Talk:Historical fiction

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Authors[edit]

Why only anglophone authors? —Preceding unsigned comment added by 81.37.113.198 (talk) 21:37, 28 November 2007 (UTC)

Re-loaded[edit]

I've asked around and since no one had any opinion I have re-instated an article for this literary genre. I feel that the old redirect to historic novel was done hastily, and essentially limited the genre to one medium and caused some confusion among users that were redirected there. So I was bold, and here we are. Hewinsj 03:56, 11 April 2007 (UTC)

Good call, 'historical fiction' and 'historical novel' probably shouldn't have been merged in the first place. --Xiaphias 10:45, 11 April 2007 (UTC)

External link[edit]

Hello. I'm sorry if I'm using the wrong space for this, but this is my first time using a talk page, and I had trouble figuring out the system. I've created a website which lists over 2000 historical novels, organized by time and place. It also includes a list of authors with links to author websites. I think it would be a good link to add to the Historical Fiction page. It's at http://HistoricalNovels.info if you would like to consider it. Thanks! Margaret Donsbach (talk) 20:09, 23 March 2008 (UTC)

No problem, your in the right place. WP policy occasionally frowns on linking to so called fan sites, but what you have could be considered it an academic review of the subject. That said I added a link to your site with a brief description in the external links portion of the article. Thanks for the contribution and feel free to add to the article if you have time and can think of anything that hasn't been said. Hewinsj (talk) 07:45, 24 March 2008 (UTC)

Thanks for adding the link, and for your kind words about the site! This newbie to editing (though an oldie to consulting) Wikipedia appreciates your words of welcome.Margaret Donsbach (talk) 20:15, 26 March 2008 (UTC)

Some Facts[edit]

So, there is no citation in this article, and there's been some disagreement lately (concerning another article) about just what constitutes 'historical fiction'. I did a brief search, and here is what I came up with:

  • Encyclopaedia Britannica: [historical novel] "a novel that has as its setting a period of history and that attempts to convey the spirit, manners, and social conditions of a past age with realistic detail and fidelity."[1]
  • The Historical Novel Society: "To be deemed historical (in our sense), a story must have been written at least fifty years after the events described, or have been written by someone who was not alive at the time of those events (who therefore approaches them only by research)."[2]
  • ALA RUSA: "Historical fiction is defined as a story that is set at least a generation (25 years) prior to when it was written. In the best historical fiction setting, character and historical details combine to bring a historical period to life. These stories may center on real historical figures and real events or on fictional characters living in a particular time and setting. By reading historical fiction, one can gain insight into lives and times of the past. The best authors writing in this genre have conducted extensive research to authenticate their novels’ settings and details."[3]
  • Easttown Library: "Historical fiction is defined as fictional works (mainly novels) set before the middle of the last century, and ones in which theauthor is writing from research rather than from personal experience.”[4]
  • Teacher Materials: "Historical fiction is defined as “a bit of make believe” based on a factual historical event."[5]
  • "Historical fiction is defined by keeping in with true history and creating a fictional, but fully plausible story in a historical time period."[6]
  • "Historical fiction is defined as fiction that is set in a past time."[7]

It seems to me like the common point is that historical fiction is, pretty simply, fiction in a historical setting. The Historical Novel Society even counts alternate history or time-travel books as historical fiction.

So yeah, if no one has any contrary sources, I think this article should be changed accordingly; any objections? --Xiaphias 10:48, 11 April 2007 (UTC)

Thanks for the support. I based my definition on the definition we used in my college literature course, but did so from memory. If someone else has a more clear or more articulate way of saying "making up stories involving people or places that everybody knows about, without breaking cannon" by all means.
    • First off, I like the quote from Britannica because it easily states what the theme is about. That said I almost nominated that article for a name change (through their own user edit process) to historical fiction for the same reason I cut the redirect on this article. It limits the genre to novels. Still, I wouldn't mind citing it in this article where appropriate.
    • I like everything by ALA Rusa except for the first sentence. Some fiction considered modern by it's own standards may be viewed as historical fiction by today's readers. I wouldn't place a rigid time constraint on the writing in the terms as they state it. The same said for the east town library as stories about the 60's and 70's could have been viewed as historical fiction in the 90's.
    • I do disagree with the Historical Novel Society stance that this genre should also include alternate history and historical fantasy unless they do so as distinct sub-genres like the sub-genres of science fiction. As it stands this is a broad subject, and it's better to separate those that share qualities so that the article doen't become cluttered. I like the division of the three genres, as there are distinctive traits to each that make it hard to confuse one for the other. For instance, the film JFK followed a fictionalized account of the inquest into the JFK assassination, is historical fiction. Had Kennedy lived the film would have stepped over the line into alternate history. Mark Twain wrote stories in the American South which by todays standards are considered historical fiction, but The Amazing Screw on Head (set in the same time period) would be historical fantasy. The only problem I can see here would be Indiana Jones because they conform to the standards of historical fiction until the very end. Also, there are already substantial articles for both alternate history and historical fantasy so I'll go by the rule of "if it isn't broke, don't fix it". I also have reservations about their "written by people that weren't alive at the time of the event" quote.
    • As mentioned, some classic books that would be considered to fit historical fiction today were modern at their time of writing. The same goes today. At this point you'd be hard pressed to find someone writing about events taking place during the Cold War that wasn't alive when it was going on. It would also exclude literature like Forrest Gump, which is a fictional view of historical events that occured during the last generation.
I don't want to scare anybody off, I'm just think there is potential here for a good article. I started out using the featured article for science fiction as a template, ignoring subject matter but following article structure and themes. Hewinsj 14:22, 11 April 2007 (UTC)

Film genre[edit]

I'm not sure if you may run into a problem with the historical drama genre, since it seems like some of the info may overlap, but it may be worth it to have a look. I also agree that a split was needed, however. María (habla conmigo) 15:33, 11 April 2007 (UTC)

Encyclopedia Britannica nonwithstanding...[edit]

Less 'honest'y; more verisimilitude! Less passive voice! EBritannica nonwithstanding, 'stories' (='novels') do not make attempts, 'honest' or otherwise; writers do that --in the active voice if they have good editor(s). I subbed fictional for alternate because a different use of alternate (i.e., alternate history) is provided in the article below. Suggestion: Would not the (two) numbered footnotes be better as simple references --there are no quotations or challenges involved-- and perhaps more of the above references might be added? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Jbeans (talkcontribs) 09:56, 25 October 2008 (UTC)

List of examples[edit]

I'm not quite happy with the lengthy list of examples of authors. I removed all the non-notable entries (where neither author nor book had their own article), but the remainder is still far from optimal. Thus I'll remove Erich Maria Remarque and Dickens' Oliver Twist. In both cases the books can't properly be called "historical"; Remarque draws on personal experience, and Oliver Twist was set in the present, not in the past. I'll add Tolstoy's War and Peace and Dumas' Three Musketeers instead. I'd prefer a method to only list the "most significant" examples, but that's probably subjective, and I can't think of good criteria for significance. Huon (talk) 15:49, 22 January 2010 (UTC)

Would it be possible to create a category tag for works of historical fiction and apply them to articles which fall into the category? Wikipedia would then create a list on the back end for items marked with the tag. We can then limit the lists here to some arbetrary number of items so that they don't grow out of control. Hewinsj (talk) 16:55, 11 August 2010 (UTC)

A List of historical novels already exists, so I suggest that the list here are redundant and should be incorporated there and deleted. There is also a List of historical drama films, so that the same should be done with the list here. Rwood128 (talk) 12:44, 9 April 2014 (UTC)

Duplication with Historical novel[edit]

This article seems to overlap considerably with Historical novel. Historical novel# Authors of the past and Historical novel#Living authors seem to cover the same ground as Historical fiction#Literature. Should we remove all novels from this article (except perhaps an example or two),since that's a subtopic?   Will Beback  talk  08:44, 25 April 2010 (UTC)

I don't think I would disagree with that. The list has gotten much longer than it probably should have, so some maintinance might not be a bad thing. Could we agree on a maximum number of examples to display with this article? 5-10 maybe? Hewinsj (talk) 17:12, 11 August 2010 (UTC)


I don't think the two articles need to be combined. The problem is the ambiguity of the term 'historical fiction'. This article includes in addition to the novel, films and TV. I checked Fiction, and see that it also includes the theatre, short story, and music, and I'd add poetry. The ambiguity can best be dealt with in the lead, following the example of Fiction. And I'd suggest that the merge banner should be removed. Rwood128 (talk) 13:09, 8 April 2014 (UTC) (Note that the heading of that went with the above was erroneous)Rwood128 (talk) 13:16, 8 April 2014 (UTC)

A further point is that 'Historicl fiction' has little content other than lists. Perhaps this article could be merged/deleted. The article Historical drama film can better deal with movies, and presumable TV as well. Rwood128 (talk) 13:07, 9 April 2014 (UTC)

Critical Reception[edit]

I removed "Critical Reception" section as it was patently false- Is it unusual for a fiction genre to be embraced by mainstream critics? Represented an odd, personal POV and it was unsupported by the attached citation, which was merely an article listing last years Booker Prize nominees.

Recent additions to lead[edit]

Two new paragraphs have been added to the lead of this article, that seem to be discussing films that fall into the historical fiction genre. We aren't supposed to introduce new information to an article via the lead, so is there any way we can move this into the body of the article? Hewinsj (talk) 10:02, 19 August 2010 (UTC)

I've moved this down to the film/television section,but it sounds incomplete. I'm also not sure if this is specifically referring to sword and sandal movies or historical fiction as a whole. Hewinsj (talk) 17:05, 20 August 2010 (UTC)

How recent history?[edit]

Is historical fiction a genre that anyone studies seriously? Insofar as it is studied seriously:

Does the genre imply a setting outside living memory?

In contrast, may even autobiographical fiction qualify? --P64 (talk) 00:14, 8 September 2012 (UTC)

WorldCat Genres[edit]

Hello, I'm working with OCLC, and we are algorithmically generating data about different Genres, like notable Authors, Book, Movies, Subjects, Characters and Places. We have determined that this Wikipedia page has a close affintity to our detected Genere of historical-fiction. It might be useful to look at [8] for more information. Thanks. Maximilianklein (talk) 23:31, 5 December 2012 (UTC)

Definition[edit]

The definition section is in fact on just the historical novel. Rwood128 (talk) 14:01, 10 April 2014 (UTC)

While the definition below makes perfect sense, it isn't the usual definition for the historical novel. The fact that we may read Jane Austen, now, in a similar way to an historical novel is worth discussing in this article, but if all novels before, say, 19?0 (depending on the reader's age) are now historical novels, things become rather absurd:
"If the setting is in a time earlier than that with which the reader is familiar, it is historical fiction."

Re merging[edit]

I propose that the merge proposal is reversed and that this article be merged with the Historical novel. I know that the presence of the media content makes this a little illogical, but that can first be deleted -- there is no real substance to this content -- and this side of things is already being better dealt with elsewhere in the linked articles, though maybe an article Historical drama film or Historical film is needed (both of these now lead to List of historical drama films). Rwood128 (talk) 13:51, 12 April 2014 (UTC)

See 'Duplication with Historical novel' and 'Definition' above Rwood128 (talk) 13:54, 12 April 2014 (UTC)

I note that all the external links use the term 'historical fiction' as a synonym for 'historical novel'. Therefore, unless there's an objection I suggest that the merge should be completed. Rwood128 (talk) 11:13, 18 April 2014 (UTC)

Neither article seems very complete as yet. Historical fiction ought to include plays, as well as novels. The merger does not seem wise to me, especially as plays are not addressed in either article now. If material is duplicated, cut it short in one article or the other, and build up other topics. I am not a literature expert, just a reader who really likes historical fiction that is well done, for history and for plot and characters. This article now titled Historical fiction could do with a section on plays, and someone to fix the incomplete sentences (I would, but I cannot figure out what is meant.) I am not clear about films, if they belong here or rate separate treatment. The manner of telling the tale is so different in film -- especially when it is based on a book. The film will introduce errors of history that the author of the novel did not make (thinking of television adaptations of Brother Cadfael novels, where points of belief (mercy killing) were altered against history, making the adaptation less than the original. Rewriting history in science fiction, that is a stretch to me, for inclusion with proper historical fiction. The dissenting author who thinks Jane Austen's novels are historical fiction, is, I hope, a minority view, and labelled as such. Patrick O'Brian has Jane Austen's works to inform his writing style for the same period, but he wrote 160 to 190 years after the facts. It is the wiser voice who knows that Dickens wrote two historical novels, Barnaby Rudge and Tale of Two Cities. The rest were set in his time, starting back a bit so his characters can grow up. My two cents. --Prairieplant (talk) 14:35, 24 April 2014 (UTC)

  • Isn't the term 'historical drama' the one normally used for plays and historical fiction for novels? -- and, therefore, would it not be better to create a new article for plays? In fact you, in a way, seem to be saying that: "cut it short in one article or the other, and build up other topics".

Taken literally this, however, would just cause confusion. Rwood128 (talk) 20:32, 24 April 2014 (UTC)

It's worth noting the earlier history of this discussion (quoting from 2007, above): "Good call, 'historical fiction' and 'historical novel' probably shouldn't have been merged in the first place. --Xiaphias 10:45, 11 April 2007". It looks like earlier articles on films and plays were also merged with this article.
However, as far as I can see the term historical fiction is generally reserved for the novel, and the terms 'historical drama' and 'historical film/movie' applied to plays and films. Therefore, while the title of this article maybe correct it can only cause confusion. If articles are required for historical films and plays they can be created. A list of historical films already exists.

Rwood128 (talk) 13:23, 11 May 2014 (UTC)

The merge seems to be opposed -- though the two articles, as they now stand, deal with the same subject. Furthermore no one seems to be interested in developing a new article for historical drama, or expanding that topic within this article. Historical movies has a List class article. Does anyone have any further thoughts, or should the merge banners be removed? Rwood128 (talk) 22:47, 3 August 2014 (UTC)

I would prefer a more coherent approach to articles and categories about fiction, as I detest "novelist and short story writer" in lead sentence prose or infobox Occupation and the duplication of novelist and short story writer categories. I suppose it's hopeless.
FWIW we have apparent main articles adventure fiction (where adventure novel redirects, but adventure story is particular) and adventure film; fantasy (general, where fantasy fiction redirects), fantastic art, fantasy film, and fantasy literature; historical fiction and historical novel; romance novel (romantic fiction redirects); science fiction and science fiction film; school story (school novel redirects); sea story (none of maritime/nautical/sea fiction redirects). ... crime, detective, mystery [let me escape here]
a. This does not include, say List of science fiction authors, List of science fiction novels, List of science fiction short stories (where sf writer, sf novel, and sf short story redirect). I don't know whether we do that elsewhere.
b. "Science fiction" may be unique in being the adjective as well as the noun; that is, consider sf film and sf novel where usage excludes crime fiction film, historical fiction novel, etc.
I suppose the variety is so great partly because we have multiple overlapping wikiprojects for many years (Film, Franchise, Novels, at least). I don't see a way out.
--P64 (talk) 17:59, 7 August 2014 (UTC)
FYI, this year we have the article Novelist after 10 years as a redirect to Novel, whereas fiction writer and short story writer redirect to Fiction and Short story. User:Sadads and User:Rwood128 are the primary and secondary editor during this period.[9]
Perhaps Sadads alerted me when that article went live 2014-02-11. I bumped it down from Top- to Mid-importance for Children's Literature on that day, and my offhand opinion was Low. --P64 (talk) 18:18, 7 August 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for bringing me in on this. I agree these articles/organization etc, makes a mess, and the competing interests for a lot of these topics are also very complicated. On my list of to dos, that will probably take ages to explore, is to build out the "fiction" writer and "short story" writer pages. As for the duplication of organizational methods: this is not a bad thing: categories are more maintenance tools than navigational tools, while the links at the beginnings of articles help reads move between interesting and related explanations of content. I was actively going through the links to Novel and novelist earlier in the year dabbing the links to more specific topics related to what was in the article ( i.e. historical [[novel]] to [[historical novel]]). Really what we need is a few more literary scholars who know these broad topics really well and can engage the broad scope articles. I took a big bit of the burden off of Novel when I created subpages, because it no longer had to deal with the writing process, etc.
As for the merge: historical fiction tends to include film, short stories, plays about historical topics, LARPing, etc, when I think of it; that being said, the scholarship doesn't make a rigid distinction, with historical fiction always including historical novels, but sometimes representing just historical novels, while sometimes including historical dramas, films, etc. Sadads (talk) 18:34, 7 August 2014 (UTC)

There is already an article on the History play and a category Historical drama films. The topic of historical fiction might more appropriately be developed in the article Fiction. Rwood128 (talk) 19:51, 7 August 2014 (UTC)

I will remove the merge proposal, in view of the above comments, if there's no objection. The lede should however be revised. Rwood128 (talk) 16:56, 30 August 2014 (UTC)

Literary exemples by time period: Antiquity[edit]

The sub-heading 'Antiquity' needs to be clarified as it is ambiguous. Rwood128 (talk) 12:19, 24 September 2014 (UTC)

  • Would it not, perhaps, be sensible to turn this list into a new article, suitably linked? Rwood128 (talk) 12:42, 28 September 2014 (UTC)

Nautical fiction and pirate novels[edit]

Surely works like the following are better described as adventure novels: Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island (1883) and Captain Blood (1922) by Rafael Sabatini.

I will remove them unless there are objections.Rwood128 (talk) 11:01, 28 September 2014 (UTC)

List of literary examples[edit]

I'm still not happy with how this is placed in the middle of the article. Shouldn't it be treated as an appendix and placed at the end, or, as I've already suggested, perhaps it should be turned into a new article? The current placement disrupts the article, and there is the potential for this section to become much longer (ignoring the possibility of additional lists for plays, films and TV shows). Rwood128 (talk) 14:24, 29 September 2014 (UTC)

This list is in fact similar to the list that already exists on for the UK section of List of historical novels. I suggest that a merge should, therefore, be made and this one deleted --and a direct link created. Rwood128 (talk) 17:43, 29 September 2014 (UTC) -- Sorry, of course, the list here isn't just for the UK. Rwood128 (talk) 22:06, 29 September 2014 (UTC)

@Rwood128:@Alxtye: @Mogism: Guys let's make the template clearer and concentrate on the novels outlines, themes, etc, and reactualise the whole subgenres, corresponding to the literary exemples, without overweighing them. Lets make the article a whole redirecting point to all things historical fiction related ones. Let's try to make a portal of it. All the best regards: The Mad Hatter (talk)

@Mogism: @Rwood128: Hello, do you think we can... merge historical drama and period piece in a way? Can we merge it under one umbrella? I realise historical drama is redirected into the main article, can we however make it more significant and more impressive in a way? Wait, I think I have a solution. Kindest regards:The Mad Hatter (talk)

@Mogism: Hey I need help on sorting the categories and the remaining data in the stuff around the historical fiction movies c'est-a-dire the historical period drama that was newly created and updated by me.

Kindest regards: The Mad Hatter (talk)

Recent changes Styles and themes of historical novels section[edit]

@Mad Hatter: Where did you get those categories of historical fiction? I have been reading scholarship on historical fiction for 3+ years, and have never seen any of those terms as central to their description. You seem to be describing one element (conceits related to the setting/context), not actual styles or themes. Sadads (talk) 16:18, 12 December 2014 (UTC)

@Sadads: They existed before. There was historical fantasy before, there was sea story and historical whodunnit... before. I am... trying. I really wanted to cut them out. I tried to put some new things and categorization. You can join us into building it. I felt I should have divded them by... context. :) We and several others are trying to bring historical fiction at the core make whole Project of it. I am sorry, I just wanted to sort them out, we can discuss and improve, but it is making further expansion as we speak, you are free to make any contribution. I hope you can keep the original, because I feel my time is limited into editing... everything. :)

Kindest regards: The Mad Hatter (talk)
@Mad Hatter: I am talking about the new subsections like "Historical fiction in social interaction" and "Historical fiction with perspective commentary". The Genres you mention I am familiar with, but the new ones don't make a whole lot of sense...I will take a look at it later this evening and pull out a few pieces of scholarship, Sadads (talk) 21:12, 12 December 2014 (UTC)

(1) Doesn't "Historical biographies of historical persons" belong in the sub-genre section?

(2) The section "Styles and themes" might better be treated as a continuation of the previous section, "Historical novels — development", but without any of the distracting sub-headings. Rwood128 (talk) 12:48, 14 December 2014 (UTC)

Furthermore the subheadings are imprecise and don't clearly describe the content of these sub-sections. Perhaps the material in this section might be better incorporated elsewhere? Rwood128 (talk) 02:19, 16 December 2014 (UTC)

Need for citations[edit]

I'll try and work on this, especially re the French authors, where I did some cut and paste work. Rwood128 (talk) 16:36, 26 December 2014 (UTC)