Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Getting history 'right'

Can you get it right? Since I write about such a remote period (and love to read about earlier stuff) I'm uncertain if you can. It's more to do with a baseline of research, I think. Well certainly when it comes to 5th-6th century Britain, anyway.

I can always tell whether novelists have done their research. If they have, they're entitled to their interpretation - if not, then the novel is in the fantasy realm, not historical fiction.

For my research, I tend to concentrate on archaeology, which provides the material culture on which the author can build a convincing past. Material culture can be anything from clothing to religious artefacts, and taking it into a broader sense, buildings, methods of agriculture, etc. Historical documents are written with specific bias (often by high status personages, or for high status personages). The fruits of archaeology can also interpreted with a particular modern bias too, but they can offer insight into the mundane aspects daily lives of our forebears - there's nothing quite like the contents of a nice cess pit :-)


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