What Is Living History?

Many people regard “living history” as part of the whole historical reenactment world. In other words, a “battle reenactment” is the meat, and “living history” is the minor sideshow. However, to me, “living history” is a broad and general term However, as far as I’m concerned, “living history” . I go according to how Jay Anderson defined it in his 1984 book, Time Machines: the World of Living History, the first and still the best academic book on the phenomenon: "Living history can be defined as an attempt by people to simulate life in another time, Generally, the other time is the past.”

The past is all inclusive. Although certain eras are more popular than others for living history—you can find many groups devoted to Roman Empire, to the early Middle Ages, to the European renaissance, to the English Civil War, to the American War of Independence, to the American Civil War, to the American Wild West and to both World Wars—but other eras are also fair game. Much living history is centered around conflicts, although not all is. Even military living history must incorporate non-military culture if it is to present an honest illusion of the time concerned.

For most part, all living history is illusion. We are not exactly duplicating the past; we are trying to replicate it so that it is safe and, generally, less expensive. Bullets and sharp metal weapons are not used in battlefield simulations; most reenactors stay away from various historical diseases. In addition, except for the most recent eras, authentic artifacts are not used, only accurate replicas. Unless these are manufactured on the line—at an event before the public—they may be duplicated using modern or non-period technologies. Constructing these replicas using only the technology used at the time, whether done in solitude, in a group or for spectators, is commonly known as “Experimental Archaeology.”

At living history events, persons dress in period clothing, performing period tasks using period equipment. However, there are several different types of events. I commonly divide living history events into these sub-categories:

Re-Creation: An event that duplicates a general culture and era.

Reenactment: An event that recreates a specific historical incident, for example the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Battle Reenactment: An event that recreates a specific military confrontation, such as the Battle of Gettysburg.

Battle tactical: An event that recreates the strategies and tactics that were common during an historical era, although it does not recreate a specific incidents.

Show: An event that is held for the public (most living-history events are performed for the uncostumed public).

BUFU Show: An event that is closed to outside spectators, an acronym for By Us For Us.

Obviously, an event can fall into several categories, just as any one of these sub-categories may be classified as “living history.”

The standards of a living-history presentation occupy a wide sliding scale. It has often been stated that an organization with low standards is not living history. It is. It is just bad living history! In Micel Folcland, of course, we are trying to present good living history.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License