The Reel Lincoln: The Historical Case for Spielberg’s Masterpiece

“One of the jobs of art is to go to the impossible places that other disciplines, like history, must avoid.” – Stephen Spielberg

By Harold Holzer

Even as Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln emerged as an unqualified critical and popular triumph, the historical nitpickers—myself among them, I must confess—were only hiding in the scholarly reeds, waiting to pounce on the factual (and even some interpretive) errors admittedly punctuating the hit movie. Now comes the mini-avalanche of gotcha comments, which has grown into something of an academic parlor game.
How many errors can one identify in a two-and-a-half-hour movie? How accurate is the film’s portrayal of emancipation? Of course, the answer depends on what constitutes a genuine “error.”  Does all that trivia matter anyway?
As the film’s historical script consultant, I asked several scholars to weigh in….

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Read Harold Holzer’s new book: Lincoln: How Abraham Lincoln Ended Slavery in Americaan imprint of HarperCollins.

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