Peaky Blinders From A History Fanboy’s Point Of View - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Peaky Blinders From A History Fanboy’s Point Of View

Peaky Blinders is one of the BBC's most successful TV series in recent years. Starring Cillian Murphy as Thomas Shelby, with Sophie Rundle and Paul Anderson also among the cast, it wasn't long after the first episode aired back in 2013 that Peaky Blinders caught the imagination of millions of people globally, with the cast, their acting, the recreated period setting and the plot contributing equally to its popularity and worldwide success.

As well as being very interesting, the show is supposedly based on actual history, that of the Peaky Blinders urban youth gang who were active in Birmingham from the 1890s to the early twentieth century. Many details in the show are real, yet for some history fanboys not everything is accurate enough and there are some misconceptions. The writers and producers of the series have said publicly that the story is only inspired by the real-life Peaky Blinders, and does not necessarily follow their history.

The Inspiration
Steven Knight, who is the creator of Peaky Blinders, heard the story of the gang when he was a child, and since then it had been ingrained in his mind. Thus, he came up with the idea to introduce the story to the audience, yet he also included some elements on his own.

The first thing which will definitely catch your eye if you are anyhow close to the history of that era and especially the history of Birmingham back in the 20th century is the names. The characters have been changed completely. The real names of the gang members are Harry Fowler, Ernest Bayles, Stephen McHickie, and Thomas Gilbert, as their police arrest sheets will attest.

What Is Different
The BBC show is set around the 1920s, after the First World War, yet the real gang had largely disappeared by this time, after being the dominate Birmingham gang for some 20 years, up to 1910. was around the 1820s. However, even though they had disappeared by the 1920s, the name of the "Peaky Blinders" became synonymous slang for any street gang in Birmingham.

Graham Stevenson is a trade unionists who worked in Birmingham and is well informed about the real situation and history of the area at this time. He's spoken about some of the details which may not be well known by the regular audience of the TV show, only to history fanboys. In his interview, he said that he is very aware that the show producers wanted to make the drama series and that some changes in history were inevitable. Among the inaccuracies in the series, Stevenson talked about the first season and the stolen guns to arm the IRA. According to Stevenson, in real life, it was Harry Emery, founder of the Coventry Communist Party who moved to Birmingham and tried to get hold of the weapon, rather than the Peaky Blinders. Emery was arrested in 1922 for his part in a raid on the Birmingham Arms Factory, while trying to supply arms to the IRA.

Another historical inaccuracy regards Sir. Winston Churchill who is depicted as the Home Secretary in 1919, which is not correct. Sir. Winston Churchill served in this position, though a lot earlier than is shown in the series. Moreover, he was not Home Secretary but was the Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air.

Blazers and the Races
As it is mentioned in the show, the Peaky Blinders used to have razor blades on their flat caps. Is this myth or reality? Well, there is no specific and obvious answer, but it is still very unrealistic. Razor blades, although invented and introduced to the society long before, were still a luxury item, and thus would have likely been too expensive for the gang members to simply have attached on their capes. The very bloody episode of the show, where the Peaky Blinders fight with their cap invention and use the razor blades against their enemies, also casts doubt if there is anything in common between reality and the TV show regarding the improvised weapons.

Horse racing was a very popular activity during these past times and an excellent chance to try to improve your fortunes. By this, we mean that a lot of people were betting on their favorite horses and occasions. The betting opportunities include everything connected to horse racing; bet on the winners, on the last comers, on the jockeys and on the incidents which might happen during the horse racing (like horses falling or those not finishing the race). Betting opportunities are given to literally everyone, even to the ones who decide to bet on the incidents or even the number of the incidents. Of course, Horse racing betting is not just from the era of Peaky Blinders and for their peers, but still as popular today. Source for the info:

Successful Inaccuracy
One of the characters in the TV series, Jessie Eden played by Charlie Murphy since the fourth series, has a very important role, not only as a gang member but as a responsible citizen and influencer. She is fighting for equal rights and payment for both men and women. She is the one in charge of the strikes and rebels.

Graham Stevenson was acquainted with the real-life Eden and said that the character is not accurate. Whilst including a strong woman in a TV series such as Peaky Blinders, and especially a woman from the past century, is definitely a good gesture and very encouraging for modern society to see that such a woman existed who would fight for equal treatment, Stevenson noted that while Jessie is depicted as a feminist and professional woman, it is very much far from reality. She was, in actuality, a working-class woman and all she wanted was to be able to work and to have equal pay for that. Picturing her as a professional woman is not right, simply because women at that period were not allowed in the unions, let alone trade union officials.

The episode when Jessie and Tommy Shelby, played by Cillian Murphy, meet shows Jessie as a strong and very clever woman who knows about every single activity and the companies owned by Tommy. While Stevenson considered this episode a tall order for anyone, it is a very emotional and sensitive one.

Jessie herself was a very shy person who definitely did not like a lot of attention and would not have wanted to be in the very loud gang that was in charge of controlling the whole of Birmingham. Because of her fight for social justice, at some point she might have asked how her role and her association with the Peaky Blinders would affect others, those she was fighting for.

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