Historical Novels: Their Importance

 

Louis_L'Amour

“Historical novels are, without question, the best way of teaching history, for they offer the human stories behind the events and leave the reader with a desire to know more.”

Louis L’Amour (2008). “Education of a Wandering Man”, p.15, Bantam

Mister L’Amour’s words have proven true in my life. My three favorite genres have always been history, historical fiction and biographies, even as a child.

The historical fiction books I read during my growing-up years, such as The Horse Soldiers (Harold Sinclair), The Black Arrow (Robert Louis Stevenson), and The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas) spurred my youthful hunger for more knowledge about these books’ eras. Getting lost in the past was, for me, sheer joy.

Sadly, many people today have little knowledge of the past. They learn their history from “historical” movies, most of which aren’t entirely accurate. It’s become easier to watch a film than it is to read.

So, we historical fiction writers have a challenge. Our writing must be at the “top of our game.” Not only must we write well, we must also keep our facts accurate. Our books may not win a Pulitzer Prize write like Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels, about the Battle of Gettysburg, but if our historical novels get more folks interested in learning about the past, our time and labor is worth it. 

Research, write, and read! Till next time, friends. Have a great week.

Books

5 thoughts on “Historical Novels: Their Importance”

  1. You are so right, Jack!
    Our history teacher in high school droned me to sleep with facts and dates, so I thought I didn’t like history. Then Prof Jensen in Greenville College told me stories, and history became fun.

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    1. Although I already loved history, my high school history teacher in my senior year told stories as well. I only had him one semester, though, because he had his doctorate and wanted to teach in my school’s junior college. This was a private school that had both a high school and a junior college. I understood his decision, but hated it. My second semester a football coach taught it and all he did was basically read from the textbook. It was obvious he didn’t know history and only wanted to be a football coach. Thankfully, it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for history because I was already hooked. I majored in history in college.

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  2. Agree on all points. I read historical fiction AND biographies (as you have and do) and I have authored many historical fiction novels. I’m pretty much addicted to history. And it saddens me as I interact with teenagers on a regular basis (youth sponsor at my local church) and witness their limited knowledge of even the most basic historical events. It’s up to us to impart to the next generation!

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    1. It saddens me also. Part of the problems our country is facing right now, I believe, is a lack of understanding regarding our nation’s past. I recently heard David McCullough tell a sad story on television. He said he visited several colleges and just went around asking students basic history questions. Their answers were all wrong, he said. Even more shocking, he said that most of them didn’t realize our country’s thirteen original colonies were on the Eastern seaboard.

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  3. Amen. Although one of the first thirteen colonies in America, Rhode Island has been largely forgotten by the history books. If I can share a little of the grand history of the little state I will have accomplished one of my goals. Huzzah for the little state with a big heart.

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