Historical Fiction

We are continuing our recent literary theme today, this time looking at historical fiction.

One of our major goals here at Histropedia is to make history more accessible, we are attempting to do this through creating a new and engaging way to visualise history through interactive timelines.

Another great way to get people more interested in history is through historical fiction.

Good historical fiction transports the reader back in time, allowing them to get a real sense of what life was like during the period the work was set in. Combined with a compelling narrative and a human element the best historical fiction can help spark an interest that can easily overflow into a more detailed, academic study of history.

If you want to start reading historical fiction, or for those you who are already fans of the genre, take a look at some of the timelines below from our literature category.

Bernard Cornwell – Sharpe series

The series (composed of several novels and short stories)  is set in 19th-century Europe and India. It centres on the character of Richard Sharpe and his progress in the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars. Other historical novels by Bernard Cornwell include the Starbuck Chronicles, set during the American Civil War; the Saxon Stories set in Alfred the Great’s pre-England; the Grail Quest Novels set in mid-14th century England/Normandy; and The Warlord Chronicles, set in Arthurian Britain. Wikipedia

I’ve just started reading Cornwell’s books, I recently finished The Warlord Chronicles and am about to start the Saxon Stories.

James Clavell – The Asian Saga

The Asian Saga is a series of six novels set between about the 1600s to the 1900s. The novels all centre on Europeans in Asia, and together they explore the impact on East and West of the meeting of these two distinct civilizations. Wikipedia

My favourite book that I’ve read form the Asian Saga is Shogun, which is set in Japan in the 1600s. I first read Shogun while travelling during my late teens. I remember at the time being completely transported to a different time and being amazed at the idea of people setting out on a journey to an unknown destination that would be a minimum 3 year round trip if they ever made it back at all.

George MacDonald Fraser – The Flashman papers

The Flashman Papers is a series of novels and short stories that centre on the exploits of the fictional protagonist Harry Flashman, who is placed in a series of real historical incidents between 1839 and 1894. While the incidents and much of the detail in the novels have a factual background, Flashman’s actions in the stories are either fictional, or Fraser uses the actions of unidentified individuals and assigns them to Flashman. Wikipedia

I was inspired to write this post because yesterday I made a timeline to celebrate George MacDonalds Fraser’s birthday. The Flashman books are truly incredible. The level of historical detail in the series is truly remarkable and I have learnt a huge amount of genuine history from reading this series. Fraser writes the books as if he is merely editing a set of recently discovered memoirs and accompanies each book with extensive notes and genuine references as he “attempts” to put the main characters exploits in the context of history.

Sean McBirnie

Co-Founder at Histropedia

Latest posts by Sean McBirnie (see all)

One comment

  • At the Voltaire Foundation we’ve recently had the opportunity to work with the University of Oxford’s Wikimedian in residence, Dr Martin Poulter. He has helped us to build some new content for our website as well as contributing to our mission to promote the work of Voltaire. In this blog post, he explains a bit more about the project.

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