Let’s start with whether the Peaky Blinders were an actual gang running amok in Birmingham. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the answer is yes. They were a real street gang that operated in the city for about two decades beginning in 1890. While the real Peaky Blinders had a few things in common with the characters of the TV show, one character who is purely fictional is the show’s leading man, Thomas “Tommy” Shelby.

Tommy Shelby (portrayed by Cillian Murphy) is a veteran of the Great War. He is battling symptoms of PTSD when he returns home and becomes the head of the Peaky Blinders gang. He and his family get involved with illegal activities like gun running and horse racing, which brings conflict and challenges from rival gangs. In the midst of all these criminal ventures, he meets Grace Burgess, and they do eventually marry and have a child together. Though an actual person known as Thomas Shelby did not run the Peaky Blinders, his character was possibly based on one of the real leaders of the gang, Thomas Gilbert, aka Kevin Mooney, according to Boss Hunting.

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