Outlander author slams claim series is ‘distorted view’ of history

Outlander: Claire is nervous about marrying Jamie

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Millions of viewers worldwide are currently waiting for the seventh season of Outlander, which will premiere on Starz this summer. In the meantime, Diana Gabaldon’s original novels have taken the story of Claire Fraser (played by Caitriona Balfe) and her husband Jamie (Sam Heughan) even further, although some historians have disputed some aspects of the author’s depiction of 18th Century Scotland.

Gabaldon has hit back after historian Deborah Dennison claimed Outlander is a “reprehensible” representation of Scottish history.

Dennison is the founder of the Historians’ Council on Culloden, where the early novels take place.

The historian has taken issue with a number of elements from the books, including Gabaldon’s depiction of women’s role in the Jacobite rebellion.

“Outlander promotes a deeply distorted view of the known nature of the Gàidhealtachd,” she said in the Scotsman.

“Presented with lots of raw sex, fantasy and slick Hollywood production values, in Scotland, and around the world, people believe the disinformation.”

She went on to claim the series depicted Jacobite women as “w****s” and Prince Charles Stuart (Andrew Gower) as “an effeminate coward or an over-sexed Catholic fanatic”.

”The frequent arguments in which Claire demands her independence do not reflect the role of Highland women,” she continued.

“The plotting of Outlander is mostly predictable: Claire gets in trouble, Jamie saves her, they have sex.”

“Then Jamie gets in trouble, Claire saves him, and they have an argument about women not being owned by their husbands.”

However, Gabaldon has argued against Dennison’s claims, insisting she did a “great deal” of research.

Whilst time-travelling Claire’s modern sensibilities often brush up against Jamie’s more traditional values, the rest of the storyline remains as true to history as possible.

Over the course of nine books and six seasons, Outlander has featured major historical events such as the Battle of Culloden, Prince Charles’ exile and the American Revolution.

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“History is largely concerned with collective social events and patterns,” Gabaldon explained.

“As Ms Dennison says, ‘the known nature of the Gàidhealtachd’ – whereas a novel focuses on the specific actions and interactions of a few strongly individual people.

“No one in their right mind would take a television show based on time travel as an absolutely factual representation of anything. I do in fact take some pains to ensure historical accuracy.”

Her latest comments come shortly after the author waded into another row on historical accuracy, this time about her use of ‘Scotch’ throughout the books.

“A lot of said research involves reading things written by actual Scottish people – both fiction and non-fiction,” she told the National.

“And that’s why I feel reasonably okay about saying that most things written by Scottish people through the late 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries used the word ‘Scotch’ without the slightest blush.”

Gabaldon also admitted a number of fans correct her at book signings, but she handles it by “smiling pleasantly and signing their books”.

Viewers will soon have the chance to explore more Scottish history in the upcoming Outlander prequel, Blood of My Blood.

Outlander season 7 premieres summer 2023 on Starz in the USA and Lionsgate+ via Prime Video in the UK.

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