General Historical Fiction

In my last post, I gave you suggestions for what writers need to keep around. In this post, I am going to further explore general needs in historical research. The historical fiction that I write covers a wide time frame, though most of it is limited to the Dark Ages through to the Regency Era. Still, that covers almost 1,500 years of human history. In addition to those time periods, I also have a series in the 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt as well as several series set in the time periods around the two World Wars (1910-1950). Due to the time periods that I cover, a general history is always the best place for me to start researching a new novel.

In the list below, I own the first five books, and I use the last one on a somewhat regular basis.

  1. The Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History, published in 2000.
  2. The Kingfisher Illustrated History of the World, published in 1992.
  3. The Timetables of History, New Third Edition, published in 1991.
  4. People's Names: A Cross-Cultural Reference Guide to the Proper Use of Over 40,000 Personal and Familial Names in Over 100 Cultures by Holly Ingraham, published in 1997.
  5. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Seventh Edition.
  6. History of Art, Sixth Edition, by H.W. Janson and Anthony F. Janson, published in 2001.
Though the first three books are at least a decade out-of-date, they provide the general overviews that I need to history. Besides, if it happened much after 1996 or so, I usually have a good general knowledge of the major events. If you desire to purchase a general history of the world, purchase the most up-to-date you can find.

While I use the first three as a general reference guides in the aspect that I need to know what happened when, the last three are more practical for other reasons. For a review on People's Names, go here to read my review from December 2012.

The Norton Anthology, and the History or Art both provide me with a good overview of particular time periods as well as the text or the images that relate to that time period. They also provide the important players, leaders, and thinkers of the time period. Each book provides an article on the time period discussed. For the authors in Norton there is a short biography before their work. In both cases, they help me decide what a character might read or what art style a character might enjoy, especially if there are competeing art styles.

A note on The Norton Anthology, should you write more in American culture, it would be wise to use The Norton Anthology of American Literature in addition to the English Literature. Many of my books take place in the British Isles or have an connection to the Isles, therefore, I use the English Literature more than the American Literature. If your novel is set in another country, try to find an anthology of the country's literature as well - in English, if you cannot read said language.

There are many other books out there that give a good overview of history, but these are the ones that I use on a regular basis. In addition, some of the general ones I actually place under different headings such as weaving, fashion or military. Those, I will explain further in a later post.


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