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Scottish Medieval Bibliography

War of Independence (1296-1328)

Regarding the Film Braveheart
Also known as "That Film Whose Name Shall Not Be Uttered", or TFWNSNBU

by Sharon L. Krossa

Last updated 31 Oct 2001b  

Since so many people ask about it, and recently many people's interest in Scottish history has been sparked by it, I feel a few words about the movie Braveheart (staring Mel Gibson) are in order.

Basically, as an historian, my opinion of Braveheart is that it is a work of fantasy, not history. Any resemblance to actual persons or events, in other words to real history, appear to be purely accidental. My best advice, for anyone interested in the real story of William Wallace, Robert Bruce, and the Scottish Wars of Independence, is not to believe anything, whether major or minor, depicted in the film, but instead read some reliable history books about the period. Enjoy the film as a fantasy film, by all means -- just as one enjoys Star Wars or any other work of the imagination -- simply do not mistake it for history. The events aren't accurate, the dates aren't accurate, the characters aren't accurate, the names aren't accurate, the clothes aren't accurate -- in short, just about nothing is accurate.

Admittedly, the film does have a few elements that coincide with real history. However, there isn't one of these elements that I feel I can mention without having to explain all of the many associated elements leading up to and/or inextricably intertwined with it that do not coincide with real history. And once started explaining the inaccuracies, there is no stopping -- they are so very numerous. (See Braveheart Errors: An Illustration of Scale.) And, of course, unless one already knows the details of the true history of William Wallace and the Wars of Independence, there is no way from just watching the film one can determine which aspects of which elements are those few that coincide with real history. It is far safer, and far more efficient, to just ignore the whole film, as regards history, and read a good Scottish history book instead.

For suggestions of good books on Scottish history, see the General Works and War of Independence sections of the Scottish Medieval Bibliography. For medieval literary works on the topic, see the Literature section. For published original sources, see the Published Primary Sources section.

For a review of the film published in an academic journal by a Scottish historian, see

Ewan, Elizabeth. "Braveheart." American Historial Review 100, no. 4 (October 1995): 1219-21.

For a discussion of the trail of inspiration and distortion that led to the film, and a comparison of the screen writer's inspiration (Hamilton's 1722 poem) to Blind Hary's late 15th century poem (itself a century and a half removed from the actual events), see my 23 Aug 2001 posting to Mediev-L.

Although I in no way endorse using the film as a source for Scottish medieval history (and in fact recommend against so using it in the strongest terms possible), if you are going to purchase the film on video or DVD to enjoy as a fantasy, please consider making your purchase through the links below. Though the film itself does not really promote actual Scottish history, part of the purchase price can by supporting the Medieval Scotland web site...

DVD from Amazon.com - Widescreen Video from Amazon.com - Video from Amazon.com
Special Edition DVD from Amazon.co.uk - DVD from Amazon.co.uk - Widescreen Special Edition Video from Amazon.co.uk - Special Edition Video from Amazon.co.uk - Video from Amazon.co.uk
(DVDs from Amazon.com are Region 1 encoded; DVDs from Amazon.co.uk are Region 2 encoded. Videos from Amazon.com are in NTSC format; videos from Amazon.co.uk are in PAL format.)

In association with Amazon.com. In association with Amazon.co.uk.
If there is no link to Amazon.com and/or Amazon.co.uk for a book, it may be out of print in that country. Note that when you put a book in your Amazon shopping cart immediately after clicking on the direct link to it, MedievalScotland.org earns a higher referral fee than if you click around Amazon before putting it in your cart. Income earned through these associations will help defray the expenses of the MedievalScotland.org web site. (A financial statement is available.)

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