Tuesday, April 26, 2022

The Magic of History and Television

*This post contains slight spoilers to season six of the the Starz show Outlander.

I'd always had a love of all things Scottish and reveled in a short trip to Scotland in 2011. However, my fascination grew greatly when I began watching the hit Starz television show Outlander in  late 2014. Outlander the show is based on the book series of the same name first published in 1991 by American author Diana Gabeldon. It chronicles the life of WWII nurse, Claire Randall as he departs her 1940s like and time travels to the  1740s Scottish Highlands. It is a work of historical fiction/fantasy against the backdrop of real historical events. 

While enjoying multiple seasons of this show, I sunk into the real history behind the episodes. The Outlander books and show are known for their mostly historical accuracy and watching real incidents  play out on screen left me thirsty to learn more and more about the actual events. Over time I drank up mid-eighteenth century Scottish History. Mostly the history surrounding the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion and the Battle of Culloden, one in which a group of Scottish rebels led by Prince Charles Stuart rose up against the British rule. 

Five years later, after my initial viewing of the Outlander series, I got to travel to Scotland to see many of the historical places discussed in the books and show. In fact, I planned about half of my month-long trip to the United Kingdom around Outlander. I journeyed to far locations such as Inverness, Loch Ness, and Culloden moor. Not only to see these locations from the show, but also feel the real history that the show was based on. 

Whilst walking around Inverness Castle I saw a statue honoring a women named Flora MacDonald. Never having heard of her, I read the plaque and did some additional research about her significance while in Inverness. I learned she was responsible for aiding Prince Charles Stuart escape to the Isle of Skye after the devastating loss for the Jacobite Rebellion at the Battle of Culloden. 

Four months after seeing that statue in person, while watching the current season six of Outlander I saw a scene beginning to play out on screen. I knew exactly who the character was and exactly what she was doing. Not from former knowledge of the show, but from just learning about the exact historical event on my trip to Inverness.

It was a scene of Flora MacDonald as she was helping the Bonny Prince Charlie, dress as a woman in disguise, flee to the Isle of Skye in a boat. The Scottish hold her as a hero for this act. 

A television show had taken me to Scotland, where my travels taught me even more than I already knew. Finally, I got to see what I learned play out on screen. It felt like a very immersive and full-circle learning experience. What I love about historical dramas is that they bring the past to you. I often yearn to travel to the past, but unlike for Claire that likely won't be possible for me. But, with shows like Outlander, and the courage to travel I might try and get a glimpse of what life was like for people before us.