The Historical Genre, is a literary genre in which the primary plot takes place in the past. Additionally an essential element of the Historical genre is that it pays attention to the manners, social conditions and details of the depicted time period.
Authors also frequently choose to explore notable historical figures in these settings, portraying to readers how these individuals might have responded to their environments. The Historical genre also has several subgenera such as alternate history or historical fantasy, which insert speculative or ahistorical ( a lack of concern for history, historical developments etc.) elements into texts.
Napoleon at the Battle of Austerlitz - François Gérard 1810
There are several important features that writers often include when depicting historical events:
- Characters - whether real or of the writers own imagination, characters behave in keeping with the era they are depicted in. Characters are often faced with turmoil over societal norms (attitudes, beliefs, expectations etc.) of their time, though it is up to the writer whether they challenge or accept those norms.
- Dialogue - writers will often only dip into the vocabulary and grammatical structures of the past by inserting words and phrases so that the reader is reminded of the time period, without using so much that the language is hard to understand. Additionally, it is important to acknowledge that over time many words can change their meanings and so context is key.
- Setting - a key aspect of the Historical genre, setting is what transports the reader into the past. Again, accuracy is key in ensuring the time period is brought to life and a historical text relies on an authentic sense of place.
- Cultural Understanding - writers will use factual information so as to effectively interpret the time period. However, writers will sometimes create characters whose values and ideals reflect those of their own culture and time period rather than those that would be historically accurate.