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The FX and Hulu hit depicts a bloody, brutal, mostly thwarted colonial history of Japan. It’s based in the truth.

According to Morgan Pitelka, Bernard L. Herman Distinguished Professor in the department of Asian and Middle Eastern studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, the portrayal of John Blackthorne’s extreme animosity toward the Portuguese sailors and missionaries and his race to make himself and the Protestants the center of trade there reflects the times, when conflict between Catholics and Protestants engulfed Europe after Martin Luther’s Reformation movement began in 1517.

Pitelka says these conflicts were not just about religion. They were about money. “This is the moment when capitalism is beginning. The corporations that are formed through these explorations of the world — the Dutch East India Company and British East India Company — are the first capitalist corporations, and they are partially sponsored by their governments.”