. Sometimes (most notably by Robert Howard and JRR Tolkien) it is used to place there a forgotten fantasy world with magic and mythical creatures.
  • Before the Creation of the Universe
  • Before the Earth was Formed
    • Live Action TV
      • The Earth formed when the Racnoss arrived and their ship became the core of the planet in Doctor Who.

Ancient Times (3,000 B.C. - 476 A.D.)

Hollywood History acknowledges some vaguely-recognisable form of:

It ignores:

    The Mediterranean 
Pretty much any civilisation predating Classical Greece:
  • The Minoans
  • The Mycenaean civilization despite being the progenitor of classical Greek culture and language (outside of the Trojan War).
    • Literature
      • Gods and Warriors by Michelle Paver is set in Archaic Greece, with one of the major characters being Achaean and another being Minoan. Notably, not all the Greek gods we know today are worshipped at the time of the novels, and those that are don't all have the names we know them by.
  • The Phoenicians were at one point one of the richest, most powerful seafaring civilizations in Europe, they also pioneered the alphabet . Yet until they settle down in Carthage and start fighting the Punic Wars against Rome, who's ever mentioned them?
  • Sumer appears mostly when the author needs Ancient Astronauts or something comparable.
  • Mesopotamia and the Ancient Middle-East in general, with the exception of Ancient Egypt and stories from The Bible, the whole region merely provides a wildly inaccurate bunch of Always Chaotic Evil enemies of Ancient Grome.
  • The Hittites and ancient Anatolia
    • Anime and Manga
    • Film
    • Literature
      • The Empires of Bronze series by Gordon Doherty revolves around the historical figure Hattusili III (called 'Hattu' in the books) and also features Hittite culture, politics, warfare, foreign relations, etc.
  • Urartu and Ancient Armenia
    • Comic Books
      • Roger Kupelian's East of Byzantium is a graphic novel about the war between the Persians and the Armenians in 451 A.D. It was due to be made into a live action mini-series, but this has had a lengthy stay in Development Hell.
    • Live-Action TV
      • An Armenian television series called Hin Arkaner (Ancient Kings in English) produced by Panarmenian TV covers the lead-up to the reign of Tigran the Great in the 90s BC in a Game of Thrones-esque fashion. However, a version with English subtitles hasn't yet been released for any curious non-Armenian speakers.
    • Literature
      • Xenophon's Anabasis partly takes place here, making it one of the only contemporary historical sources on pre-Christian Armenia. It's also a great resource for life in ancient Persia at that time.

    The Americas 
  • Outside of a few offhand references, there isn't a whole lot of mention of the Aztec civilization; or them actually being conquered. (Naturally, you can bet they'd all forget that if Cortes actually had his way, the Aztecs and Tlaxcalans would have been treated as Spanish Nobility). See Mayincatec for examples, of various levels of historical accuracy.
    • Literature
      • Norman Spinrad wrote a novel about the conquest titled Mexica. From the title alone, the possible grade of historic accuracy can be inferred (hint: the Aztecs never called themselves Aztecs, they were Mexica).
    • Live-Action TV
      • The Doctor Who serial "The Aztecs" is set here (made back when the show was still supposed to have an educational element).
  • Native Americans before the coming of the Europeans. To be fair not much is known about ancient North America, due to a general lack of ancient ruins or written history to examine.
    • Even better, when there are some, they must be from ancient Egypt. Because according to Hollywood History everyone else only sucked their thumbs and waited for the Europeans' arrival.
    • Literature
      • In Poul Anderson's Time Patrol story "The Only Game In Town", a Mongol expedition is working its way down the West Coast and two Patrolmen have to stop it and keep it from getting back. (Manse realizes that in fact they are tampering with time — the Time Patrol is keeping not the untampered-with history but the one they like — because nothing really should have stopped them.)
    • The Royal Diaries series, about historical princesses, has two books about Native Americans right before and during first contact with the Europeans. Weetamoo, Heart of the Pocassetts takes place in New England in 1653, and Anacaona, Golden Flower takes place on Hispaniola in 1490.
    • Web Original
      • The Archy Fantasies podcast is great at averting this, as well as critiquing pseudohistorical theories that try to dismiss monuments, engineering works and other material culture created by North American native nationalities. One in the trio of regular hosts is professor Ken Feder, long-time archaeological researcher and populariser of pre-Columbian North America, its cultures and monuments.
    • Western Animation
  • God(s) bless your heart if you somehow find a story about Mesoamerican or South American civilizations besides the Aztec, or even about the Aztecs prior to the Conquest. So we don't see much about the Incas, and specially not from civilizations that predate the Post-Classical Mesoamerican Period like the Toltec, Mixtec, Classic Maya, Zapotec, or Monte Alban. Likewise, a long list of lowland and pre-Inca South American civilizations are routinely ignored. The Mound Builders or Mississippian civilization in North America, and the Amazonian civilization in South, are so obscure even the history buffs barely know of them (especially as the latter was discovered only relatively recently).

Ancient India may lack a great deal in written records but this was a time of the Indus Valley Civilization (there has never been a movie set in this era) Twhich flourished for some 600 years from 2500-1900 BC, but their writing is still undecipherable, limiting what archaeologists can learn. As early as 2000 BC many regions of South Asia entered the "Iron Age." A great many cultural and scientific achievements originated in South Asia, and yet very little is depicted about its history. India during the Axial Age was a complex, regionally diverse region, located in modern day Bihar, which witnessed in succession: the rise of the Nanda Kings, the Invasion of Alexander and the rise of the Mauryas.

Generally, movies and books set in this era, tend to be biopics of Gautama Buddha. Likewise the long period after the fall of Asoka and the rise of the Guptas, the reign of the Guptas, the Cholas and many other pre-Islamic civilizations tend to go unmentioned, even in Bollywood, which needless to say is not quite accurate

    The History of Rome and the Mediterranean 
  • The Roman Kingdom (whose oversight is Older Than They Think — even the later Roman sources that survive today are unreliable and heavily mythologized).
    • In Gladiator, a senator describes Rome as being founded as a Republic, rather than a kingdom. Word of God is that this statement was incorrect within the film itself.
    • William Shakespeare's long poem The Rape of Lucrece describes the casus belli of the revolt.
    • The Italian film Il Primo Re features two shepherds named Romulus and Remus as they progress towards the founding of Rome with the dialogue recorded in reconstructed proto-Latin.
  • The Roman Republic is presented as the Glory Days of The Glory That Was Rome and unambiguously invoked as Good Republic, Evil Empire. Yet we almost never see the Republic in its glory days, leave alone The Pyrrhic War and The Punic Wars. Most fiction deals with the Twilight of the Republic, the Third Servile War (aka Spartacus Rocks, starring Spartacus), the First and Second Triumvirate, the career of Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, Cicero, Catilina, Brutus and Augustus. Missing are Cincinnatus, and Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, both of whom invent street politics, egalitarian reform, protest marches only to get killed by the aristocratic senate. The names Gracchus are invoked in many late republican-early empire stories, but you never see the real thing, since it directly touched on how thoroughly unequal and oppressive the old Republic really was,
    • Even in the Twilight of the Republic phase, a lot of interesting figures are Overshadowed by Awesome. Quintus Sertorius is often cited as a Roman who should have become a major Historical Domain Character and spun-off in many media. He started out from relatively poor stock, joined up with Gaius Marius in his wars against Gothic and Germanic Tribes, and was cited for his ability to infiltrate tribes, by blending in, wearing their clothes, imitating their habits and speaking their language. One can imagine The Departed in the Ancient World. Sertorius later became a Statesman and General opposed to Sulla Felix's dictatorship and he became the longest-lasting remnant against Sulla and the Republic, escaping his proscriptions and running what some consider a Government in Exile in Hispania until after Sulla's death, repelling all his generals, including Pompey Magnus. Sertorius in Hispania started Romanizing many Lusitanian and Hispanic tribes, opened schools that allowed them to learn and integrate, and was in the opinion of some Going Native. He finally dies as a result of treachery at the banquet where he's murdered by his own men.
    • Again in Gladiator, the Punic Wars are invoked. One of the Gladiator Games is a recreation of the Battle of Zama. Maximus played the Punic side, and defies history by winning.
    • In Poul Anderson's Time Patrol story "Delenda Est", the Punic Wars prove to be the crucial era, and the climax lies in ensuring that the Scipios survive a battle.
    • Gustave Flaubert's Salammbô was a highly exoticized depiction of the era preceding the Second Punic War, featuring Hamilcar Barca and his mercenaries.
    • William Shakespeare's Coriolanus based on a rather obscure incident in Livy and Plutarch about a renegade general marching on Rome.
  • With the Ancient Greeks, Athens and Sparta are featured, along with some of their neighbors. The thousand or so colonies scattered around the whole Mediterranean? Hardly ever. Important and interesting characters get neglected as a result.
    • King Juba II of Numidia, was a Berber Prince taken as a hostage by Julius Caesar back to Rome, during which time he was raised alongside Caesar's household, fought alongside him in his wars, became bros with Augustus, wrote important books on Roman archeology at the age of 20, married the daughter of Cleopatra VII and Mark Antony after their defeat, and continued to work as an important scholar, researcher, and patron of arts and sciences for decades. Pliny the Elder cites him 65 times in his proto-encyclopedia "Natural History", and Plutarch in his Parallel Lives calls him one of the smartest rulers of his time. It took the 2015 historical novel "The Shards of Heaven" by Michael Livingston for him to finally became a leading character.
    • The Christian Roman Empire (Not to be confused with the Holy Roman Empire — Charlemagne et al). In the last days of The Roman Empire, Christianity was on the rise. Fear of persecution, invasions from outsiders, and the quickly deteriorating interior was forcing the empire to give up more and more power to the religious figures and the land owners. In order to try and stabilize the empire, it was divided into two sections: East and West. The East would eventually become the Byzantine Empire, and would survive for another millennium. The west would continue to break apart and spend the next 300 years fighting either the Byzantines or the Muslims, before steadily coalescing and re-coalescing into variations on the Holy Roman Empire. In fiction, it's depicted either as if there was no difference at all to pre-Christian Rome, or teeming with Corrupt Churchmen who run the place as if it belonged to them.
    • The exception is the reign of Emperor Julian the Apostate, who tried to revive Hellenism and failed and whose reign marks the Death of the Old Gods. His life has led to several plays, including Emperor and Galilean by Henrik Ibsen and Julian by Gore Vidal.
    • The German-Italian-Romanian two-part film epic Kampf um Rom (1968/69), based on the novel Ein Kampf um Rom ("A Struggle for Rome", 1876) by Felix Dahn, is set during the Eastern Roman Empire's invasion of Ostrogothic Italy.
    • Marguerite Yourcenar's ''Memoirs of Hadrian'.
  • The Jewish Revolts, if at all, are almost exclusively invoked in connection with the Life of Jesus Christ (and Brian) and the rise of Christianity, which sprang as a consequence. Such fascinating figures as Flavius Josephus, Simon Bar Khokba, the Sicarii (aka the OG Ninja and Asasiyun) and events like the fall of Jerusalem and the siege of Masada are almost never featured in Historical Fiction, separate from the Life of Christ.
    • Doctor Who short story The Last Days is set at the end of the siege of Masada.
  • A number of medieval epics and Norse sagas (both descending from earlier Germanic stories) center on Theoderic the Great (aka Dietrich of Berne = Verona), who set up a kingdom in Italy after the Western Roman Empire collapsed.

    Other Ancient Era Examples 
  • Pre-Qin Dynasty China rarely shows up unless regarding Confucius (The "Spring and Autumn" era).
  • The Hellenistic World, formed in the wake of Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Succession Wars is a fascinating era of scientific advances, syncretic cultures, the beginnings of the non-theistic model of the universe, war on a massive scale, treachery, debauchery, terror, beauty, the first massive clash of monotheism and polytheism, when Jews were invited to Alexandria by the Ptolemaics, resulting in a fertile back-and-forth (and at times violent) debates that led to the birth of Neoplatonism and Gnosticism, while Hellenists and Buddhists traded notes on sculpture in Bactria and Northern-India starting the great age of Buddhisht sculpture. Unless you count Rome: Total War, it's a complete media blackout:
    • C. P. Cavafy, the famous Greek-language poet who lived in 19th and early 20th Century Egypt wrote many poems about the Hellenistic Age, such as "The Satrapy, In 200 BC, The God Abandons Antony" and others which mostly celebrated this area as the true Golden Age of Greece.
    • Thaïs of Athens by the Soviet writer Ivan Yefremov is set in the early Hellenistic period at the times of Alexander the Great. Originally published in 1973, it was first translated into English in 2011.
    • While famous for 'Gates of Fire' (Thermopylae), Steven Pressfield has also written a couple of books about Alexander the Great. Special mention goes to 'The Afghan Campaign', for being set entirely in Central Asia and for making an excellent read alongside the then-current Afghan War.
    • Christian Cameron has written the Tyrant series, dealing with the latter part of Alexander's reign and the subsequent Successor conflicts. Even the first book, set while Alexander is still alive, is mostly set on the Black Sea coast and deals with the politics of Greek colonies, Macedonian expansion and the Scythian tribes who live there.
    • There are also of course several plays, films etc. about Cleopatra VII Philopater, the last Ptolemaic Queen of Egypt, and films about her usually confuse and baffle people for its context and situation ("Greeks in Egypt") being the big one.
  • Ancient Africa, apart from Egypt (see below), didn't exist as far as entertainment media believes. That's the second-largest, second-most-populous and longest-inhabited continent on the planet. Hollywood History goes Cradle of Life -> millennia of Darkest Africa -> a hugely advanced civilization appears out of nowhere along the Nile (must have been put there by Ancient Astronauts), then Moses flees to Israel and nothing much happens until the Boer War (or possibly Live Aid). This is despite Africa having had several great civilizations throughout its history, such as the Ethiopian empire, Carthage, the Mali Empire, the Kingdom of Benin, the Swahili city-states, the Berbers, the Zulus... Even from a European perspective, there's the "Scramble for Africa" in the late 1800s, when several competing empires carved the continent up into colonies.
    • There are quite a few films, novels etc. set in the "Scramble for Africa" era, especially if they involve British explorers or their fictional equivalents (She and other stories by H. Rider Haggard) or battles between the British and various African people and civilizations.
      • The Zulu wars are obviously covered in Zulu and Zulu Dawn.
      • The war in Sudan against the "Mahdi" appears in The Four Feathers and Khartoum (1966).
      • Portuguese exploration of Angola is explored in Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba.
  • When it comes to Ancient Egypt it's almost always portrayed as an Anachronism Stew of both the Old and New Kingdoms, where you might see for example the Pyramids of Giza being built during the New Kingdom. Egypt is also confused with the Biblical narratives like Joseph and Moses, despite the lack of hard historical evidence. Tutankhamen gets severely overplayed despite what a minor pharaoh he actually was (it actually says something that his tomb was the one that got overlooked by looters for over 2000 years). Most of Ancient Egypt's 3000 year history is ignored.
    • Looters got into his tomb not once, but twice. Thing is they were caught both times, and that his why his tomb was such a mess, the second time the guards sorta just threw all the treasure back in and sealed it back up, which is why the entrance sealing stone thing had a section with different seals on it when Carter finally found it.
    • The Pharoah Akhenaten, King Tut's dad, is well represented. He is credited with inventing monotheism, pictorialism and reform and he's often invoked by later writers in positive and negative terms. He is the subject of books by Naguib Mahfouz and an opera by Philip Glass, while Sigmund Freud controversially discussed his influence on Judaism in his Moses and Monotheism. His wife, Nefertiti, also became popular when her incredibly well-preserved bust was unearthed in the 20th Century and Nefertiti is often invoked as a Pharoah queen even in eras of Anachronism Stew.
    • Rameses II is immortalized as Ozymandias by Percy Shelley and as the Big Bad in The Ten Commandments, The Prince of Egypt and Exodus: Gods and Kings. The actual guy shows up in Norman Mailer's Ancient Evenings. Did we mention that the Biblical and Rabbinic tradition refers to Moses' adversary as simply "The Pharaoh", that the idea of Rameses II chasing the Jews out of Egypt is entirely a mid-20th Century invention?
  • The entire history of the Byzantine Empire. The turbulent and splendid reign of Justinian I is somewhat better represented than the rest of the empire's thousand year history.
    • Literature
      • Harry Turtledove has a PhD in Byzantine history, so several of his books feature this period while others, set in more modern times, occasionally lampshade the fact that this area is considered obscure, even among historians, though this is changing (slowly).
      • The Belisarius Series is an Alternate History set in this era.
      • The John the Eunuch Mysteries by Mary Reed, set in the reign of Justinian I.
  • The Great Persian War (AD 602-628). An epic 26-year struggle between Persia and the Roman Empire that started when Shah Khosrau II declared war on Rome to avenge the assassination of his benefactor Emperor Maurice by the tyrannical usurper Phocas. Emperor Heraclius rises up and overthrows Phocas and leads a massive campaign to drive out the Persians, who have conquered half of the Roman Empire. Why is this ignored? Perhaps, in addition to the general ignorance on the Byzantine Romans and the Sassanid Persians, is the futility of the entire war, as just a few years after the end of the war, the Arab Caliphate shows up and conquers Persia and most of the Roman Empire.
  • The ancient Celtic Peoples — Gaels, Welsh, Britons, or Gauls — mostly show up as a stock Barbarian Tribe for the Romans to fight. There's a limited amount of French and British works depicting them, particularly their resistance to the invasions of Julius Caesar and, later, Claudius. Like so many of the examples on this page, it doesn't help that they didn't have any recorded history of their own.

The Etruscans, who served as The Rival to the early Roman Republic and, at sea, the cities of 'Magna Graecia'. Despite the vast cultural and technological influence they had on Rome, the trading and naval power that spread across the Mediterranean, the military power wielded in central and northern Italy up until the 3rd century BC, and their enduring reputation as being exceptionally pious and for producing the very best diviners and haruspices which lasted well into the fourth century AD, they're almost entirely anonymous, even among historians, and if they're brought up at all, it's usually in reference to the mystery of their supposedly indecipherable language (which somehow contrives to be non-Indo-European) and as a result, their origins, despite the fact that their language can be read (not very well, admittedly, but it can be read) and their alphabet influenced the Romans/ours.

  • Literature
    • Jeffrey E. Barlough's New Weird/Alternate History series Western Lights, set in a Victorian-like society during an extended ice age, has some appearances by immortal Etruscan mages.

  • Video Games
    • Total War: Rome II has the Etruscan League as one of the playable factions in the 270 BC start date. The Rise of the Republic DLC expansion pack of Total War: Rome II focuses on the centuries long Roman-Etruscan Wars.

Germanic Peoples, similarly with the Celts above, are rarely depicted properly, particularly in their pre-Christian pagan tribal forms. (Except in the case of the Vikings, see Middle Ages below). The only thing people remember was that there were some kind of Goths who, strangely, didn't wear any black lipstick.

Slavic Peoples, due mainly to little to no contact with history-recording cultures prior to Christian influence, experience this to an even greater degree. The history of Slavs before their first historically recorded states (Rurik's Kievan Rus, Mieszko's Duchy of Poland, Asparukh's Bulgarian Khanate, and so on) is a blank slate, on which only the local hurrah-patriots dare to draw what they please.

Illyrians, Dacians, Thracians are in an even worse situation than the Slavs, as the only modern nations that can claim descent are the Bulgarians, the Romanians and the Albanians, and even then, the details are still under dispute. This is in spite of their definite importance in the Antiquity.

  • Film
    • At the very least, there is a Romanian film The Dacians.
    • Spartacus is probably the most famous Thracian and shows up in quite some media. Who may or may not bother to mention he's a Thracian.
    • Some Illyrian characters appear in the sequel to The Scorpion King, and they even get speaking roles.
  • Video Games

The Scythians and their related peoples ruled the steppes until they were supplanted by the Turkic peoples in the Middle Ages, but fiction has all its "horse nomads" slots taken by the Mongols.

Middle Ages (500 - 1500 A.D.)

  • Due to Medieval Stasis, many cultures other than the Vikings during this age aren't shown until The Crusades and The High Middle Ages. Nevermind that technology and history weren't static during this period, especially in the much-ignored Arab and South Asian civilizations of the period.

  • Ireland was a rich culture and stable society long before the Vikings and then the British turned up; Peter Tremayne's Sister Fidelma series is rare in depicting seventh-century Eireann and its surprisingly modern attitudes, for example, towards women's rights. The Irish also evangelized the British Isles and much of Europe, but the rise of Roman Catholicism eventually overshadowed the Celtic variety.
    • Sláine pretty much covers all the bases of medieval and ancient Irish history.
  • Swedish Vikings are doubtlessly the least heralded of the Scandinavian tribes. Beowulf is perhaps the only major example, and even there it's treated as an afterthought if it's even mentioned at all. The few films made about the Swedish Rus Vikings have always had Danes or Norwegians in the starring roles, at least if language is anything to go by.
    • Anime and Manga
    • Comic Books
      • "The Hunt" from Northlanders takes place in 11th century Sweden. The characters in "The Plague Widow" might as well be Swedes, but it's not spelled out.
      • "Hammerfall" is a French comic book taking place in a fantasy version of 8th century Sweden.
    • Literature
    • Television
      • In Vikings, Borg, Bjarni, Auslaug, Joergensen, Hoskuld, Torvi and Guthrum are all either Swedes or from areas of modern Sweden.
      • Hem Till Midgård
    • Film
      • Out of all the film adaptations of Beowulf, "Beowulf & Grendel" from 2005 is perhaps the most historically accurate. Geatish society is shown in detail, the Swedish-Geatish wars are discussed, and historically accurate Vendel armour is used.
    • Video Games
  • Unless you're reading the Cadfael mysteries or watching their TV adaptations, you'd think the Anarchy never happened and the only civil war England ever had was the one with Cromwell.
    • The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett take place during the Anarchy, starting with the death of Henry I's son in the sinking of the White Ship and spans to Henry II coming to the throne.
  • The Khmer Empire. Ruled most of Southeast Asia from around 800-1400AD, and had a capital at Angkor, the largest pre-industrial city ever discovered.
    • Eternal Darkness had a chapter set in a Cambodian temple in 1150 AD. The other chapter in this location, however, took place in 1983.
  • The Carolingian and Ottonian periods of the Holy Roman Empire
  • The Empire of Mali — maybe the most powerful state of the 11th Century due to its gold mines.
  • The Genpei War (1180-1185), the rough-and-tumble war that gave birth to the Golden Age of the samurai, heralding the rise of Japan's first shogunate after 400 years of nominal rule by an imperial court. Definitely not on the scale of the more popular Sengoku Period, but arguably much more dramatic. It was fought by samurai back when they were still regarded as uncouth soldiers with no business ruling a nation, it was the culmination of a decades-long feud between two rival families for control of the court at Heian, and (most memorably) it ended with the victorious shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo apparently going insane and turning against his brother, ultimately forcing him to commit suicide while fleeing his home.
  • Central Asia was called into existence by the mighty GENGHIS KHAN, who proceeded to rule for several centuries as the ruler of any Hordes from the East who might be needed to harass Europeans. After this it went back to being shepherds for a while before becoming the stock screwed up place run by warlords to provide some necessary tension between the U.S. and Soviets/Russians during the Cold War. According to some historians (e.g. Peter Turchin) Central Asia was more important as a centre of civilization than either Europe or China — the only reason they were perceived as savages early on is that Europeans and Chinese kept encroaching on their territory, and they logically tried to defend it!
    • Literature
      • There is Genghis Khan, of course, and the Conqueror series. The real ghost period is after Genghis Khan - the only reason for Borat being set in Kazakhstan is its current status as The Unpronounceable (if you don't try very hard) Throwaway Country no-one knows anything about.
      • Kublai Khan is often featured in fiction because Marco Polo met him and wrote about him in The Travels of Marco Polo. As such his reign is invoked by poets and writers out of disproportion to his actual historical importance. Samuel Taylor Coleridge's famous poem Xanadu is one such example. Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities is another.
      • Michael Chabon's Gentlemen of the Road is set in the Jewish Khazar Empire circa A.D. 950, and includes a Frankish Jew and an Ethiopian Jew as main characters (both real historical communities).
    • Theatre
      • Christopher Marlowe's Tamburlane is about Timur's conquests. Not historical but entertaining.
  • The Kingdom of Cilicia. Formed by Armenians fleeing the Seljuk Turks in 1080 along the southern coast of Anatolia just north of Cyprus, it was a key player in the Crusades on the side of the Christians, and later allied itself with the Mongols against the Islamic Mamluks, though on the losing side. They were conquered by the Mamluks in 1375, the king fleeing to France. If you're lucky you might see a brief mention of it in history books dealing with the era.
  • The Indian Sub-Continent definitely didn't exist prior to the arrival of the British. Never mind those pesky Mughals who after all invented the Taj Mahal, centralized North India, established Delhi as the centre of gravity, represented the Golden Age of medieval religious tolerance. Also forgotten are the Rajputs, the rise of the Sikhs, the Maratha Empire, the Goan Inquisition, Sher Shah Suri (who invented the Rupee), Tipu Sultan of Mysore (who pioneered rocket technology which he mounted on Elephants) and such events as the Three Battles of Panipat, Nader Shah's Sack of Delhi, the Fall of Vijayanagar, the capture of the Mughal Ship Ganj-i-Sawai.
    • Film
      • Numerous Bollywood movies cover this era, not very accurately: Mughal-E-Azam, Jodha Akbar and recently Bajirao Mastaan. Tipu Sultan shows up in The Cameo of Merchant-Ivory's Jefferson in Paris.
    • Literature
  • South East Asia doesn't exist prior to the Vietnam War or, if you are very very lucky, the arrival of European traders. "Asia" then means feudal China, samurais, ninjas and kung fu. Not a lot of Hollywood movies are set "now" in SE Asia either (at least ones that don't think the whole area is mired down in some form of guerrilla war), though countries in the region do have fairly active local film industries.
    • There are a few involving western backpackers; The Beach springs to mind.
  • The Arabian Golden Age of the 9th to 13th centuries doesn't get much play outside of the Crusades (at least it has a trope). Such events as the birth of the House of Wisdom, its sophisticated Automatons, its flowering of science and innovation in Baghdad and in al-Andalus is often invoked rhetorically as Glory Days rather than actually seen. Successive Persian empires are largely absent also.
    • Film
      • Youssef Chahine's Destiny was a Biopic and Musical on the philosopher Averroes set during the twilight of the Moorish Golden Age.
    • Literature
      • Salman Rushdie's The Moor's Last Sigh and his fantasy Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights also has sections dealing with the Convivencia and the decline of its brief period of multi-culturalism.
      • Spanish Author Juan Goytisolo has devoted a lot of fiction restoring the Arab and Jewish origins of Spanish culture. His Count Julian was a Perspective Flip and belated Historical Hero Upgrade of the formerly villainous Julian of Ceuta, usually seen as Les Collaborateurs in pro-Reconquista historiography.
      • Louis L'Amour's The Walking Drum (intended to be the first of a series, but unfortunately he died before completing any others), is set in the 12th century and features a protagonist who lives in an old Roman house in Brittany, travels through the Moorish Empire (including Cadiz and Cordoba), Paris (where he remarks on how backwards its inhabitants seem compared to the Moors, especially with their lack of books), the Russian steppe (where the merchant caravan he is traveling with is attacked by Pechenegs, a tribe of Turkic nomads that was renowned for their fierce fighting at that time), and Constantinople, ending in modern-day Iran and the Fortress of Alamut (home of the original assassins). At the end of the book, he plans to travel even farther east to the Indian subcontinent. All in all, the book is a fascinating look at civilizations and a time period rarely even mentioned by other authors (or, for that matter, in a world history class).
  • The Crusades are the Third Crusade, immediately preceding years of Hattin and the reconquest of Jerusalem. If it doesn't have Richard I, Saladin, Templars and Assassins in it, people are not interested. As for the Fourth Crusade, the one where the Crusaders went and sacked Constantinople instead of the Holy Land, well that's not something people want to remember.
    • Literature
      • Torquato Tasso's Jerusalem Liberated is an epic poem about the First Crusade, a Historical Hero Upgrade of Godfrey of Bouillon and the Sack of Jerusalem.
    • Web Video
      • Extra Credits program Extra History tackles the First Crusade from its political origins to its bloody climax. It also covers the violent and destructive People's Crusade, a Wacky Wayside Tribe that collapsed into the first mass anti-semitic pogroms in European history.
  • The Hundred Years War covered one hundred and sixteen years and featured such important events and sub-conflicts as the Avignon Papacy, the Black Death, the uprising of the Jacquerie, the Peasants Revolt, Etienne Marcel's time as Provost, the Armagnac-Burgundian war. People generally know about this period because of Joan of Arc who was Short-Lived, Big Impact. On the other hand, neither Edward III or the Black Prince appear very often.
    • Comic Books
    • Film
    • Literature
      • The events leading to the war is covered in The Accursed Kings, starting from The Purge of the Templars, the legal chicanery (the Salic Law used to deny England's claim to the throne), the machinations of Isabelle, the She-Wolf of France and the Avignon Papacy.
      • Timeline
      • Bernard Cornwell visits the earlier portion of the period in his The Grail Quest trilogy, around the time of the Battle of Crécy, and again, around sixty years later, in Azincourt, which focuses on the eponymous Battle of Agincourt.
      • World Without End
      • Captives of Time, a novel set in France during the Hundred Years' War which also deals with the Black Death and technological change.
      • The Black Arrow, an 1888 novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, actually set after the Hundred Years War during the War of Roses (and featuring Richard Crookback, future Richard III.)
      • There are a number of plays, sculptures etc. based on the episode of the Six Burghers of Calais, in which Edward III obviously appears.
    • Theatre
      • The Hundred Years War is partially dealt with in Shakespeare's History plays, especially Henry VI Part I and of course Henry V.
  • The Northern Crusades. The Crusades were not only fought in the Middle East, but also in Northeastern Europe, where Western European powers fought old Prussians, Russians, and Lithuanians, with enormous historic consequences such as the creation of the Ordenstaat, the 'State of the Holy Order', by the Teutonic Order, which dominated politics along the Baltic coast for three hundred years and became the Duchy of Prussia when the last Grand Master went secular in 1525. The Duchy in turn later became the Kingdom of Prussia, even later the German Empire. Not to mention Germans and Danes fighting against the Pomeranian Slavic tribes and Finland becoming a naturalized part of Sweden. In France, there was Catharism, which led to the Albigensian Crusade. Nobody outside the region knows much about these though, although it is a frequent topic among Russian, Polish, and Lithuanian literature.
    • Sergei Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky, which depicts the famous 'Battle on the Ice' and is, as might be expected, more romantic than accurate.
    • The Medieval II: Total War DLC expansion pack Kingdoms has a specific campaign set in this time period with the Teutonic Knights, the Kingdom of Poland, the Kingdom of Lithuania, the Republic of Novograd, and the Holy Roman Empire as playable factions.
    • The Knights of the Cross, a Polish novel. Later part of the period.
    • While not Crusades-related per se, The Cross-Time Engineer sci-fi series by Polish-American author Leo Frankowski set in Medieval Eastern Europe. In it, a modern-day Polish engineer is transported back to 13th-century Poland to fight off the Mongol horde and various other threats to the Kingdom with superior technology.
  • The Kalmar Union. A seemingly forgotten European state that just happened to be the biggest state in the world at its time, and included besides all of the Nordic Countries, portions of Britain and Germany as well. It lasted from 1397 to 1523 and saw years of war between a rebellious Sweden and her Danish masters. Civil War in Sweden between the anti-union and the pro-union side. Pirates. More Nasty Parties and late medieval nastiness than you can shake a bastard sword at. But unfortunately, Scandinavia seems to have ceased to exist after 1066 in the popular conscious.
  • While you might occasionally hear about medieval Russia and the other Eastern Slavs they interacted with, the medieval Western Slavs are never portrayed except perhaps passingly as inhabitants of an oppressed backwater province of the Holy Roman Empire, the Hapsburgs, or whichever Islamic empire was around in the time period being shown.
    • Kingdom Come: Deliverance takes place in the Kingdom of Bohemia (taking up much of the territory of the modern Czech Republic and several other Central and Eastern European countries) circa 1403, and deals with events such as the Succession Crisis resulting from the death of Charles IV and subsequent kidnapping of Wenceslaus IV by his brother Sigismund, the Western Schism of the papacy, and the events leading up to the Hussite Wars. Made by Daniel Vávra and a bunch of other Czechs.
  • The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. You might be forgiven for not even knowing there were countries between Russia and Prussia/Austria, because the three spent a lot of time going to war trying to get them wiped off the map. Formed by the union of Poland and Lithuanian essentially coming together purely to fight off the Germans and the Russians, it was actually a huge superpower that encompassed almost a dozen modern day states including most of Belarus and Ukraine. It was continuously defeated in war and partitioned off between the three countries until it ceased to exist.

Modern Ages (1500 A.D. - 1914 AD)

  • Includes:
    • People (re-)discovering science;
      • To add another layer of Hollywood History, even "hard" historical fictions usually present the invention of science itself (which did occur during this period and the later middle ages) as simply some advances in technology they feel were important. This is likely a result of most writers not actually knowing what science is, or how it is distinct from older methods of inquiry and invention, and part of the misconception that nothing was ever invented in the Dark Ages.
    • People going on mighty quests of imperial missions, which in turn give recognition to many other civilizations.
    • The Atlantic Slave Trade covering four continents, multiple nations, navigation/transport/commerce/exports, overlapping with The Renaissance and The Golden Age of Piracy (25-30% of all pirate crews were fugitive slaves) and involving all the great monarchs of Europe. About the only time this period is addressed, it involves noble white men abolishing slavery and freeing slaves, with none of the scope and impact addressed.
      • The Haitian Revolution, notable as a) The only slave uprising successful in the creation of an independent country, and b) Danny Glover's dream project (hampered by the obvious lack of a White Male Lead). In Literature, it's featured in Heinrich von Kleist's The Betrothal of Santo Domingo as well as Alejo Carpentier's The Kingdom of This World and in Isabel Allende novel The Island Beneath the Sea, and is also alluded to in the Horatio Hornblower novel Lieutenant Hornblower and Flying Colours (with a namecheck of Toussaint L'ouverture), while the television adaption of the former greatly expands on the revolution (rebel slaves besiege a Spanish fort in Santo Domingo).
      • Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag and its DLC Freedom Cry address the existence of the Atlantic Slave Trade across the Caribbean, the Royal African Company, Maroon rebels, fugitive slaves on pirate ships, and the collusion of several empires in the slave trade.
    • The Republic of Pirates: A loose democratic confederation located in the present-day Bahamas from 1706 until 1718. It had the full backing of many legendary Caribbean pirates such as Anne Bonny, Mary Read, Jack Rackham, and even Blackbeard himself. Yet despite serving as an important stronghold for pirates, the Republic is completely absent in most works set in or around The Golden Age of Piracy.

    Europe before 1914 
  • Eastern Europe. Any of it, really before the breakup of Tsarist Russia and the formation of the Soviet Union (though it's mostly a shifting mass of Throwaway Countries even then). Renaissance Dalmatia? Medieval Vienna?
    • Literature
      • There's the Sienkiewicz Trilogy, a three-book epic set in 17th Century Poland and Lithuania. Of course, its author was Polish.
      • Sienkiewicz's The Knights of the Cross takes place around the time of the Battle of Grunwald (1410). In general, this time period gets a lot of attention in Polish literature and film but is not really known outside of Poland.
      • Poland-Lithuania deserves special mention, as it was ahead of its time politically (it influenced the American Founding Fathers) and its history is filled with wars, invasions, and generally having the odds stacked against it.
      • There is Taras Bulba, a novel by Nikolay Gogol (a Ukrainian), which was adapted into movies several times but was financially unsuccessful when it was turned into a Hollywood movie in 1966. "Taras Bulba" was also adapted into an orchestral rhapsody by the Czech composer Leos Janacek.
      • The Polish-Lithuanian empire also appears as the invading enemy in Glinka's opera Ivan Sussanin (aka "A Life for the Czar") and in Pushkin's play Boris Godunov and the well-known opera (by Musorgsky) adapted from it. The Time of Troubles, with its major Russo-Polish war and civil wars in Russia, is the setting of those Russian operas and dramas, and little else.
      • That era also appears in Friedrich Schiller's final unfinished play, Der falsche Demitrius ("The false Dmitry").
  • The Protestant Reformation is surprisingly under-represented. Martin Luther, Thomas Muntzer, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin and their merry men (and women) who changed the history of Europe are woefully lacking in depiction. The work of non-conformists like William Tyndale (whose translation of the Bible precede the King James Bible, which used it as a base) and also died as a martyr is far less known than say, St. Thomas More (who was a Catholic who opposed Henry VIII's protestantism). There aren't even movies (other than If I Were King in 1938) showing the work of Gutenberg and other printers, who played a major role in developing literacy among the common man and gave rise to what Max Weber called the Protestant Ethic of Capitalism.
  • Most stories set in Tudor times take place under the reigns of Elizabeth I or Henry VIII, while Henry VII, Queen Mary I, and Edward VI are rarely touched upon.
    • Mary's reign is sometimes touched on, but usually to establish the social, religious, and political background of an Elizabethan piece, rather than as the focus in and of themselves.
    • It doesn't help that Edward VI and Mary I ruled for very short periods of time (around twelve years combined), whereas Henry VIII and Elizabeth I ruled the rest of the period from 1509 to 1603. Henry VII's absence is a little harder to justify, seeing as he ruled for over twenty years. However, his reign was one of peace, and usually forms the backdrop of any work on Henry VIII. That said, in The Tudors, Henry VIII briefly alludes to Perkin Warbeck's failed rising in Cornwall.
    • Literature
      • Patience, Princess Catherine by Carolyn Meyer starts in 1501 when Catherine of Aragon goes to marry Arthur, but instead marries Henry VIII.
      • Nine Days a Queen: The Short Life and Reign of Lady Jane Grey by Ann Rinaldi is about the 9 day reign of Lady Jane Grey, the cousin of Edward VI. She reigned between Edward VI and Mary I.
    • Live-Action TV
      • The Wars of the Roses are mentioned in Blackadder
    • Theatre
    • Video Game
  • The Scottish Second Wars of Independence, the Armee Ecosse of the 15th century (pretty much the entire Scottish army is hired by the King of France) the Scots who fought in the Wars of the Roses, the battle of Flodden... For some reason, there seems to be this belief that Scottish history goes straight from Bannockburn (1314) to the battle of Culloden (1746), which misses out the intervening 432 years.
  • The Thirty Years' War
  • The first half of the Eighteenth Century and the Age of The Enlightenment. Okay, there were some guys named Peter the Great and Charles XII. Allegedly, they were monarchs and fought a war. The aforementioned Peter had a daughter? Troops under her almost conquered Prussia? You must be kidding me.
    • Film
      • Bertrand Tavernier's Que de Fete Commence tackles the reign of Louis XV.
      • Jacques Rivette's La religieuse (adaptation of a novel by Diderot) shows the hypocritical world of convents before the Revolution. Nunneries are dumping grounds for un-marriagable noble daughters. Some of the nunneries are essentially high-class brothels.
    • Literature
      • Jose Saramago's Baltasar and Blimunda tackles Portugal before the Lisbon Earthquake, showing the construction of the Marfa Cathedral, and feature historical figures like composer Domenico Scarlatti as well as Bartolomeu de Gusmão, a Priest who wrote down blueprints for a flying machine. Since this is Magical Realism, this blueprints has a prototype that flies for real.
  • The French Revolutionary Wars (1792-1802). Sure, there's plenty of fiction devoted to the French Revolution (1789-1792) and the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), but comparatively little fiction devoted to the period between those two events—when the newly-formed First French Republic spent an entire decade trying to export the ideals of the Revolution to the whole of Europe by force. Note that these are the Wars where a certain Corsican military officer first proved himself on the battlefield with the Revolutionary Army. Did we mention that their revolutionary fervor ended up giving birth to the concept of "total war" over a century before the First World War? Or that the French, featured the first coloured Regiment in the Western World, with Thomas-Alexandre Dumas (father of the novelist) still ranking as the highest ranked officer of African descent, in any European army, or that under Representant du Mission Victor Hugues, the first non-segregated white-and-black regiment repelled the English from Guadeloupe, and abolished slavery for the first time in the Western World?
    • The Revolt in the Vendée and Chouannerie is depicted in such works as Ninety-Three by Victor Hugo, books by Anthony Troloppe and Honoré de Balzac. Italo Calvino's novella, The Baron in the Trees briefly shows the Italian Campaign of the French Revolutionary Wars.
    • Cuban author Alejo Carpentier's Explosion in the Cathedral takes place in the French Antilles during the time of Revolution and covers the career of Victor Hugues, "the Robespierre of the Isles" who carries forth the First Republic's Abolition decree to its Caribbean colonies.
    • Jean Renoir's film, La Marseillaise (regarded by Martin Scorsese as one of the greatest historical films ever made) tackles the Great Fear, the Provincial Federal volunteers, the storming of the Tuilleries and ends with the Battle of Valmy.
  • Napoléon Bonaparte and The Napoleonic Wars looms large over the 19th Century, since England saw him as their Arch-Enemy, and France and other Francophile Europeans saw Napoleon as a Byronic Hero and/or Visionary Villain. This leaves a fertile in-between area dealing mainly with how ordinary people felt about Napoleon, the work of dissenting intellectuals like Madame de Stael. They also rarely tackle how diverse Napoleon's army was (it had Irish and Polish regiments, as well as an Egyptian Mameluke contingent, who were brutally massacred in the wake of Napoleon's final defeat by Catholic xenophobes), nor does it deal with the fact that Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo led to France being occupied for nearly five years, the longest until World War II.
    • Goya's Ghosts, a 2006 film starring Javier Bardem and Natalie Portman, tackles the Spanish campaign in the Wars. In particular, it deals heavily with the famed Spanish Romantic painter Francisco Goya (played by Bardem) and his role in documenting Napoleonic France's brutal occupation of Spain through his art. While the Peninsular War is covered in plenty of English Historical Fiction, the Spanish experience during this conflict and that of other regional La Résistance (like the Tyrolean resistance in Austria) is fairly under-reported.
    • Youssef Chahine's film Adieu Bonaparte depicts Napoleon's Egyptian Expedition and portrays him as a Mighty Whitey colonialist. The film doesn't back away from showing the brutality of Napoleon's conquests (namely a massacre at the Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo), and Napoleon's early megalomania.
  • The Congress of Vienna (1814-1815) and the subsequent reign of the Concert of Europe. It's understandable that the Congress is hugely overshadowed by the preceding Napoleonic Wars (which it was meant to discuss), but it's still a hugely important historical event in its own right, and arguably the perfect setting for a political thriller. At the time, it was the single largest gathering of European leaders in history, and one of the first times that a group of world leaders met—on equal footing—to hammer out national alliances and negotiate the political direction of an entire continent for decades afterwards. Understandably, it was a major influence on the later League of Nations, which sought to bring the same peace and stability to Europe after World War I that the Congress attempted to bring after the Napoleonic Wars. Not to mention that it included the exploits of Klemens von Metternich and Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (just "Talleyrand" to his admirers), two rival Chessmasters of the highest order, who are still popularly regarded as two of the greatest diplomats in history.
  • 19th Century France might as well not exist in the period between the July Monarchy (immortalized in Les Miz and Balzac novels) and the Third Republic and the Belle Epoque. Such events as the 1848 Revolution (formation of the Second Republic), the Second Empire of Napoleon III, and even the Franco-Prussian War crucial in the history of both France and Germany is little remarked on. This era included the arrival of the Industrial Revolution to France, the beginning of France as a colonial empire, the redevelopment of Paris under Hausmann, the Dreyfuss Affair, but almost none of it is ever shown.
    • Gustave Flaubert's Sentimental Education is set during the 1848 Revolution and the Second Republic, showing the prelude, euphoria and cynical collapse from the perspective of Frederic Moreau.
    • Marcel Carne's classic film Children of Paradise is set during this period.
    • Jean Renoir's Elena and Her Men (starring Ingrid Bergman) covers the abortive coup of General Boulanger, a Bonaparte wannabe obsessed with revanchism over its Shocking Defeat Legacy
    • Several of Guy de Maupassant's short stories are set during the Franco Prussian War, depicting the war crimes meted out on ordinary citizens.
  • The Paris Commune of 1871. 72 days and a rather brutal ending. It would create a lovely backdrop for a story along the lines of the movie Gangs of New York. Admittedly, there is The Voice of the People by Jean Vautrin, but there seriously needs to be a movie or more historical fiction about this little episode of history.
    • The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco covers it extensively, albeit through an Unreliable Narrator.
    • The Voice of the People was also adapted into a series of graphic novels by Jacques Tardi.
    • Bertolt Brecht wrote the play The Days of the Commune.
    • In Babette's Feast, Babette is mentioned to have been a former Communarde.
    • The Soviet movie The New Babylon, set in a Paris department store before and during the Commune.
    • In 2000, experimental film-maker Peter Watkins made a TV production called La Commune which was 5 hours long and covered the events in the style of a live reportage, i.e., showing the Commune as if a 19th Century News Channel (complete with talking heads/analysis) would have covered these events if Broadcast News had existed then.
  • The Crimean War (1853-1856). With the Ottoman Empire in decline, the growing Russian Empire began expanding ever further south. France and Britain joined forces to stop them. Despite forming the setting for Tennyson's poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade" and the life's work of Florence Nightingale, very little attention is paid to this war.
    • In the Alternate History of the Thursday Next novels, the Crimean War is still going on in the 1980s, against a still-Tsarist Russia. Thursday's brother died there, and she met her husband while they were both on compulsory military service.
  • Italy between The Renaissance and the rise of Mussolini is a blur. The Wars of Italian Independence or The Risorgimento had such things as the Unification of Italy, the career of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the birth of The Mafia and massive emigration from Sicily to the United States (including the ancestors of several notable Italian American artists) and the end of the Papal States is often uncommented on, never mind that this was the golden age of the Italian Opera, the time of philosophers and poets like Giambattista Vico, Giacomo Leopardi and many others.
    • Film
    • Literature
      • Italo Calvino's The Baron in the Trees covers Italy during the Age of The Enlightenment.
      • Stendhal was romantically fascinated with Italian culture, and lived there for several years. He wrote books on Rossini, underwent Stendhal Syndrome in Florence, and ended his career with The Charterhouse of Parma a romantic adventure story about Italy, that isn't exactly historical but is impressionistic.

    Historical and Cultural Figures 
  • Philosophers in general. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle lived through tumultous eras and involved with politics and society, but most people have little idea why their ideas matter and how it influenced warriors and statesmen.Biopics of Frederick the Great and Catherine the Great exist, but what about the philosophers who inspired and palled around with them :Voltaire and Diderot. What of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Encyclopedia? The fact that there's no Hollywood movie about Karl Marx is not surprising, but the Soviets and other satellite nations never made a movie about their Prophet either.
    • Roberto Rossellini made films about philosophers like Socrates (ultra-obscure), Blaise Pascal and Cartesius (about Rene Descartes). The latter two films are available on The Criterion Collection. Margarethe von Trotha recently made a film on Hannah Arendt starring Barbara Sukowa. In addition there are a few films about Sigmund Freud.
    • For all that Niccolò Machiavelli and The Prince is popularly cited, it is surprising that there is no Biopic of the man, since his life was pretty eventful. It involved Machiavelli serving as the Gump and meeting famous Kings and Statesmen, discussing plans with Leonardo da Vinci serving as a politician in the Florentine Republic and organizing the citizen army he kept talking about. It ended with the 1512 sack of Florence, the return of the Medici which led to Machiavelli's torture and exile, which is when he wrote his most famous work.
  • The Golden Age of Science goes undepicted, perhaps due to the general perception of science as boring. Even someone with a life as interesting as Isaac Newton has yet to have a biopic or two. The same applies to many other luminaries in the Golden Age, whether its Carolus Linnaeus, Leibniz and Gauss, leave alone obscure figures such as Alexander von Humboldt and Ada Lovelace. The real-life Royal Society was as close as one got to an Academy of Adventure in history, filled with guys who dreamed of going to the moon but it goes unseen.
    • Galileo and his trial is featured in Bertolt Brecht's play which does highlight Galileo's Large Ham personality, his "borrowings" of the telescope from earlier work (which he did improve) and his writing work, but it's probably the only serious work of artistic biography of a scientist.
    • Copernicus appears in a PS3-exclusive DLC for Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
  • Of course Mathematicians will complain that they get a tougher deal. Science at least has experiments to depict and show, but maths are entirely theoretical, so that means the likes of Laplace, Lagrange, Evariste Gallois, Fermat and many others stay in the lurch.
  • There have been plenty of works showing Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Bunoarotti and more movies on Vincent van Gogh than all the paintings he didn't sell when he was alive, but absolutely none on such colourful painters as El Greco, Velazquez and especially Caravaggio. Caravaggio was a bad boy Starving Artist who used prostitutes to model as the Virgin Mary, was a thief and also killed a man in a fight. You would assume that there isn't a lot to doll up to make him interesting.
  • Authors and poets are usually a dull lot and most of them Write What You Know and put their life on the page. Nonetheless some writers did have colourful and interesting lives, nearly as interesting as what they depict on the page. William Shakespeare is mysterious enough to have his own trope, as is Oscar Wilde and in modern times we've had fictional depictions of Kafka and Hemingway, but that still leaves a lot of colourful characters:

    The Americas before World War One 
  • The Spanish Empire. You can even have an entire book or movie sagas about pirates of the Spanish Main with no Spanish showing up ever.
  • Let's just say Latin American history and save a lot of space. But if we must go for details:
    • The Conquest process was longer and more difficult than it is often given credit for. Mayan uprisings continued for a long time and the Inca had a few words to say to the new white boys in town.
    • Colonial rule of Spain over the biggest part of the continent. This is even obscure in Latin America, as most countries just jump from colonization to independence war.
    • Film
      • The Other Conquest, an Indie Mexican production and Apocalypto's superior older brother, is set a year after Cortés's arrival in the Aztec Empire, with dialogue in both Nahuatl and Spanish. It focuses on a native scribe who survives one of the massacres and a Spanish friar trying to convert the natives.
  • The Independence Wars of Latin America
    • That little ordeal with a certain Simon Bolivar. We heard some wars were fought around there in the south.
    • Literature
      • The Independence Wars, specifically in Chile, are an important plot subpoint in the latter books of the Aubrey-Maturin series.
    • Video Games
    • Mexican history is pretty fucking surreal. There was a Mexican-French war. Seriouslynote . And there was once a Mexican Empire. Twice, actually.
  • King Philip's War (1675-1678) was a hugely important clash between the united colonies of New England (including the descendants of the Mayflower Pilgrims) and the forces of the Wampanoag leader Metacomet, which claimed around 4,000 lives on both sides and decisively wiped out Indian resistance in New England. Despite its historical significance, it's depicted in fiction far less often than the preceding colonization of Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay, which was rather uneventful by comparison.
  • The French and Indian War.
  • For that matter, anything which happened in the future U.S. before independence, unless it involved Pocahontas, the Pilgrims, or witch trials in Salem. The entire period of British colonial rule over the thirteen American colonies is almost always treated as nothing more than one hundred fifty years of empty space between the arrival of the Pilgrims and the American Revolution. Pontiac's War (1763-1766) is practically never touched on, even though it was one of the biggest clashes with the local Indian population in the country's history.
  • America's Old Northwest
  • The chaotic period between the American War of Independence and the War of 1812—when the newly-formed United States first began expanding West, bringing conflict with the local Indians to new heights—rarely comes up in fiction. In particular, there were the Cherokee Wars (1776-1795), the Northwest Indian War (1785-1795), and Tecumseh's War (1811-1813), which saw the Eastern tribes first recognizing the newly unified American States as a serious threat to their sovereignty, and responding in kind by putting aside their grudges to form some of the largest Indian military confederations in American history. The unity didn't last, but it led to some very important battles, like the Battle of Tippecanoe, the Battle of Fallen Timbers, and the many exploits of Dragging Canoe. The United States post-revolution and pre-Civil War is rarely covered in the media.
    • Gore Vidal's Burr tackles the generation of the Founders, showing the events from the perspective of the long-lived and disgraced Colonel Aaron Burr. It includes, in addition to the American Revolution: the writing of the Constitution, Shay's Rebellion and Whiskey Rebellion, the Arrival of Citizen Genet, the first election campaign in American history, the first sex scandal in American history, the Burr-Hamilton duel and New York City in the era of Tammany Hall.
    • "North and South" by John Jakes takes place during the two decades preceding Fort Sumter.
    • The Dear America series has 4 books in this time period, two are about settlers moving west, one is about the Alamo, and one is about an Irish immigrant who works in a factory.
    • Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks is Historical Fiction about John Brown, almost entirely overlooked on screen drama.
    • A Gathering of Days is set in New England circa 1830.
    • Part of the Leatherstocking series by James Fenimore Cooper is set in this era.
    • Tecumseh achieved a measure of popularity in Germany, becoming the hero of a series of novels and an East German movie.
    • The much-filmed Moby-Dick is also partly set in ante-bellum New England.
    • Orson Scott Card's The Tales of Alvin Maker is an Alternate History series, but it covers the early 19th century in much more depth than most other traditional Historical Fiction out there. In particular, Tecumseh, Tenskwatawa, William Henry Harrison, and William Blake are all major characters, and Daniel Webster is a supporting character.
  • The Barbary Wars. You'd think people might be interested in a movie about the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps fighting pirates, especially since it's the first war ever fought by the newly independent U.S.. Overshadowed by the Napoleonic Wars.
    • Film
      • There is also Tripoli (1950) with John Payne and Maureen O'Hara as the Comtesse D'Arneau in the inevitable yashmak. Rather a dull affair.
    • Amistad.
    • Sleepy Hollow (1999) is set in countryside New England in early 1800s.
    • Almost Heroes once again, is set in the early 1800s, and is about a rival party to the Louis and Clark expedition trying to reach the Pacific before they do.
    • Gangs of New York likewise shows old New York which makes the 20th Century pre-Giuliani The Big Rotten Apple era look positively pristine by comparison.
    • The Revenant is also set in this era.
    • Literature
      • They do get a mention in one of the Horatio Hornblower books, Hornblower and the Hotspur, where the Hotspur is moored in a harbor not far from the USS Constitution, which is on her way to deal with the Corsairs in Tripoli.
    • Live-Action TV
      • And again in the Hornblower telefilm "Duty", which features the USS Liberty on a similar mission (name changed due to Rule of Symbolism).
  • There was the Quasi War, between the United States and the Republic of France. Seems Hollywood doesn't see a market for a movie where the US of A gets to go beat up the French. Overshadowed by the French Revolutionary Wars.
  • Speaking of pirates, no love for the War of 1812? Not even the Battle of New Orleans? Pirates, Choctaws, Arkansas flatboat men and Tennessee Davy Crockett types curb-stomping one of the best armies in the world despite being outnumbered nearly 3:1. Or alternatively, plucky Canadians whomping American invaders' butts and British burning down the White House. Yet, other than Eric Flint's Rivers of War, not a lot.
  • The Mexican-American War of 1846-1848.
    • Remember the Alamo! (Technically part of the 1836 Texan War of Independence from Mexico, but still counts as an example since most people don't know anything about the entire period).
      • Plenty of Texans at least remember the Alamo. Far fewer remember Goliad, which fell to Mexican forces around the same time and saw more Texians killed. Any other battles save the Battle of San Jacinto are far less likely to be remembered. Good luck finding anyone at all who is familiar with the exploits of the short-lived Revolutionary Texas Navy or the Texas Navy of the Republic.
    • Literature
      • The Blue and the Gray had some coverage of this war.
      • One Man's Hero with Tom Berringer covered the St. Patricks Battalion.
      • Valley of the Moon: The Diary of María Rosalia de Milagros takes place in Alta California before America takes it over.
      • Probably the most notable outing in pop culture that the Mexican-American War has had in pop-culture was the Disney Davy Crockett TV movies.
  • How about the War between Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina, where between 50% and 90% of the Paraguayan population were killed after being led into the war by their dictator, and where the peace settlement was negotiated by one of the most obscure American presidents, Rutherford B Hayes, who has lent his name to many Paraguayan things including an entire province of Paraguay?
  • Other than an offhand mention in Citizen Kane the Spanish-American War (1898), hasn't appeared very often.
    • One of the very very few works set in this conflict is the 1997 TNT two-parter Rough Riders, a realistic take on war in the style of ANZACs or Band of Brothers.
    • Doubly obnoxious because Kane was significantly based on William Randolph Hearst, who is sometimes credited for instigating the Spanish-American War. In fact, Kane is given a line ("you provide the prose poems, I'll provide the war"), which is quite similar to a line allegedly spoken by Hearst about the same war ("you furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war"). Oddly, Hearst is mentioned at a different point in the film, indicating that he still exists as himself in the Kaneverse.
      • It was briefly mentioned in Mad Men with an old veteran proclaiming he was a Rough Rider
      • It was also a backstory in the Black Western Posse, where the black protagonist served as a corporal in Cuba.
      • Also a war in John Jakes' novel Homeland where the patriarch of the Crown family becomes a general in Cuba and was wounded. His nephew serve as a photographer and filmographer as well, too.
    • Also highly glossed-over is the The Philippine–American War, which was a direct result of the Spanish-American War. Most of the films that deal with that war are mostly Filipino and from that POV, such as Heneral Luna (General Luna). There are exceptions to the rule such as the film Amigo and The Real Glory, centered on the U.S. point of view.
    • The Philippine-American War also grew out of the Philippine Revolution against the Spanish colonial government, as the Americans had invaded with Filipino rebel support. Similarly, virtually all films about that conflict are Filipino-made.
      • Though Spain did produce at least two films in 1945 and 2016 about the Siege of Baler, where a Spanish garrison holed up in a remote town church against Filipinos for months, surrendering only long after the Spanish surrender to the Americans, of which they had no idea. Thus, these men were called Los ultimos de Filipinas (the last [men] of the Philippines), which is what those two movies were both titled. The 2016 film was filmed in the Canary Islands and Equatorial Guinea instead, though they did wrangle some actual Filipinos for speaking roles. The Philippines also made a 2008 movie about the same events called Baler, which was filmed on location, but with a whopping Romantic Plot Tumor in evidence.
  • Generally speaking the United States between the Civil War and the First World War, except for the frontier, which has the entire Western genre. The Civil War's home front and period freshly after has been the background to works such as Gone with the Wind and Gangs of New York, but apart from that nobody seems to have much of an interest in the orderly part of the USA in that era.

    Other Examples: 1500- 1913 
  • While the Japanese have numerous stories about the Sengoku and Bakumatsu eras, those periods of history are not well known outside the country. (The Last Samurai does not fit in either category and is not very historical anyway. Earlier periods are even less known. And most people have heard of the Meiji Restoration, but far fewer have heard of the Iwakura Mission, a three-year trip by Japanese scholars and statesmen through the modern countries of the US, UK, France, Germany, and Italy, both to gain international respect and recognition, and to learn how to adapt Japan to a modern economic and political system.
  • Modern Chinese History. There is disappointingly little on the Boxer Rebellion, The Taiping Rebellion and The Opium Wars. The Taiping Rebellion was one of the largest and bloodiest conflicts in history, led by a guy claiming to be the younger Chinese brother of Jesus Christ. Caused more deaths than the First World War. Number of movies about it? Zero. The Boxer Rebellion had every great power in the world put aside their differences and united to save Europeans and Chinese Christians from persecution. Or to extract concessions out of a vastly weakened empire while looting its cultural treasures and burning the rest, depending on who you ask. The Opium Wars has the East India Company serving as a legal drug cartel to open up China's market.
    • Film and TV
      • 55 Days at Peking deals with the Boxer Rebellion from a Western perspective.
      • Alluded to in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel: Spike killed his first Slayer during the Boxer Rebellion.
      • The Chinese film "The Warlords". So make that one.
      • A lot of kung fu movies take place during the Opium Wars period in China, though outside of that it's virtually unknown.
      • The Taiping Rebellion is brought up a lot in the backstories of many Chinese immigrant characters in the fifth season of Hell on Wheels — Chang fought for the Taiping Kingdom, while Fong and Ah Tao fled the destruction of their village by Taiping forces.
    • Literature
  • Any Korean history that doesn't involve funny Army doctors or dictators with stupid haircuts is sadly underrepresented. The Joseon Dynasty and the Korean Empire only rarely show up in period pieces outside of Korea—which is a shame, since the volatile cloak-and-dagger politics surrounding the final years of the Korean Empire are absolutely ripe with high drama. In the decades following the rise of Imperial Japan, Korea was considered a vital chess piece in the ongoing power struggle between Japan and China, leading to fighting on Korean soil in the First Sino-Japanese War (the precursor to the much better-known Second Sino-Japanese War), the covert assassination of Korea's Empress Myeongseong by Japanese agents in 1895, and the forceful dethroning of Emperor Sunjong in 1910—which Korea would ultimately payback with the assassination of the Japanese Prime Minister Ito Hirobumi by an angry Korean nationalist. If you can get past the obvious lack of a White Male Lead, Empress Myeongseong's court at Seoul would actually make a pretty good setting for a spy movie.
    • Korean entertainment seems to be the only place that ever covers these periods. A broader selection can be found on Korean Media. A few selected works:
      • The 2005 film Shadowless Sword covers the exploits of the last Prince of Balhae, one of the precursor kingdoms to the country now called Korea.
      • 2009: Lost Memories is an Alternate History sci-fi flick where a superpower Japan rules over Korea. The divergence point was the assassination of Ito Hirobumi being averted by a time traveling Japanese agent.
      • Arrow: The Ultimate Weapon, occurring during the Manchu invasion of Korea.
      • Many live-action Korean dramas occur in the Joseon Dynasty and other historical time periods, being their equivalent of Chinese wuxia and Japanese samurai dramas.
      • Kingdom (2019) is an alternate history set in the Joseon dynasty...WITH ZOMBIES!
  • The Boer War. Are there even any British or South African movies that cover it?
    • Film
      • Breaker Morant is an Australian one.
      • The Nazi propaganda movie Ohm Krüger, in which a young Winston Churchill appears inspecting a concentration camp for Boer women and children.
      • For Churchill's version of the story, there is always Young Winston (1972).
      • In the 1960 version of The Time Machine, which is set in 1899, George (the time-traveler) is told that he should be coming up with inventions to help Britain in the Boer War, but he doesn't like the idea of creating machines which contribute to death and destruction. Obviously, it's a metaphor for the Cold War arms race.
      • The biopic Gandhi explores a bit of the aftermath of the war in its portrayal of Mohandas Gandhi's early life. It begins with Ghandi working as an attorney in South Africa, taking advantage of the British victory over the Boers (and his own British citizenship) to get the job, only to discover that the new British authorities still consider him a second-class citizen because of his Indian birth.
    • Live-Action TV
      • The war figures prominently into the backstories of some Downton Abbey characters.
      • The war is also a background event during the appropriate seasons of Murdoch Mysteries. In one episode, Inspector Brackenreid, a former soldier, briefly enlists; in another, young Winston Churchill tours Canada telling his tales from the Boer War and winds up a murder suspect.
    • Western Animation
      • Lord Chumley from The Transformers mentions having been alive during the Boer War, noting that everyone's forgotten about it.
  • The Russo-Japanese War: Russia gets a major prestige and morale fall (with well-known results), while Japan establishes itself as the first Asian industrialized power and joins the club of great powers of the Age of Imperialism.
    • Manga
      • Golden Kamuy features the Battle for Hill 203 very prominently in its opening. The protagonist, Sugimoto, is a legendary veteran of this war who single-handedly captured a Russian machine gun nest and fought like a demon through the trenches, earning him the reputation of being "Immortal Sugimoto." Other veterans of the war serve as major antagonists throughout the story, specifically 2nd Lt. Tsurumi and his troops from the 7th Infantry Division who have deserted the Imperial Japanese Army and are now out to found their own country.
    • Film
      • The Japanese film 'The Battle of the Japan Sea' covers the naval battle of Tsushima (1905).
      • It is mentioned in the Bio Pic Nicholas and Alexandra, which covers the reign of Czar Nicholas II, and includes some of the outrage on Russia's home-front at their loss in the war.
      • The 1980 film 203 Hill covers the Japanese siege of Port Arthur, while the NHK drama series Saka no Ue no Kumo does the entire war from the Japanese perspective.
      • The Russo-Japanese War sparked of the Russian Revolution of 1905, which appears in a number of films, most famously The Battleship Potemkin.
    • Literature
      • On Russian, there was Tsushima by Novikov-Priboi who was a revolutionary propagandist back then, which mostly tells about how crappy was the Empire Before.
      • Rasplata by Semyonov, former imperial Russian captain, which managed to be even more obnoxious in painting the exact opposite picture.
      • Several novels by Valentin Pikul, such as Wealth and Cruisers. Pikul's novel Wealth is this trope squared, since it describes the most obscure front of that war, namely Kamchatkan guerrilla resistance against Japanese landings.
      • The Russo-Japanese war was done by Sidney Reily Ace of Spies. It was a "nice little war" from the days when everyone considered each other a Worthy Opponent. It just got overlooked.

World War I

The problem with World War I is that World War II has Nazis, which makes it a straight Good vs Evil fight and therefore more popular with writers. And even within World War I, most Anglophone media concentrate on the British Sector of the Western Front and, occasionally, Gallipoli, and ignore everything else entirely. You'd almost be forgiven for wondering why they called it a "world war" at all, since it was apparently just Brits fighting Germans in France...


Film (General WWI)

  • Explicitly averted by the 2017 Wonder Woman film, which traded the character's traditional WWII-set origin story for a WWI-set origin story. After its domestic opening weekend, Wonder Woman became the highest-grossing WWI film ever made.
  • Joyeux Noël (French for Merry Christmas) is about the real-life Christmas Truce of 1914 and one of the few works of WWI fiction to depict this important event in the conflict.
  • 1917 is also another big-budget, high-profile WWI movie released in 2019, although it does fall into the typical Anglophone trope of being a strictly Brits vs. Germans affair in France (with the only French people in the film being a woman and a baby she is protecting). On the other hand, it was based off of stories the movie's director heard as a child from his WWI veteran grandfather.

Literature (General WWI)

  • The Beauty and The Sorrow is a book that covers many perspectives of real people who lived during the war through their memoirs, letters, and other written works. Written with a post-modernish novelish tone though.
  • The Boy Allies discusses some American teenagers fighting for the French before the U.S. entry.
  • Also not to be forgotten, All Quiet on the Western Front.
  • The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy, follows the characters of The Good Master into the World War I era. Because they are children, it stays off stage, but a father goes off to fight, the farm gets Russian POWs to work, etc.
  • Ella of All-of-A-Kind Family was the last in a series about a Jewish family in New York City. It covers the Meatless Days, and Wheatless Days, and buying bonds, and two boyfriends, of the oldest girl and her best friend, go off to fight.
  • The last book of the popular Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery features Anne's daughter Rilla as the protagonist. The book deals with what was going on in Canada for the families that sent loved ones overseas. It's a very moving piece that shows war from the point of view of those that want to do whatever they can, no matter how small, to help out the cause.
  • Rilla of Ingleside is a unique case in that it is the only Canadian novel written from a women's perspective about the First World War by a contemporary.

VideoGames (General WWI)

  • Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a puzzle adventure game about a German soldier in the early days of World War I. The developers made sure that the game would be as accurate to the experiences of the men who fought in the conflict by using eye-witness accounts and visiting the remnants of wartime trenches in France.
  • Assassin's Creed: Syndicate has a brief sequence involving Jacob and Evie Frye's granddaughter Lydia cooperating with Winston Churchill to take out any German spies in 1917 London.
  • Battlefield 1 is the first AAA, big-budget video game that spans numerous fronts of the conflict told from the perspective of numerous individuals that participated in the war such as the Harlem Hellfighters in France, a chauffeur in the Battle of Cambrai during the Hundred Days Offensive, an American pilot leading a bombing raid on a German munitions base, an Arditti soldier in the Dolomite mountains of northern Italy, an Australian veteran of the Second Boer War working to send a message to British forces in the Battle of Gallipoli and a Bedouin rebel working with TE Lawrence to overthrow the last vestiges of Ottoman control in the Arab world.
  • The Eastern Front. How many people have written about the Eastern Front, other than people from the region itself? 20 million Russian, Austrian, German, Bulgarian, and Romanian soldiers were fighting from the Baltic to the Caucasus, military strategy and tactics were being revolutionized, and empires were being broken up and new nations were being created.
    • The "cinematic novel" series with a nearly untranslatable to English title "Смерть на брудершафт"note  By the author of the Erast Fandorin series, is set between 1914 and 1917 and revolves around espionage and counter-espionage on the Eastern front.
    • Since the War on the Eastern Front directly led to the two Russian Revolutions of 1917, it appears quite often as a backdrop to movies about the latter, e. g. Eisenstein's October and Pudovkin's The End of St. Petersburg.
    • Battlefield 1 also focuses an entire DLC on this front, In the Name of the Tsar, and also includes depictions of the Russian Civil War in the DLC (see below).
  • One will never hear of Indian and Nepalese soldiers, and Russia disappears between 1914 to 1917, when it is mentioned they surrendered (they didn't until the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in 1918; until that, it was a zig-zag from "War until victory" by the Provisionals and proto-Whites to "Neither Peace nor War" by Reds). And everyone forgets that the countries all owned colonies, leading to fights in various parts of Africa.
    • The African Queen
    • Shout at the Devil set in German-controlled East Africa.
    • The Tarzan novels Tarzan the Untamed and Tarzan the Terrible take during the East African Campaign of World War I.
    • The 2010 film Legend of the Fist: Return of Chen Zhen may be the ONLY notable piece of media that shows Chinese coolies fighting for the British empire, if only briefly. The first scene of the movie features Chen Zhen (played by Donnie Yen) and a squad of coolies in France. They fight Germans. It is awesome. After this, though, the action moves to Shanghai and we Time Skip to the time of the Second Sino-Japanese War.
  • You'll occasionally get some inkling that the French armed forces may have been involved in some capacity.
  • Did you know Japan fought on the Allied side in World War I? It's barely mentioned, but many of their Chinese holdings they got during this time.
    • The 1963 Japanese movie Siege of Fort Bismark is an adventure-comedy dealing with the fall of a German colony to Japanese forces.
    • The central character of Joker Game, Lieutenant Colonel Yuuki, was a World War I veteran who was spying on Imperial Germany for Japan. He didn't get away unscathed.
  • Also ignored is the Spanish Flu, one of the worst Pandemics in human history.
    • But then it was very much overshadowed by the war when it happened (ironically enough, as far more people died during that time due to the flu than due to the war), and there aren't many works in general about pandemics, probably because they would be too depressing.
    • Two reasons the Spanish Flu was overshadowed include wartime censoring (reporting on the disease's effects were suppressed due to wartime morale concerns pretty much everywhere except neutral Spain, leading to the impression that Spain had it far worse, leading to the name), and because the disease finished running it's course within a year of the end of the war.
    • Anime & Manga
    • Film
      • In a flashback to George's childhood from It's a Wonderful Life, Mr. Gower's telegram says that his son died of influenza. The Spanish Flu isn't mentioned explicitly, but the fact that the telegram is dated "May 3, 1919" makes it pretty clear.
      • The Spanish flu shows up briefly in Northern Light, the short film shown at Fort Edmonton Park.
    • Literature
      • Twilight mentions it as part of why Edward became a vampire, which technically makes it part of a major pop-culture phenomenon of the 2000s-2010s.
      • Kate Atkinson's Life After Life uses it as a main plot point (the flu kills the protagonist several times over).
    • Live-Action TV
      • Prominently featured in an episode of Downton Abbey - only one episode, mind, but the series tends to Time Skip several months between each one. Used for a Tonight, Someone Dies plot, as several major characters contract it.
  • Also ignored (or at least downplayed) is the Middle Eastern front against the Ottoman Empire. Then again, that very front was actually relatively lively when compared to the Western Front and wouldn't make a good material for a War Is Hell theme so prevalent when it comes to World War I. Of course, one problem is some of the controversy surrounding this time in the Ottoman Empire, and that modern Turkey really doesn't like anyone talking about certain things too much detail, namely the fate of its Christian minorities during the war. So writers usually won't touch it, though writers of Armenian descent are almost expected to do at least one book about the Armenian genocide. Good luck finding anything about the Assyrians or Pontic Greeks though (who suffered genocides at the same time).
    • Film
      • Lawrence of Arabia would beg to differ when it comes to the war front.
      • And The Lighthorsemen.
      • Gallipoli, based on a battle that is well-known in Australia and Turkey, but obscure elsewhere.
      • Ararat's Movie Within A Movie covers the Siege of Van in Ottoman Turkey.
      • The Lark Farm (La Masseria Delle Allodole), an Italian-made film (based on the novel Skylark Farm by Antonia Arslan) about the deportation of Armenians at the time of the war. Apparently the Turkish government bribed a lot of European movie theaters not to show it.
      • The Water Diviner
      • The Promise (2016), financed by the late Kirk Kerkorian, is the first major Hollywood film drama about the Armenian Genocide, taking place as it began in 1915.
    • Literature
      • The Forty Days of Musa Dagh by Franz Werfel, about the resistance of a small Armenian community to a forty day siege by Turkish forces trying to exterminate them, until they were rescued by the invading French. It was a very popular book in the Warsaw ghetto, incidentally. Turkey has been preventing anyone from adapting it into a movie for decades now.
      • The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.
      • The Armenian genocide is part of the backstory in Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut.
      • Odinochka: Armenian Tales from the Gulag spends a good chunk of the book in the main character's flashback to the siege of Van in 1915, where as a young boy he helped with the war effort. Eventually he is sent outside of the city walls to deliver a call for help from the invading Russian army.
    • Live-Action TV
      • A few episodes of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles have Indiana Jones serving in the Middle East as a spy for France. He's also shown to be a close friend of T.E. Lawrence.
      • ANZAC Girls spends roughly the first third of the miniseries in the Mediterranean, when the nurses are based in Alexandria. The Gallipoli campaign and the Dardanelles both feature.
    • Video Games
      • Battlefield 1 features this in its fourth and fifth War Stories. "The Runner" is set during the Gallipoli landing and follows an Australian battalion, while "Nothing is Written" is in the Arabian desert and follows T.E. Lawrence's attempt to rally a Bedouin tribe to fight back against the Ottomans and their super-armored train of rolling death. That train never existed in real life, by the way. Meanwhile, three maps in the multiplayer (Fao Fortress, Suez, and Sinai Desert) form the Oil of Empires Operation, representing the front in multiplayer gameplay.
  • Rumor has it there was also a front between Austria and Italy.
    • Literature
      • Which just involved Ernest Hemingway driving an ambulance, drinking, bedding a nurse, drinking some more, driving an ambulance some more, and reflecting upon the futility of war in a book called A Farewell to Arms.
    • Video Games
      • Battlefield 1 again comes to the rescue with its third War Story "Avanti Savoia!" focusing on an Italian Arditi unit's assault on an Austro-Hungarian fortress. The maps in the multiplayer Operation "Iron Walls" (Monte Grappa and Empire's Edge) are also focusing on this front.
  • Nobody yet mentioned the conflict with which this war began in the first place: between Austria and Serbia. Or the event which triggered it: the assassination of the Austrian crown prince.
    • Film
      • A little-known Made-for-TV Disney Original Movie, Principal Takes a Holiday, which briefly mentions the assassination in one scene. The same movie also mentions the American economic recession in the 80s. For a Disney Original, it was surprisingly intelligent.
      • There are a number of European movies about Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his assassination.
    • Video Games
  • Russian Civil War that followed the Revolutions of 1917 is well depicted only in Soviet/Russian cinema. And even there everyone remembers only the major fronts, namely two: Reds vs Kolchak and Reds vs Denikin/Wrangel, plus sometimes the chaotic fracas in Ukraine. Civil War on the Caucasus? Battles vs Yudenich and Miller? Quelling of the Basmach rebellion? The post-Kolchak White remnant in the East? What's that?
    • The Russian Far East is relatively well-represented in a weird way, thanks to the fact it involved one of the greatest psychos of this entire period: the self-styled khan, Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg. Alternate history loves him to the point that there are stories in which it's specifically mentioned he died without achieving anything counterhistorical.
    • Film
    • Video Games
      • In a surprise move, Battlefield 1 included this part of history in its In the Name of the Tsar DLC, which was previously thought to only have focused on the Eastern Front. Two Russian Civil War maps are included (Volga River and Tsaritsyn), bundled in an Operation called "Red Tide".
  • The Sub-Saharan Africa theater of World War I gets considerably less attention than even the Middle Eastern one for some reason.
    • Live-Action TV
      • Perhaps the only real exception to this is The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, which covered Indiana Jones' adventures in WWI; including a few episodes in which he experiences some combat in Africa between colonial armies of European empires. He even interacts on a personal level with some native soldiers from the Belgian Congo.
  • Perhaps the single most media-obscure aspect of World War I is the Asian and Pacific theater, which has yet to appear in any really notable works of fiction or pop-culture. This part of the war was fought in East Asia and the Pacific Islands, and featured Imperial Japan fighting on the same side of the Allies against Imperial Germany, which is very ironic considering how it's quite the opposite of what happened in World War II.

World War II

Other Major 20th Century Events (events arranged roughly from oldest to most recent)

  • The Warlord Period in Republican China (1916-28) doesn't get a lot of attention except in a few military books published by Osprey and movies filmed in Mainland China.
  • The Great Purge (1936-38) and The Gulag don't get a lot of publicity outside of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's work.
    • Film
      • Alexei German made two films My Friend Ivan Lapshin and Khrustalyov My Car! in the Stalinist period. The latter film shows the little-known (even by anti-Stalinists) "Doctor's Plot" and actually shows Stalin's death.
      • Peter Weir's The Way Back (2010) is a story about a group of escaped gulag prisoners treking entirely on foot through the wilderness of Siberia, Mongolia and China to escape the territory of the USSR and have a shot at returning to their homelands.
    • Literature
      • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, and The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, of course.
      • Odinochka: Armenian Tales from the Gulag centers around a clan of Armenian prisoners in a Siberian gulag in 1930, going into what led each prisoner to end up there (reasons vary from being part of anti-communist nationalist groups to holding secret Church services). The main character and narrator ends up in solitary confinement for starting a fight in the lunch room.
  • The Spanish Civil War (1936-39) doesn't get a lot of play, except in Spain. Mostly serves as a backstory for a Knight in Sour Armor character types in fiction set in the late Thirties to Fifties.
  • The period of Mao Zedong's rule in China (1949-76) gets occasional publicity as the time when China took over Tibet, or in stories about intellectuals exiled to the countryside. Don't expect much about how the Communists won the civil war, or about the famines Mao caused. Doesn't help that the Chinese government really doesn't like talking about this period, and China's now-enormous movie-going public means filmmakers have to be pretty careful about what they make if they want their films to pass approval by the censorship bureau and get a piece of the Chinese market.
    • Film
      • Chinese filmmaker Tian Zhuangzhuang made a movie called The Blue Kite set in this period; he got banned from making movies for ten years. This is a perfect example of why you don't see any media focused on this era.
      • Youth begins in the tail end of the Cultural Revolution as the performing arts troupe joins the People's Liberation Army as new recruits and spends roughly the first quarter of its runtime here. Due to the politically sensitive nature of the time period, no specific details are mentioned about the greater effects of the Cultural Revolution, but every single Chinese person knows what it means when the country enters a period of national mourning in 1976.
    • Literature
  • The Korean War/Conflict/Action (1950-53) is not only largely ignored in fiction but in Real Life as well, despite being used as an Expy for the Vietnam War in M*A*S*H (which ran about five times longer as a TV series than the war it alleged to depict as a 'hot' war). It's occasionally mentioned as a Back Story for elderly American veterans now that WWII vets are becoming thin on the ground (as far back as The '80s, when WWII vets were still fairly common, a middle-aged character obviously too young to have been in WWII would sometimes be established as a Korean War vet). A possible exception to the "Forgotten War's" status in the English-speaking world is among people with an interest in military aviation, since the Korean War has a fair degree of notoriety in aviation circles as the first conflict in which jet aircraft fought against each other (both sides had jets in World War II, and used them in combat, but they were relatively few in number and opposing jets never encountered each other).
    • Newspaper Comics
    • Comics
      • EC Comics also had many stories set in the Korean War, drawn by Harvey Kurtzman.
    • Film
      • A few good war films in the 50s, most notably Samuel Fuller's The Steel Helmet (which earned its director an invitation to the Pentagon), Fixed Bayonets as well as Anthony Mann's Men in War is set in the Korean War.
      • Clint Eastwood has played a number of Korean War veterans, most notably in Absolute Power, Gran Torino, and Heartbreak Ridge.note 
      • The film adaptation of The Bridges At Toko Ri.
      • The Hunters, another late 1950s film adaptation of a novel about the air war in Korea.
      • The only place really covering the Korean War in media is the South Korean film industry. The 2004 Korean film Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War was the first big-budget Korean War film made that marked the maturation of the Korean film industry, breaking box office records in Korea. It is a must-see for anyone interested in this conflict, though those with weak constitutions should be advised that there is much Gorn involved.
      • A quick list of a lot of other Korean movies focused on the Korean War, as well as other conflicts involving Korea (such as their involvement in The Vietnam War) is here.
    • Literature
      • Robert B. Parker's detective Spenser was stated to be a Korean War vet in some of the earlier novels.
    • Live-Action TV
      • Jim Rockford of The Rockford Files served in the Korean War.
      • Covered in Mad Men, since this is where Dick Whittman became Don Draper.
      • Both Blanche's late husband and Dorothy's ex-husband were mentioned to have been Korean War veterans in The Golden Girls.
      • Trevor Ochmonek, the wacky neighbor on ALF, was a Korean War veteran.
      • In That '70s Show, Red is a World War II and Korean War vet. The show starts off in the year 1976.
    • Video Games
  • Cold War proxy conflicts excluding Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan (roughly 1950-91).
    • Film
      • The Siege of Jadotville takes place in September 1961 covering the battle of the same name in the newly independent Democratic Republic of the Congo. The siege itself was a five-day long brutal battle between approximately 150 Irish peacekeepers operating under United Nations authority versus nearly 3,000 rebels from the breakaway Congolese province of Katanga, who were also supported by French, Belgian, and Rhodesian mercenaries due to the Katangan people's fierce anti-communist stance. The movie frames the conflict as part of the larger political jockeying that the USA and the USSR were engaged in within the DRC.
    • Video Games
      • Graviteam Tactics covers the UNITA-South Africa offensive against FAPLA and Cuba in February 1988 in the Operation Hooper campaign. The 1969 Sino-Soviet border conflict near Central Asia is covered in the Zhalanashkol 1969 campaign.
      • Call of Duty: Black Ops II has a few flashback missions that take place in Angola in the 1980s where the CIA is supporting local warlord Jonas Savimbi in fighting off communist guerillas.
      • Gray Fox's backstory as revealed in Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops has him as a Child Soldier who participated in the Mozambican War of Independence on the FRELIMO side, which was heavily supported by the Soviet Union and the rest of the Communist bloc.
  • The Cuban Revolution (1953-59). Perhaps the most impactful event in modern Latin American history, forever changing the geopolitics of Latin America and the US. Who was that t-shirt dude again?
    • Comic Books
      • Spain Rodriquez's Che: The Graphic Novel.
    • Film
      • Part of the story in The Godfather Part 2.
      • Steven Soderbergh's two-part biopic starring Benicio del Toro as Che.
      • Also I Am Cuba by Mikhail Kalatazov which was suppressed by the Soviet Union and Cuba but rediscovered in the 90s.
      • Strangely most of the important cultural works tend to be more pro-Cuban than otherwise. One exception is the Cuban section of Alfred Hitchcock's little-seen Topaz.
    • Literature
      • Graham Greene's Our Man in Havana is set in the period just before this time.
  • Post-Cuban Missile Crisis Cold War Latin America and its many dictatorial regimes (circa 1964-90). There is barely any country where nothing interesting happened. The Salvador Allende coup d'etat in Chile, the Tlaltelolco Massacre in Mexico, the Sendero Luminoso terrorist attacks in Peru, the oppressive dictature in Argentina (and Uruguay, and Brazil and several other countries) and the extremely bloody conflicts in Central America, such as the genocides in Guatemala under Lucas and Rios Montt, El Salvador and Nicaragua. A lot of these are just recently starting to be studied in their home countries. Though the thing is, the main villain in a lot of these stories is often regarded to actually be the U.S. itself as they are blamed for helping regimes and sabotaging elections when the countries elected communist sympathizers which makes it all the more morally confusing.
    • Literature
      • In the Time of the Butterflies is about the Mirabal sisters, who were anti-government activists in the Dominican Republic during the 1950s and 1960s.
  • The other Vietnam War: the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979 that kicked off in February when the People's Liberation Army launched an invasion of Vietnam to punish the country for toppling a Chinese ally, the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. The war lasted for 27 days, caused around 100,000 casualties for each side (rough estimate; numbers are all over the place due to both Chinese & Vietnamese propaganda claiming otherwise), and ended with a Chinese withdrawal and both sides claiming victory note . This was the last truly significant military action China took part in for the 20th century, and despite lasting less than a month, it had massive repercussions throughout Chinese society, leading the PLA to completely revamp its command structure and training programs from top to bottom, flooding China with a new wave of veterans not seen since the Korean War, and displacing tens of thousands of civilians who lived along the border. Sporadic skirmishes would continue throughout the next decade. Despite the significance of this conflict, it is almost entirely unknown outside of these two countries.
    • Film
      • In the Chinese hit war movie Wolf Warrior, Leng Feng's father was a veteran of this war and the lessons learned from it reverberate throughout his own military experience in the modern day.
      • The biggest depiction of this war was in the one major action setpiece of the 2017 Chinese critically acclaimed coming-of-age film Youth, which shows main characters Liu Feng & He Xiaoping drafted, him on the frontlines in the early stages of the invasion and her as a battlefield nurse.
    • Manhua
  • Post-Apollo space programs up to the Columbia disaster (1981-2003). The Space Race from Sputnik to Apollo-Soyuz was only the first twenty years out of fifty, but that's when all the movies are set. The U.S. space program was fairly inactive from 1973 to 1980 (neither the Ford nor Carter administrations put much emphasis on it, with the sole exception of the July 1975 joint U.S.-Soviet Apollo-Soyuz Test Project), but the Reagan administration brought the space program back big time with the launch of the Space Shuttle and the Strategic Defense Initiative.
    • Film
      • Space Cowboys starring Clint Eastwood, James Garner, Billy Bob Thornton, and Donald Sutherland as four over-the-hill 1960s test pilotsnote  recruited for a sensitive Space Shuttle mission.
      • The Challenger disaster has been the subject of a 1990 ABC made-for-TV-movie and a 2013 BBC/Discovery Channel docudrama. The latter was much better regarded by critics than the former.
  • The Congo Wars from 1996-2003 (a.k.a. "Africa's World War", a.k.a. the deadliest human conflict in post-WWII history) are surprisingly obscure both in fiction and in real life - they were hardly ever mentioned in the news, for some reason, despite involving eight countries and killing 5 and a half million people.


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