Historical fiction is a literary genre in which the action takes place in the past. The term refers in particular to long prose narratives. The setting is drawn from history, and often contains historical persons. Writers of works in this genre portray the manners and social conditions of the persons or time(s) presented in the story, with attention paid to period detail.
In her preface to the book World Historical Fiction, a bibliographic reference work on the historical novel, Lynda Adamson debates the true definition of the term historical fiction. She states that a "generally accepted definition" is a novel "about a time period at least 25 years before it was written," but she respectfully disagrees, saying that people will view a novel as "historical" if it is about a past time period, even if the author was writing about his or her own times (she gives Jane Austen as an example; people will view Austen's works as historical, even if they were not intended in that way). Adamson offers her own definition: "If the setting is in a time earlier than that with which the reader is familiar, it is historical fiction."
Historical fiction is a genre of the novel which presents a story that takes place during a notable period in history, and often during a significant event in that period. Setting usually takes priority in a work of historical fiction, and the author should be making some sort of statement or observation about the period where and/or when the work is taking place. Historical fiction often presents events from the point of view of fictional characters of that time period. Events portrayed in historical fiction must adhere to the laws of nature.
In some historical fiction, famous events appear from. Historical figures are also often shown dealing with these events while depicting them in a way that has not been previously recorded. Other times, a historical event is used to complement a novels narrative, occurring in the background while characters deal with situations (personal or otherwise) wholly unrelated to that historical event. Sometimes, the names of people and places have been in some way altered.
Artistic license is permitted in regard to presentation and subject matter, so long as it does not deviate in significant ways from established history. If events should deviate significantly, the novel is likely to be classified as alternate history. This is defined by presenting and exploring a different outcome of a historical event, for instance, if the South had won the American Civil War. speculating on what could have happened if a significant historical event had occurred differently.
They demonstrate that history, however disorderly, remains meaningful. History can still enable humanity to know itself and its condition, and in the historical novel, especially the type devoted to recapturing the way it was, history often finds its most legitimate realization." (David Cowart, History and the Contemporary Novel (Chicago: University of Southern Illinois Press, 1989, p.?)