Is Outlander based on a true story?

As you go through Outlander, whether the books or the show, you may see things that connect to real history. Is this a show that is based on a story from the past?
Outlander season 4
Outlander season 4 /

When it comes to historical fiction, there tends to be one main question. Is it based on a true story? Outlander certainly seems to include a lot of real events.

It’s understandable to question whether the series is based on anything that really happened in the past. The story of Claire and Jamie is not based on truth. That doesn’t mean other parts of the story aren’t.

In fact, some of the fictional characters are inspired by real people in history. And you’ll certainly recognize a few names and battles from the past. Let’s take a look inside the truth in Outlander.

Characters in Outlander inspired by real people

We have to start with Geillis Duncan. That name does come up in real history books, although not in the same time period as the Geillis we know in the series. It is possible that Gillian Edgars chose the name Geillis when she went into the past because of her knowledge of Scottish history.

You may see the name spelled as Gillis Duncan. She was a young maidservant toward the end of the 16th Century in Scotland. She was accused of being a witch, and she was even made to confess to being a witch. That doesn’t mean she was one. We all know the witch trials and what they were really about.

Then there’s some of Jamie Fraser’s storylines. You see, there was a Jamie Fraser recorded around the time of our Jamie. However, Diana Gabaldon has always said that the inspiration for her Jamie came from a certain companion in Doctor Who. That didn’t stop her from playing with some of history.

There is a recording of a Jamie Fraser surviving Culloden and going into hiding. He was known as the Dun Bonnet. Sound familiar?

Real history in Outlander

There is plenty of real history in the books, and therefore in the series. Let’s just start with the first two seasons with the build up to the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 that ended with the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Yes, Culloden really happened, and yes, it played out much like the books and show have portrayed. The same applies to the Battle of Prestonpans.

While Black Jack Randall wasn’t real, the Duke of Sandringham was. And I don’t think a lot of people will be surprised to hear that Bonnie Prince Charlie was real—that part in Season 6 with Flora MacDonald was also a real part of history. She did help Bonnie Prince Charlie escape, and yes, he escaped to Europe dressed as a woman.

In Paris, we also have a couple of real historical figures. Of course, King Louis was a real king. He was also viewed witchcraft as fraudulent magic and there was a focus on taking down witches. Comte St. Germain is loosely based on a real person. I say “loosely” and mean it.

As we get into the Colonies, we see a few elements that are based on real history. The Battle of Alamance and the Battle of Saratoga, which have taken place so far in the series, were based on real battles. We’ve met Benedict Arnold, Governor Tryon, Governor Martin, and many more real people who would have been around at the time.

So yes, Diana Gabaldon does weave real history into the story. However, Outlander as a whole is a work of fiction.

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