By now, it’s no secret that the fantastic world of Star Wars owes a lot to real-world history. Many observations have been made that the original trilogy is basically “World War II in space,” with more contemporary conflicts defining the images and themes of the next two trilogies.
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While general strokes are common knowledge today, some more specific and thematic influences either went unnoticed or received little attention. From dogfighting to Nazis, Star Wars really is World Space War II, but there’s so much more to it than that.
10 The Trade Federation is the East India Company
Much has been said about the prequels’ focus on bureaucracy, taxes, and politics, which doesn’t exactly inspire enthusiasm among fans. But when you take note of the historical inspiration from the Trade Federation, namely Dutch and British East India companies, things may make a little more sense.
Led by the Neimoidian fops, the Trade Federation was a galactic transportation conglomerate that controlled a large economic, political, and military influence (i.e., battle droid). Although they were dating at the time of the prequels, they still had enough dominance over the Republic. The East India Companies (also antagonists of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies) also had a similar reach, essentially controlling trade and politics through monopolies, blockades, and private fleets.
9 The Republic is Ancient Rome
Star Wars owes a lot to ancient Rome, seen in things like classic Naboo-style architecture and space versions of Roman entertainment, like the capsule races in The Phantom Menace (that is, chariot races) and the arena in Attack of the Clones (that is, gladiators). The main Roman conclusion would be the political order of the galaxy and how it changed over the years.
Noteworthy parallels include reliance on the Senate and titles like “chancellor.” That said, the most significant echo is the transformation of the Republic and the fall of a democracy to a dictatorial empire motivated by conquest, which is what also happened to Rome. Coincidentally, Roman culture greatly influenced the Nazis, the main base of the Empire.
8 The Galactic Empire is Nazi Germany
There is nothing subtle here; the Galactic Empire is just Nazi Germany in space. From uniforms to holding a rally straight out of the Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will, there is nothing nuanced about the Empire’s Nazi roots. His return to the First Order can be read as an allusion to neo-Nazis, although he is still primarily based on the Third Reich.
Other parallels include: Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine’s relationship is similar to that of Heinrich Himmler and Adolf Hitler (respectively), the name and purpose of the Stormtroopers make direct reference to the Sturmabteilung, the Empire’s goal of establishing a totalitarian government. , and its birth through a convincing dictator a republic to surrender its freedom to fight a fabricated enemy. Furthermore, both self-proclaimed empires fell in an explosively embarrassing manner.
7 The Jedi are the Knights Templar
In truth, the Jedi Council and its knights are a fusion of historical warriors ranging from the samurai of Japan to the Shaolin monks of China. Its clearest influence would be the Knights Templar, the Catholic military order best known for its participation in the Crusades.
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The similarities between the two orders include: their elite status even within the military, a strict and puritanical moral code, self-imposed vows of poverty and chastity, a superior council of twelve, and being systematically annihilated for political reasons. Also, both wield swords and prefer robes.
6 Darth Vader is a samurai
Many comments are made about how Darth Vader is a remnant of an ancient order, and this is not just a reference to the Jedi. Darth Vader’s appearance and story were based on Japanese samurai, specifically on Date Masamune. A feared warlord, Masamune lived in the Azuchi-Momoyama period and even saw the early modernization of Japan. His black kabuto (that is, a helmet) inspired concept artist Ralph McQuarrie’s now iconic designs.
Also, Darth Vader clinging to an ancient moral code doesn’t just echo the samurai at the end of the shogunate. Another parallel is World War II Japanese General Hideki Tojo, an equally brutal imperial commander who held fast to his beliefs of Pure Land Buddhism, even though they were considered archaic at the time.
5 The force is a mixture of different beliefs and religions
Defining a specific belief system that inspired the Force is impossible, as it is actually more of a collage than anything else. A fundamental principle of the Force is that there is no higher being (i.e. god), but rather an all-encompassing life force that can be used for good and ill. This is very similar to Shintoism, Taoism (particularly Yin and Yang), the use of qi, and New Age ideas that were popular with the anti-war and free love movements in the 1970s.
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Given its religious base, the Force’s lack of detail, unsurprisingly, caused too many heated online debates. In doing so, the spirituality and core values of the Force were ignored, prioritizing pedantic rules and details that only encouraged the kind of flawed elitism The Last Jedi called for.
4 The Battle of Endor is the Vietnam War
Aside from World War II, another conflict that shaped Star Wars was the Vietnam War. Lucas believed that US involvement was wrong and that the Viet Cong weren’t the monsters that the propaganda claimed they were. This was seen in the way the Rebellion is framed as correct, while the Empire (a superpower not unlike America) is depicted as the villain, but is most evident in Return of the Jedi.
In the ending of the original trilogy, the primitive Ewoks successfully defend Endor from the technologically superior Imperials they invaded. The Vietnam War ended the same way, with the Viet Cong guerrillas winning against the more powerful American forces through the war in the jungle.
3 Yoda’s Albert Einstein
Star Wars is full of wartime influences, but one of its more pacifistic underpinnings comes in the form of Jedi Master Yoda, who was based on physicist Albert Einstein. Originally, makeup artist Stuart Freeborn used Einstein as a visual cue, seen in Yoda’s facial lines and tousled white hair. In time, the inspiration would deepen.
Both were aging leaders in their respective fields who, while wise, concealed a jovial personality. During the war, they fled their homes to escape persecution. Despite this, they reluctantly taught potentially dangerous forms of warfare (i.e. the Force and nuclear energy) to a younger generation for the greater good. That, and people love to quote Yoda and Einstein even today.
2 Emperor Palpatine is Richard Nixon
Since the Empire is an analog of Nazi Germany, it makes sense to assume that Emperor Palpatine is based on Adolf Hitler. This is partially correct, as Lucas’s contemporary inspiration was Richard Nixon. Lucas always intended for Palpatine to be a politician rather than a dark lord, as this is how Nixon committed his atrocities with impunity until it was too late.
In the original trilogy, Palpatine rules through fear and militarism, but he did not take control by force; it was given. The prequels show how this happened, where Palpatine accumulated power by manipulating the Senate, exacerbating an ongoing conflict, flirting with the military, and granting himself authoritarian powers. These parallel what the other historical inspirations of Nixon and Palpatine did: Augustus, Napoleon Bonaparte, Julius Cesare, and Hitler. Fortunately, no one forgave Palpatine.
1 The rebellion sides with protests against war and non-violence
Despite being a war of generations, Star Wars is vehemently anti-war. Originally, this was a reflection of Lucas’s fears and anxieties regarding the Vietnam War and the Cold War. Later, the prequels reflected the War on Terror and the paranoia of a post-9/11 world. Furthermore, Lucas believed in fighting evil with nonviolence, a rallying cry of anti-war protests. However, fighting to preserve freedom remains a necessity even though peace and non-violence are the ultimate goals.
This is why in the original trilogy, the Death Star (a superweapon that kills planets not unlike nuclear bombs) is heroically destroyed and the Sith are defeated not by force, but by Luke avoiding violence. and convincing Darth Vader to be good again. However, the Star Wars message has been misinterpreted, becoming the name of Ronald Reagan’s space weapons program and with The Rise of Skywalker ending evil by having Rey brutally murder a resurrected Palpatine.
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About the Author
Angelo Delos Trinos (169 articles published)
Part-time artist and writer, full-time thinker. He thinks Samuel L. Jackson is the world’s greatest actor and misses video stores.
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