Peaky Blinders is based on a true story. However, it is heavily fictionalized for dramatic purposes. The British television series is inspired by actual historical events and a gang that operated in Birmingham, England, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. While the show incorporates factual elements of the gang and its operations, it is a work of fiction and not a documentary or a retelling of specific true events.
Set in the aftermath of World War I, Peaky Blinders revolves around the Shelby crime family, led by the cunning and charismatic Thomas Shelby. The Shelby family’s rise to power and their criminal activities in the town of Birmingham get them entangled in larger criminal and political conspiracies, leading to confrontations with law enforcement, rival gangs, and political figures.
Were the Peaky Blinders Real?
The Peaky Blinders were a real historical gang that was made the subject of the British television series of the same name. The gang, which was primarily active during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Birmingham, England, was known for its violence, distinctive clothing, and involvement in criminal activities.
The real Peaky Blinders were involved in various criminal activities, including illegal betting, protection rackets, and violence. The gang had rivalries with other criminal groups in the area, such as the Birmingham Boys, an older, more established criminal gang in Birmingham that posed a significant threat to their rise to power, and the Sabini Gang, an Italian crime syndicate operating in London that expanded its influence into Birmingham.
These rivalries often led to violent clashes and power struggles in the criminal underworld. Still, they played a significant role in the Peaky Blinders’ story, as they had to adapt and strategize to assert their dominance, which contributed to their legend.
Peaky Blinders’s dominance would eventually decline in the years leading up to and during World War I. The war is believed to have disrupted their activities, with many of their members believed to have enlisted in the military.
Are Shelby Brothers the Real Peaky Blinders?
The Shelby brothers are not the real Peaky Blinders. While the series takes inspiration from the real Peaky Blinders gang that operated in Birmingham a century ago, the characters, just like the events in the show, are primarily a product of fiction.
The Shelby brothers, as portrayed in the BBC crime drama, are fictional characters. The show’s main character, Thomas Shelby, along with his brothers Arthur and John, are the leaders of the Shelby crime family in the fictional world of the series. The Shelby brothers are not based on specific figures from the real Peaky Blinders gang. Instead, they are the creation of Steven Knight, the show’s writer and creator.
What Does Peaky Blinders Mean?
The term “Peaky Blinders” is believed by some historians to simply be slang for a well-dressed man. This is something that was peculiar with the Peaky Blinders gang members. A more popular meaning to the “Peaky Blinders” term is the practice of the gang members sewing razor blades into the peaks of the flat caps they were known to wear. The gangs were known to use the blades in their caps as weapons in fights. They could also carry these weapons inconspicuously, which made them very dangerous to deal with.
The practice of concealing sharp objects in their caps is a fictionalized element of the TV series, as there is no evidence that the real-life Peaky Blinders used razor blades in their caps.
How Did the Real Peaky Blinders Die?
The fates of individual members of the real Peaky Blinders gang vary. While some members of the gang were killed in violent clashes with other criminal groups, there was no singular event that marked the demise of the entire gang.
Known members of the real-life Peaky Blinders gang whose fates were well documented include Harry Fowles aka Baby-faced Harry, who was arrested and sent away for stealing a bicycle. Stephen McNickle was also sent away for the same crime, while Earnest Haynes was arrested for a home invasion. Henry Lightfoot was one of those who went to fight in WWI, while Billy Kimber went on to form the Birmingham Boys.
Real Peaky Blinders Gang
The real Peaky Blinders gang emerged from the slums of Birmingham, particularly in areas like Small Heath and Bordesley. The gang was composed mainly of young men from lower-class backgrounds who were drawn to the allure of criminal activities as a means of escaping poverty and improving their social standing. The gang had no known leadership hierarchy and is believed to have operated with a loose structure. Some known members of the real-life Peaky Blinders gang include:
- Thomas Gilbert: Gilbert, who is believed to have loosely inspired the character of Tommy Shelby, was known to be the notorious ringleader of the gang. Also known as Kevin Mooney, Gilbert changed his last name several times, so details about him are sketchy.
- Henry Lightfoot: Lightfoot was one of the first men to be identified as a Peaky Blinder. He was a longtime member of the gang who later left to fight in World War I.
- Harry Fowles: Fowles, also known as Baby-faced Harry, was a member of the gang who was once arrested for stealing a bicycle
- Billy Kimber: Kimber is a real-life character portrayed in the early seasons of Peaky Blinders. He was an initial member of Peaky Blinders before leaving to form the Birmingham Boys, a gang that eventually overtook the Peaky Blinders.
Peaky Blinders Real Photo
What Happened to the Real Peaky Blinders?
The real Peaky Blinders gradually faded away in the 1920s, the years leading up to and during World War I, likely due to the disruption caused by the war and the enlistment of some members into the military.
Other factors like increased policing, the evolution of the criminal underworld, and migration out of the city center led to the rule of the gangs starting to decline, which further led to the gang losing relevance. After the war, the influence of the Peaky Blinders waned and almost became non-existent as rival gangs took over their territory.
Is Peaky Blinders Based on True Events?
Peaky Blinders is technically based on a true story but has been heavily fictionalized for dramatic purposes.
Were the Peaky Blinders a Real Gang?
The Peaky Blinders were a real gang that operated in Birmingham, England, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The gang was involved in various criminal activities and regularly clashed with other gangs and the authorities.