It is my humble observation that most historical novels revolve around one or two historical events. Sometimes, the characters actually existed. Sometimes, there are fictional characters mixing with real-life people. So here’s my question: does a historical novel have to revolve around a particular event or can it just be about people living in that time, with the plot being about the characters rather than an event or a war or something else historically-major?
I mean, think about this for a second:
- An Infamous Army is about the lead up to and the battle of Waterloo
- The Widow of the South is about the Battle of Franklin during the Civil War and the aftermath of it, especially the Confederate cemetery on the grounds of the Carnton Plantation
- The Queen’s Dollmaker is about Versailles and, eventually, the French Revolution
- The Pirate Queen is about Grace O’Malley, who lived in late sixteenth century western Ireland, at a time when the Tudor conquest of Ireland and the stamping out of Gaelic culture was taking place.
- The Other Boleyn Girl is about Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn (and her execution) through the eyes of a real-life witness to those events, Mary Boleyn
- The Greatest Knight traces the rise of William Marshal, who eventually became Regent of England. Greatest Knight covers his life in the court of Henry II. The Scarlet Lion, the sequel, covers the events leading up to the Magna Carta.
This story is shaping up to be a tiny little bit about the ongoing war with France (the one that began soon after the French Republic was declared in 1793 and the one that didn’t end until Napoleon’s defeat in 1815). It’s about the rampant racism of the period–slavery was the norm in almost the whole world–and the efforts of a few to eradicate it through abolition movements. It’s about the society that upper class British people lived in then.