“TURN to a Historian” is for people searching for historically-accurate information and analysis about TURN: Washington’s Spies, a television drama about Revolutionary War spies premiering on AMC on Sunday, April 6.  (Find out more about TURN on their official website.)

Do you find yourself wanting to know more about the “real” people, places, and things mentioned in TURN?  Or wondering how historically accurate the show is?  Then you’ve come to the right place!

TURN is a historical drama, not a documentary, and so like any other TV show “based on a true story,” there will be plenty of times where the show sidesteps historical accuracy to tell a more dramatic story for a modern audience.  As a historian with no affiliation with the show (or with anyone involved in its production), I’ll be tuning in along with you every Sunday, eager to see where the story goes.  As the series unfolds, I’ll weigh in on each episode and discuss where historical fact ends and fiction begins.  The story of espionage and spycraft during the American Revolution is an exciting one, even without any Hollywood embellishment, so the line between fact and fiction might not always be obvious!

While historical accuracy is fundamentally important to a historian’s line of work, I’m fully aware that the primary purpose of TV shows is to entertain, not educate.  In spite of the many little (or big) inaccuracies present in the show, if it spurs more interest and inquiry into the history of the American Revolution, then that’s a good thing in my book.  I sincerely hope that TURN succeeds in capturing the spirit of this dramatic time in American history, and bringing the late 18th century alive for a whole new audience.  But on the other hand, if the show presents a seriously flawed or distorted picture of actual events, I’ll let you know (with occasional help from a guest expert).

So grab some popcorn, enjoy the show, and let’s talk about it afterward!  If you have any questions about the history behind the show, I’ll do my best to address them right here in the blog.

So who’s the historian around here, anyway?

Glad you asked!

Rachel Smith works for the Office of the Connecticut State Historian at the University of Connecticut, as a historical consultant, and as an administrative editor for Common-place, an online academic journal of Early American History.  During her first month in college, she accidentally stumbled upon a newspaper article about Nathan Hale and has been spy-curious ever since.  She has consulted for several museum exhibits, is under contract for a chapter on Nathan Hale in a forthcoming anthology, and has been invited to speak at venues ranging from local historical societies to the United States Military Academy at West Point. She earned her M.A. in Early American History from the University of Colorado-Boulder in 2010, and her B.A. with honors from the University of Connecticut, where she double-majored in History and American Studies.

Rachel is the primary historian and webmistress of TURN to a historian and the sole author of all TURN to a Historian tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook posts.  Guest contributors have their own biographical blurbs and contact information at the end of their respective blog posts.

7 thoughts on “About

    […] About […]

      Robert White said:
      June 8, 2014 at 11:45 am

      Thank you very much for presenting some facts to this series. I do some personal genealogy and tried looking up the characters, resulting in some confusion. The name changes and timeline adjustments you’ve
      mentioned clear that up for me. I agree with you, why change historical facts to create a story? Why not
      build this story on top of the historical facts?

        Mark Danforth said:
        August 2, 2015 at 11:30 am

        I agree. There is more than enough accurate historical fact to create an interesting series.

    Leah Sacco said:
    January 7, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    My name is Leah and I am doing a National History Day project on the Culper Spy Ring and how the spies exchanged information and encountered danger on their journeys. I was highly recommended to email you to get more information on the spy ring. I would be very interested in knowing more about the use of invisible ink and the Culper Code. I also would love to know about dangers the spies encountered. If possible I would love to ask you more questions on this topic via email.

    Thank you for your time.


    Leah Sacco

      spycurious responded:
      January 9, 2016 at 12:57 pm

      Hi Leah,
      Good for you for picking an awesome subject for your History Day project! (Of course, I might be slightly biased there.) I’d love to help in whatever way I can. If you could please contact me through the “Ask a Question” page and include your contact email, I will email you in reply. Thank you, and best of luck on your project!

    Laurie Webb said:
    April 19, 2016 at 12:08 am

    Love that you have sparked a discussion on this subject matter, there is so much I want to know about Washington. Did he truly hallucinate & have issues of this nature?

      spycurious responded:
      April 19, 2016 at 9:04 am

      Thanks, Laurie! As it happens, we have an entire post dedicated to that exact question with commentary from a true authority on Washington: Mary V. Thompson, Research Librarian at the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington. You can read it here: Did George Washington Have a Mental Breakdown at Valley Forge?

      You can also view all of our posts tagged with “George Washington” by clicking here: https://spycurious.wordpress.com/tag/george-washington/ If you have any other questions, feel free to submit them via the “Ask a Question” link at the top of every page. Happy reading, and thanks for stopping by!

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