Friday, March 4, 2011

The History of Living History

I’m not sure how much crossover there is between the readers of this blog and listeners to the Living History Podcast. Well, if you’re a listener you already know about this obsession, if you’re not. I’ve got a new/old obsession.

I love history and knowing how things came about. Just after college I took a couple of graduate level courses in history, and discovered historiography  (i.e. the history of the study of history) and though I did horribly in the classes, I totally latched on to the concept. When studying Medieval Europe it is essential to look at the history of thought about the Middle Ages. Those pesky Victorians did a lot to bring the Medieval back into fashion, but they did a lot of damage as far as mythmaking and historical theories as well. When I start in on a research project I enjoy not just learning facts from a certain era, but learning about how the ways we think about that era has changed over time. Which brings me to (one of) my current research topics: The history of Living History.

I want to know when people started dressing up in old clothes at organized events in order to portray times past. I want to know how the hobby that I engage in today got to be as popular as it is. I want to fit reenacting into a historical context all of its own. I am at the very early stages of my research, mostly just gathering resources right now. That is one of the reasons for the LH Bibliography page I’ve got here.

I’m also interested in proto-reenacting. Examples of people dressing up and performing history before reenacting got its start. There are tons of pageants with historical themes, and I am intrigued by pageants. But that seems like a whole other topic…

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