The chief executive of English Heritage, the government body responsible for the historic environment, told the Independent on Sunday filmmakers' "sloppy" and "formulaic" approach to history had left a generation of children confused.

 

"One of my principal concerns is that the majority of children now leave school with the sketchiest of chronology about English history," Simon Thurley said, adding that they turned to films for knowledge.

 

Antony Beevor, Britain's best-selling author of popular history, told the newspaper the Americanisation of British history was a particular problem.

 

"You can't turn every hero in the world into an American," he said.

 

Spielberg's distortions

 

The historians singled out Saving Private Ryan, based on the Normandy second world war landings, U-571 about submariners, and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as prime offenders.

 

In Saving Private Ryan all mention of British or Allied troops was omitted, while the British submariners at the heart of the real action were replaced by Americans in the film U-571.

 

Robin Hood was accused of distorting Britain's medieval

past.

 

Beevor described the trend as "shameless and totally

irresponsible - a grotesque distortion of history".

 

Classical historian Bettany Hughes said it was not just British history that had been misrepresented.

 

"Hollywood has committed some terrible crimes against history," she said, describing the Hollywood epic Troy as a

"travesty of mismatched cultural references".

 

 "Dead heroes in Greco-Roman dress were cremated with coins

on their eyes - before money had been invented," she said.