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Indiana Jones: The Men Behind the Myth

Indiana Jones: Hollywood vs. History

Evening Course

Monday, May 23, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1J0176C
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Hiram Bingham III standing atop a jungle bridge at Espiritu Pampa in Peru

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The Indiana Jones series is one of the most popular and iconic film franchises in the history of Hollywood. But just how accurate is it? Justin M. Jacobs, associate professor of history at American University, explores the history behind the cinematic legend, drawing on events from Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798 to the controversy over in the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1923. He also examines the antiquities trade in China. By the end of the saga, understand not only how major museums acquired their collections, but where and when the film franchise diverges or converges with historical realities.  

Jacobs is the author of several books, including Indiana Jones in History and The Compensations of Plunder: How China Lost Its Treasures. He is also the instructor for “World Heritage Sites: Exploring the World’s Greatest Places,” a 24-episode series for The Great Courses.

Session Information

Indiana Jones: Hollywood vs. History

The Indiana Jones films are great fun, but are they good history? Jacobs applies a rigorous historical analysis to all four films, carefully noting where they diverge or converge with the popular Hollywood icon. With the aid of a leaked brainstorming transcript for the first film he explores the hidden inspiration for the main characters, plot lines, and geographic backdrops—and determines whether they bear any resemblance to the actual careers of real-life archaeologists in history. He concludes with an attempt to devise a more historically accurate and politically sensitive plot line for future films in the franchise.

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