“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.