*read in show host voice*: Welcome back to Top Ten Tuesday – a weekly meme where a different topic is proposed to all bloggers and lists are made a-plenty! Each week bloggers receive new topics to list ten bookish things in a glorious display of pictures, gifs, and CAPITAL LETTERS!
Okay, I promise I’ll never do that again. I’m really excited for this week’s topic though because it’s about history *throws confetti*. If you don’t know, this meme is hosted @ The Broke and the Bookish and you should definitely head over to check them out! Seeing as I’m a bit of a history buff I spent an age making lists throughout the day to whittle down what I want to share with you today. Buckle up kids, this one’s a doozy:
Ten Historical Settings You’d Love To See More Of
Because yes! What a brilliant idea! I love to ponder over awesome things that could be talked about more and historical settings are always great. There’s a good deal of war fiction about sad maidens whose lovers go off to war, of wordy fiction set in roman times that no-one ever pulls up the effort to slog through, and British history pumped full of drama. Of course, I completely love every single one of these but wouldn’t it be fun to have more readily available variety? The answer, my friends, is yes.
As I like to consider this topic my specialty (mostly in the sense that I just really enjoy it rather than being any good at it) I thought I would entertain you all with a brush up on what exactly these periods were about. Because who doesn’t love to read about history, right? (If you don’t want to read about the event just skip to the part about why I want more of it). I have just done some quick (quick as in, this took me bloody hours) internet researching into these periods since, as I said before, these are periods I’m mostly unfamiliar with. So blame the internet if you disagree with anything.
I must apologise in advance, this is going to be a long one.
The French Revolution
The French Revolution began in 1789 and ended in the 1790s (c. 1799), when Napolean Bonaparte seized power. The revolution was influenced by the enlightenment as discontent and political unrest was at large. It essentially involved a great redesigning of the French political system. It didn’t actually achieve its goals, but it did help influence what was to come in the future, particularly by demonstrating the power of the people when amassed as one. An important document during this time was the Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen ( Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen) – which advocated a nation of equal opportunity.
What was unfair about pre-revolution France? The inequality. If you were born into a poor family, then no matter how hard you worked you could not move up the ranks. You were destined to a life of inescapable poverty.
Fun fact? 97% of Europe’s people were struggling to survive. 3% lived the luxurious life. So of course people were angry – I’d revolt, wouldn’t you? Previous to the French Revolution there was also the American Revolution – it sort of alerted people to the fact that maybe there was something to be done, but I won’t go into it.
This was also the time dubbed as ‘The Reign of Terror’, yup, the period where heads were rolling left, right and centre. If you were accused as a traitor then it was straight to the guillotine for you. Want to know something even scarier? It’s estimated that over 18,000 people died at the guillotine during this time, *gulp*. King Louis XVI was also executed during this period. How did he die? You guessed it.
As a sort of side note, about 10,000 African slaves were freed after the revolution. Also, certain religions that were illegal prior to 1789 were now legal. Thumbs up.
Why I Want More of it:
I’ve always been fascinated with the chaos of this period in France – a country with super interesting history. There’s probably quite a few books out there set during this period but just think, if more authors of the YA, Fantasy, and Dystopian (also alternate history) genres branched into this era there are so. many. possibilities. There’s one book, His Majesty’s Dragon (Naomi Novik), out there that is set during the Napoleonic Wars but rewritten as if dragons were involved! WHY AREN’T MORE PEOPLE DOING THIS?
The amount of violence, drama, and tension that is available for the picking here could serve for endless numbers of fantastic novels spinning off the historical, factual path into amazing plots of gasps and shrieks.
Venice is ‘said’ to be founded in 421 AD. There are no surviving records of the founding of this city but it’s believed that people came as refugees from surrounding areas. Why were there refugees? Close-by areas in Italy had been suffering from Germanic and Hun invasions. The Doge of Venice was the chief magistrate and leader of the republic of Venice, so he’s a big wig that appears in a lot of Venetian history. He was said to be the shrewdest elder in the city.
The city was first controlled by the Byzantine Empire but this ended in 726 (that’s when the Doge came into play). Then, in 810, the Franks had a crack (unsuccessfully) at taking control. Venice became this epic trading hub filled with its iconic gondolas, and it’s population steadily expanded. In 828, importantly, the body of St. Mark was smuggled from Egypt to Venice, he was made (and remains) the patron saint of the city. There’s a (or I should say THE) basilica, San Marco, built and named after him.
There’s quite a lot of stuff in Venice that you might recognise as originating from Constantinople (now called Istanbul). This is because they successfully raided the country (Turkey) after a whole bunch of shenanigans went down and Constantinople fell (another interesting era of history that I probably should have included on this list . . .). In fact, it’s a long winded history between Venice and the Turks between them capturing each other and whatnot. Best to not get into it right now.
In 1348 the Black Death killed off a HUGE percentage of the population – can you even imagine how scary it would’ve been at that time? The most iconic thing that came from this is the image of the doctors walking around in their bird masks.
Venice was actually largely impacted when North and South America were discovered – the trade focus shifted. The cherry on the cake, of course, was the second bout of plague striking in 1630 – aren’t you glad you live in modern times? Eventually Venice lost its influence in the world and Napoleon dissolved the Doge system (the republic), then it was given to Austria, then the Venetians rallied against the Austrians unsuccessfully – but the Prussians defeated the Austrians and . . . okay this is getting complicated. Let’s end it with Mussolini building a bridge from the mainland to the island and making travel a lot easier. It wasn’t damaged by fighting in WWII but it is now suffering from flooding – the city is literally slowly sinking.
Why I Want More of it:
Venice is possibly my favourite city in the world. I know it’s a bit cliché but it was one of the cities that I visited last year when I did a month abroad studying in a city called Bergamo (near Milan). I had a chaotic weekend of getting completely lost and I loved every second of it. It’s such a beautiful city with so much offer, the only adjective worthy of properly describing it is magical.
Coming home had me wondering about the history of Venice. It’s a city that I’ve always felt I knew the history of but in reality I didn’t. I realised that there’s obviously a huge amount of history to know about this place and have search for many books that would help me learn what I want to know. You can’t deny that the opportunities for setting a book in Venice are endless (and I’m sure there are many) but again, I wish there were more in YA, in Fantasy and fewer of the family saga types of books – think of all the drama that could be written and twisted from historical fact! Maybe Venetian pirates? If any of you know of such books PLEASE let me know! This is a book that I’m hoping to get my hands on at some point in the future:
The Russian Revolution
The revolution that I’m talking about happened in 1917 in two separate revolutions. One in February (March) and one in October (November)*. What did it achieve? It placed the Bolsheviks in power – they were a political group lead by Lenin. The revolution occurred when the faith and relationship, so to speak, between the Tsar (sort of like a king) and his people crumbled. The regime was seen as inefficient and, if you look at Russia at this time, the country was waaay behind the rest of the world in technological development (hey ho, what industrial revolution?).
A huge turning point in the action of the people was the poor efforts made during WWI. Russians armies suffered badly (and I mean really badly) – they were poorly formed and organised and resulted in Russia being painfully labelled as no match for European armies. If you didn’t know, the Russians were on the allies side, they were teamed with the good guys, much to the confusion of a lot of people (they still did awful things, if you were wondering, *cough*concentration camps*cough*).
So, riots happened, food was short, the Tsar abdicated and then was assassinated along with the rest of his family and the reign of the Tsars ended, because his brother was like hell no I’m not sitting on that throne. During this unsettled time the ‘soviet‘ group won control – why was it unsettled? There were land seizures and food controls, people had to proffer food to the government or, well, die. Not that they actually had any food to start with. Unfair much.
All of this resulted in Lenin essentially becoming a dictator of a Marxist state (communist). He made peace with Germany . . . namely by giving them Ukraine (bye bye food). It’s all pretty grim and full to the brim of riots and unhappiness.
*There was a calendar change, hence two dates.
Why I Want More of it:
The Russian Revolution is just about my favourite historical period because so much happens. I’m hoping to specialise in it in my future studies. Russian history, full stop, is fascinating. So much hardship, so much beauty, and so much to talk about. I know myself and other people interested in history will read a book at the word go if Russia is in the blurb. There’s a huge amount of potential in this setting and what happens when you use the essence of that culture and mix it with YA? Leigh Bardugo. I love her stuff. I’m desperately wishing that she’s started a trend and more people will delve into what Russian history has to offer.
My ultimate dream would be for Ryan Graudin to write something during this period. Let’s go crazy and write a contemporary set in Russia DURING the revolution? Does that even work?? Who cares!!? If someone researches this well there are literally endless possibilities.
Roman Empire . . . but in YA
Now, I’m not going to go crazy with the detail for details about the Roman Empire. Why? You probably already know a lot about it – and there’s an awful lot. So let’s fire off some quick, fast, and fun facts.
- Ancient Romans celebrated “Saturnalia”, a festival in which slaves and their masters would switch places.
- Flamingo tongues were a delicacy.
- It was considered a sign of leadership to be born with a crooked nose.
- Ancient Rome was eight times more densely populated than modern New York.
- Life expectancy was from 20 to 30 years.
- Paris was originally a Roman city called ‘Lutetia’.
- Ancient Greeks and Romans often bought slaves with salt.
- At its peak, the Roman Empire comprised only 12% of the world’s population.
- (this is my favourite one): In the 1st century AD, polar bears fought seals in Roman Amphitheatres flooded with water [which is something I studied, the fact that they’d flood the amphitheatres to re-inact naval battles – cool huh?].
- (and get this one): The Pyramids of Giza were more ancient to the Ancient Romans, than ancient Rome is ancient to us.
Why I Want More of it:
Now I know there’s a lot already out there about these roman times. What I would like to see is it written in a more . . . approachable manner. A lot of the ‘roman’ literature is heavy reading, filled with endless facts, and the size of the book needs a warning for possible injuries caused by holding it. Why is this? I know it’s fascinating but I think the world could really benefit from more of this but in YA format – sort of like what Rick Riordin has done with the Percy Jackson series, but Roman not Greek. I love this period, it has so much to offer but I so often get put off by the books.
Imagine if Sarah J. Maas wrote a fantasy series about an assassin in Rome, an assassin who was freed from fighting in the Colosseum? Or, or, maybe a sci-fi novel where someone travels to the future and the future is Rome during the Roman era but futuristic!! OR steampunk Roman Empire?!! PLEASE MAKE THIS HAPPEN.
The first Indian civilisation arose in the Indus valley about 2,600 BC. It’s been dubbed as a hugely advanced civilisation in terms of farming and whatnot – the land was incredibly wealthy which meant a threat of invasion in later years. The settlements also had a form of writing but no-one has been able to understand it in modern times, which is a bummer. But the settlements were planned well – based on grid patterns – with 2 to 3 storey houses, they were built with brick, and the streets even had drains. Sadly, after 1,700 BC the Indus valley civilisation broke down. It wasn’t rediscovered until the 1920s.
The next ‘race’ of people to enter India were called the Aryans, mostly from central Asia. They were a semi-nomadic race of pastoralists. They also had chariots (just saying). Anywho, rice became a wildly popular and successful resource to farm which was great for the economy and civilisation slowly returned to something similar to the Indus valley era (sounds a bit like Rome, eh?). When Buddha was born the religion didn’t take root, that happened much later.
Then, the Persians invaded and captured the North-West part of India and then SUPRISE Alexander the Great decided he wanted that part of India and decimated the Persians (okay, he just defeated them, but drama) but then he died from partying too hard and India got that section back to itself. Whew. All in all this successive conquering didn’t really impact upon the fundamental happenings of the Indian civilisation.
In 322 BC Chandragupta Maurya became king in the north of India and was wildly successful at being a king. He was even cool and abdicated for his son because he was all like hey, I reckon you’ll do a better job now. #GoodParenting. (and by good ruling I mean, he’s still mean like any ancient kingling would be, but just sort of good at it). Of course, when he died the empire declined. All good things come to an end.
A few more things happen and then we move onto India in the middle ages which involves a lot of Hun action. So voila! Sounds like fun, right? You could totally turn this into a dystopian sci-fi . . . or something. Maybe more dragons?
- According to Greek philosophers slavery did not exist in ancient India.
- Chess was a popular game in ancient India.
- Buddha was born in India about 483 BC.
- Alexander the Great died in 317 BC.
- India invented the Number System.
- The World’s first university was established in Takshila in 700 BC.
- Sanskrit is considered the mother of all higher languages. Which looks like this:
- The art of Navigation was born in the river Sindh 6000 years ago.
- The value of “pi” was first calculated by Budhayana.
- Sushruta is the father of surgery.
- Usage of anesthesia was well known in ancient India.
Why I Want More of it:
GUYS. India has so much to offer! India is full of amazingly awesome history that I know next to nothing about and I want to change this. More books need to be written during this period because I’ve read and seen barely anything on it. Reading the Tiger’s Curse saga but Colleen Houck opened my eyes to the possibilities, she plays with so much of the religion and beliefs and it’s entirely enthralling. Also the language makes for beautiful pet names for characters. If anyone writes a fantasy or YA book during this period I will INSTANTLY BUY IT.
After doing my internet wanderings one thing came to my attention: India has a very mathematical past. There’s a lot of Indian scholars who were the first to discover important scientific stuff. So . . . sci-fi? Time travel? Yes?
As I’m sure all of you are getting tired of reading my dramatically simplified versions of history, so, I have a treat for you for the Chinese Dynasties. You might be familiar with John Green – just that guy who wrote The Fault in Our Stars? Yarp. Well, he’s also a YouTuber ANND he’s done a ‘crash course’ on 2000 Years of Chinese history. You’re welcome.
I had trouble linking in this video so click HERE to be redirected to its YouTube page.
Admittedly is a
little very confusing, so you can see why I just didn’t even attempt to summarise it.
Why I Want More of it:
I recently read a book set during the Ming Dysnasty (The Sage, the Swordsman, and the Scholars) and have become fixated on the idea of reading more. I’m not entirely sure if there is a huge range out there or not, I suspect not, but oh wow is there potential. Chinese history is rich with culture and coupled with its myths and folklore there’s so much potential for epic fantasies to run rife throughout this setting. As long as there’s a pronunciation chart for characters’ name at the start I’m all in.
Okay, so maybe I’m being lazy or maybe John Green is awesome. Who knows? All I know is that you guys get to watch another epic and awesome Crash Course.
Why I Want More of it:
I feel like this is an obvious one to choose. The Vikings, I’m sure, are a point of fascination for many people. I’m actually doing a course on them this semester at uni and I cannot wait to start that! I actually don’t know much about them but I get so excited at the prospect of a book being set there. If you watch Doctor Who, there was actually an episode in series 9 set in a Viking village and IT WAS AWESOME. There really needs to be more of this. In any genre – although fantasy and YA would be great, because, you know.
And let’s not get me started on Norse mythology (which is totally becoming a thing right now).
17th Century America
17th century America was the time in which the actual Pocahontas lived. She was born in 1596 and died 1617. Her traditional lifestyle changed with the arrival of the English in Jamestown, 1607. Captain John Smith is also a real figure and the person who first met Pocahontas and her father (the chief). He ends up getting captured and she rescues him – hence the birth of the famous story. She became a sort of peace symbol to the English and the natives helped feed the English who were miserably failing at survival, #WhatFarmingSkilz. Of course the English then exploited them and burnt their crops and villages, so you know, bit of a rocky relationship. Eventually the chief simply moved the tribe further inland and Pocahontas was told that Smith died on the way back to England from wounds. She stopped visiting the English. Time passed and she was kidnapped by the English to use a leverage, because of this she was actually brought to Jamestown; she learnt English and about their religions. In 1614 she converted to Christianity and was baptised Rebecca. She did have a final encounter with Smith, who hadn’t actually died, and it was very emotional for her. She died at the age of 22.
- She had 26 brothers and sisters but was her father’s favourite child.
- Her father apparently took a liking to John Smith and called him a son – he gave him the name, Nantaquoud.
- She married an Englishman, John Rolfe, and had one son, Thomas. They were first interracial marriage in America.
- She met Queen Ann and King James.
Aside from Pocahontas . . .
- Jamestown was founded in 1607.
- In early years there was a very high mortality rate.
- The Spanish had several successful settlements and the French were poking around in Canada.
- Eventually Martial law was imposed.
- Harvesting the tobacco crop provided the colony with something to trade to England.
- Single women were eventually allowed to travel to Jamestown in the hope of encouraging settlement rather than having the men return.
And so on. There’s a lot of interesting things happening at this time and a lot of potential for stories to be born from it.
Why I Want More of it:
One of the main reasons that I thought this would be a great era to see more of was because of Pocahontas which is set in Virginia during the 17th century. As a kid Disney’s retelling of this story had always fascinated me, but I’m more interested in it now that I’m older. I feel like there’s huge potential for not only fantasy but historical fiction for writing books on this. I’ve not seen any books so far set in a similar setting although I’m sure there are some – but if I haven’t come across one yet then I’d say there needs to be more.
I feel like maybe for Americans they’d know a fair bit more about this then I do, seeing as I live in Australia and therefore never really touched this in school. I’d be interested to know if Americans are familiar with this period and their thoughts on writing more fiction on it – perhaps it’s a touchy subject to turn into fantasy? But then again . . . Walt Disney did. I’m just completely fascinated with the history of Native Americans.
Why I Want More of it:
Frustratingly, I really don’t know much of Polish history when it comes to prior to the World Wars. I went to The Expo in Milan in 2015 and at the Polish pavilion they were playing an 8 minute video that recapped Polish history, that’s the video you just saw above. Oh my goodness it was fascinating. But it did bring my lack of knowledge to my attention. This is something I desperately want to fix – and I’d love to do so by seeing more books about it. Any type of book. I’ve struggled big time to find anything written on Poland and isn’t dry reading. Unfortunately, because I don’t know much I don’t know what genres would be cool or not. Although, going by experience, throwing dragons into any history shakes things up for the better usually . . .
The word ‘Denmark’ actually dates back to the Viking era so it could tie in with the history of the Vikings as mentioned above. Between the 13th and 17th centuries Denmark had a huge amount of influence – it was kind of like a superpower. It used to be a lot bigger but after losing quite a few battles they relinquished a lot of land.
They’ve actually traced hunter settlements back to the Ice Age . . . as far back as 12500 BC. Wow. During the Viking era (about 300 years of it) Denmark conquered England, Ireland, Northern France and parts of Russia. They just didn’t keep the territories very well. This period ended when an important dude, Canute IV, was murdered and the power behind the Vikings crumbled.
Of course the Black Death also visited Denmark in 1350 and a great portion of the population was wiped out. This sort of shifted things around and guess what the result was? Danish Queen Margrete I. Hooray! A monarchy! (Cue: fantasy galore). Of course the peace that this Queen and her union of several places had formed dissolved quickly – Sweden went, Um actually I don’t want to sit at your table anymore, and fighting, fighting, fighting. There were about 6 wars which took up most of the 16th and 17th centuries. Yikes. They are also the owners of that famous 30 year war you may have heard about.
For the next few hundred years there are more wars and a whole bunch of different leaders, king blah blah blah and queen blah blah blah. Too much to write down. After losing a lot of their country they actually came up with this motto: ‘outward losses must be compensated by inward gains’, which I think is sort of cute. But on to the more interesting stuff.
- There are 443 named islands in Denmark, 76 of which are inhabited. (Pirate potential, anyone?)
- The flag of Denmark was adopted in 1219.
- Denmark is the homeland of the Germanic ethnicity and culture.
- The Danish royal family is probably the oldest uninterrupted European monarchy.
- Between 1397 and 1524, the whole of Scandinavia was unified under Danish rule.
- Dyrehavsbakken is the world’s oldest operating amusement park. Its origins can be traced back to the late 16th century.
- Fairy tales belonging to Denmark: “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, “The Little Mermaid”, and “The Ugly Duckling”.
Why I Want More of it:
I want more of this mostly because I know very little and partially because Copenhagen has a Little Mermaid statue because that’s where the fairy tale is set. Not going to lie there. Seeing as I don’t know very much but for some reason am interested in this country I feel like there’s got to be great opportunities for historical fiction here. I for one would be interested in reading a book purely for it’s setting in Denmark. After doing the above research however it’s quite clear that fantasy would definitely be a fun genre to run through that history. Just saying.
Thanks for sticking around to read that mammoth post, I had fun writing it and I hope you had fun reading it! Perhaps you even learnt something new.
All of these places are have a particular interest in mostly because I don’t know much about them myself. They’re places that don’t seem to come up as often in my studies or I just haven’t really seen them in books.
What period of history would you like to see more of?
Let me know in the comments below!
~~ Kirstie ~~