France commune

The real story behind “Around the World in 80 Days”

Around the world in 80 days tunes Sundays at 7:00 p.m. on WTTW and is available for streaming.

the Masterpiece series Around the world in 80 days may be a work of fiction, but its characters move through a historical world filled with real people, technology, and places. Like its source, Jules Verne’s 1872 novel Around the world in eighty daysit strives to include the real story and technological advancements – or at least the possibilities.

Here are some elements based on the real story of the first four episodes of the series.

Adolphe Thiers and the Paris Commune

Fogg and his companions show up in Paris shortly after the violent repression of the Commune. Picture: Masterpiece

Fogg and his companions find Paris ravaged by popular unrest when they arrive there, which is not uncommon in the century following the First French Revolution of 1789. The great name of Marie Joseph Louis Adolphe Thiers has been a figure major part of these troubles: by the When he became president of France in 1871, he had been the actor of two revolutions, a prime minister, an exile and the suppressor by military action of a another attempt at revolution, the Paris Commune. The Commune was a short-lived radical working-class government that took control of Paris for two months. Fogg and his friends arrived in 1872 and met Passepartout’s brother, Gérard, who had participated in the government of the Commune. Fogg accidentally foils the assassination attempt on Thiers by Gérard, who has actually survived several assassination attempts during his previous terms in government. Thiers resigned as president under political opposition in 1873.

hot air balloon

A hot air balloon in Around the World in 80 Days.  Picture: MasterpieceAlthough a hot air balloon is not part of Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days”, it does appear in another of his books. Picture: Masterpiece

While hot air balloons like the one Fogg and his companions use to escape Paris in the first episode did exist in 1872 – the first manned flight dates back a century earlier, in 1783 – it should be noted that no does not appear in Jules Verne’s original novel. . The Hot Air Balloon was an addition in the 1956 Best Picture award-winning film adaptation. The idea originated with Verne: his 1863 novel Five weeks in a Balloonwhich also features an adventure of three companions – in a hot air balloon over Africa.

Bagna Cauda and Gentleman’s Relish

Gentleman's Relish in Around the World in 80 Days.  Picture: MasterpieceAlthough the characters eat them on separate continents, bagna cauda and gentleman’s relish are surprisingly similar. Picture: Masterpiece

We include these fish-based condiments not for their historical significance, but because the show pays surprising attention to these two similar delicacies. On the train through Italy in episode 2, Passepartout exclaims over the delight of a dish of bagna cauda offered to him by another third-class passenger. The dip from Italy’s Piedmont region is made with anchovies, garlic, and olive oil, as Passepartout correctly identifies it, and is traditionally eaten with vegetables. Patum paperium, otherwise known as Gentleman’s Relish, appears in episode 4, when Fogg serves it to a British lieutenant. Like bagna cauda, ​​it contains anchovies, ground into a paste with butter, herbs and spices. It is usually eaten with toast or added to potatoes, eggs or croquettes.

Woodroad Viaduct

A ruined railway bridge in Around the World in 80 Days.  Picture: MasterpieceFogg compares a crumbling Italian bridge to a viaduct in Scotland. Picture: Masterpiece

As Fogg and company cross Italy by train in the second episode, they suddenly stop in front of a ruined bridge. Fogg calculates that a reduced train could cross the unsupported stretch of rail where the bridge disintegrated, citing a railway viaduct over the Lugar Water in Scotland. The viaduct is real and still in use today, 170 years after its completion. Designed by civil engineer John Miller, it features hollow piers (the columns that support it) and spandrels (the triangular support sections above the piers), reducing the weight on the viaduct’s foundations.

Jules Verne

A young boy in the series is obsessed with “From the Earth to the Moon” by Jules Verne

In the second episode, Fogg meets a boy, Alberto, who is fascinated by Jules Verne’s novels about trips to the moon, 1865 From the Earth to the moon and 1869 Around the Moon. Verne is of course also the author of a small book entitled Around the world in eighty days. His moon books feature calculations of what would be required to shoot humans on a ship to the moon, which Alberto recites. The adventurers in the books manage to reach space, orbit the moon (in less than 80 days), and return to Earth.

Suez Canal

The Suez Canal, which opened in 1869, is an integral, though little-mentioned on the show, part of the modern infrastructure that allows Fogg to potentially circumnavigate the globe in 80 days. Connecting the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, the 120-mile canal allowed ships to reach the Indian Ocean without circumnavigating Africa. Fogg’s party crosses the Suez in Episode 3, before docking at Al Hudaydah in Yemen to await pirate activity in the Bab-el-Mandeb, the strait between Africa and the Arabian Peninsula connecting the sea Red at the Gulf of Aden.


An oil fire in Around the World in 80 Days.  Picture: MasterpieceFogg sets fire to an oil spill in the desert. Picture: Masterpiece

While crossing the desert in Episode 3, Fogg notices oil spurting out of the ground and later lights a burning oil puddle to ward off the attackers. Oil wells and refineries began to open in the 1850s, while kerosene took off in the same decade as lamp oil. “This new industrial world is going to need electricity,” Fogg observes after turning on the oil. “I wonder if we can actually use this stuff.”


Arjan in Around the World in 80 Days.  Photo: Joe Alblas - © Slim 80 Days / Federation Entertainment / Peu Communications / ZDF / Be-Films / RTBFArjan is a sepoy, or Indian soldier in the British Indian Army. Photo: Joe Alblas – © Slim 80 Days / Federation Entertainment / Peu Communications / ZDF / Be-Films / RTBF

In Episode 4, Fogg and his group encounter an Indian British Indian Army soldier, Arjan, nicknamed “Sepoy”. The word refers to an Indian infantryman (and is still used today) and first came into use with the British East India Company in the 18th century. When the British government regained direct control of India from the East India Company in 1858, they retained the name. Native soldiers made up the overwhelming majority of British Indian Army troops, which helped the British maintain control of the Indian subcontinent as a valuable colony.

India gained independence from Britain in 1947, when the subcontinent was suddenly and disastrously split between Muslim-majority Pakistan and Hindu-majority India by the incumbent colonial power.