Is ‘Outlander’ Historically Accurate?

Historical dramas are all the rage right now. From Downton Abbey to Call the Midwife, networks and streaming services are cashing in on the popularity of period pieces. The popular Outlander book series has captured the interest of fans for being dramatically engaging, but we are left wondering how truthful it is about historical events. All historical accuracy aside, STARZ has a hit on their hands with their kick-ass heroines and swoon-worthy Scotsmen. 

‘Outlander’ quickly became one of STARZ’ most binge-worthy shows

Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan attend the season 2 premiere of 'Outlanders.'
Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan | Randy Brooke/FilmMagic

If you like romantic period pieces interwoven with sexy Scottish accents and steamy love affairs, then this show is definitely for you. If you’re more into historical drama or sci-fi TV, well, you might be pleasantly surprised with what Outlander has to offer. Fans of the show are currently awaiting a release of Season 5. Although filming has ended, it isn’t set to premiere until February 2020.

‘Outlander’ combines romance, time travel, and history into a show

The hit TV drama based on Diana Gabaldon’s book series of the same name follows the story of Claire (Caitriona Balfe), an accidental time-traveling nurse from 1945, who falls in love with Jamie (Sam Heughan), an 18th-century Scottish warrior. The combination of sexual tension between the show’s two main characters and the adventure that awaits Claire in an unknown world has been vastly appealing to fans.

Although Claire is married in 1945, when she finds herself transported back to 1773 she marries Scottish clansman Jamie out of necessity. However, their marriage quickly turns to passionate love. Throughout Season 4 the pair face challenges which tear them apart from each other in both time and space. But their love binds them — even when Claire travels back to the present day.

Is ‘Outlander’ accurate?

There has been lots of discussion over whether Outlander maintains any accuracy to history, or if it is simply written to appeal to the masses. Gabaldon, the author, works tirelessly in researching her novels and maintains many historically accurate details. Events including battles, reconciliations, troop and clan movements, and other details are typically accurate due to her detailed research before writing her books.

The 1745 Jacobite Rebellion is accurately portrayed, as are the political causes and effects surrounding it. In watching season 1 of Outlander, viewers will learn far more about the events leading up to the rebellion and the way Scotland recuperated afterward than they would ever learn in a basic history class.

As the series continues for three more seasons, viewers will find the same level of attention to historical detail. Gabaldon effortlessly weaves her fictional characters into situations and places which actually occurred and existed in history.

What are some ‘Outlander’ inaccuracies?

Other events in the series, such as Claire’s trial for practicing witchcraft were less accurate. The last documented witch trial in Scotland took place in 1722, which was over twenty years before Claire accidentally fell through the stones and into history. Although cases weren’t recorded, it does make some sense that there might still be some lingering paranoia around witchcraft and that women might still be accused and forced to stand trial.

One of the more obvious errors in the show is the Fraser clan tartan worn by Sam Heughan. The grey and blue costumes used in the show might look nice paired with Jamie Fraser’s red hair, but they are not the colors that were worn by the actual clan Fraser of the 18th century. The real highland clan Frasers would have worn bright red and green tartan kilts.

What will ‘Outlander’ season 5 be about?

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Save the date! #Outlander premieres February 16 on #STARZ.

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Season 5 continues its historical trek as Jamie and Claire continue to build their home in America. As this is history, American viewers are more familiar with it will be interesting to see how closely the story-line aligns with historical fact. If nothing else, we can expect more steamy scenes of Jamie and Claire to keep us from changing the channel.