November 30, 2012, 2:15 pm
As viewers flock to see Lincoln, and reviewers rave about Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance, historians are raising different issues: How accurate is the film’s portrayal of emancipation? What does it leave out? The Chronicle Review asked several scholars to weigh in.
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?
Of course, the answer depends on what constitutes a genuine “error.” Yes, the U.S. Capitol dome did not look anything like the odd exterior th…