Tuesday, January 24, 2012


We’ve all seen them in movies, the watch only half-hidden under the medieval garment, the car in the background of the wild western scene.
But an author who wants her historical novel to be taken seriously works hard to avoid such things.
It’s important to remember that before the Industrial Revolution almost everything was handmade. This meant it took a long time and was therefore expensive. On a winter’s night the family sat in one room, in front of the fire. When you have to gather and chop the wood yourself, you aren’t going to waste it heating several rooms. The men carved furniture or household implements, the women spun wool, carded it and wove it into clothing.
If you didn’t grow it or make it yourself, you needed to sell your crops or your labor to get money to buy whatever you needed. Which translates as, poor people didn’t have them!
Before you send that hero with the broken leg to the doctor to get it set in plaster, check to see if plaster had been invented yet. (About 1835 in Europe, 1850 in Britain.) Want them to play a game of squash? Although precursors had been around since the twelfth century, it really began in Britain among those in jail. If your book is set in America, maybe they should play tennis instead.
Happy researching.
Helen Woodall

1 comment:

anny cook said...

Ah, yes, the wallbangers! Research, research, research...