June 5, 2012

History Questions From Passion for the Past

This post is a response to Ken's post at Passion for the Past. Go on over and check his blog out if you haven't already.

How long have you into history?

-I have been into history since elementary school. I was really interested in ancient Egypt first. 

What got you into it?

-  I had a really cool Egyptian set when I was a kid that had stamps for Egyptian letters. My best friend and I used to write each other notes in “Egyptian.” We also played French Revolution (barricades, anyone?) and runaway slaves. I guess we were an eccentric duo.  

What was it that clicked inside your head that all of a sudden made you realize you had an obsession with the past?

-I loved historical fiction. I really wasn’t interested in fantasy books like most children. 

Do you only study a certain era in history or all eras?

- I am limited in my areas of history. American history is my favorite but history does not exist in a vacuum so American History is a world affair.  My favorite eras and places in order might surprise you:  Revolutionary War, French and Indian, Civil War, Ancient Egypt. Maybe not.

Do you only study American history or do you study world history?

-I’ve taken a good amount of classes on Chinese and Indian history as well but it’s not my focus.

Are you partial to daily life, politics, or wars of the past?

- I am one of those people who is happy that she gets to choose what historical period she wants to be in for a few days. However, if I had to pick another period to live in for one month, I would probably pick Colonial.

Whichever subject you chose (daily life, politics, or war), what interests you most about the chosen subject?

-Daily life of the average person is my favorite thing to study but I do believe that you need to study as many aspects of a time period as you can. These things didn’t exist independently of each other and we should work together with each other to help create a fuller picture of the past.  I force myself to read books on politics and military strategy. Surprisingly, as with most things, it gets more interesting the more I learn about it. 

How do you do your research? Do you look up information on the internet or stick with history books? If you research on the 'net, do you double or triple check the sources?

I read A LOT. I try to read everything I can about a subject that I am researching. I read current books, magazine articles, scholarly journals, newspapers ect. I ask more knowledgeable people to point me in the direction of sources. I check old archives. I read older books on the subject to see how historiography on the subject has changed. I collect primary accounts and secondary accounts from the period (it’s nice to know what people of the time thought about an event, even if they weren’t there or their information was not correct.) I make note of conflicting sources and try to factor out who is reliable and who isn’t. You would be surprised how misinformation spreads.  

If by book, do you read multiple books on the same subject? 

-I do read multiple books on the same subject but sometimes on related subjects too. For instance, if I am studying colonial cooking, I will also be studying economics and trade to see what exactly was available and at what prices. 

To what extent do you research? 

- Too much. I am a perpetual researcher and never get around to writing anything up. My perfect job would be assistant researcher, although I would love to be a writer. Maybe, someday.

If you reenact, why? What makes you want to put on period clothing and subject yourself to ridicule by family and friends and strangers?

-I reenact because it's fun. If it wasn't fun I wouldn't do it. I like to spend my weekends in the past because I am overcome with technology and modern work. It's nice to get a taste of historical work (working together at home with family and friends.) I like teaching about the period but I like creating a different world for people to get lost in, more. I kind of like the strange literary "gypsy," caravan-style meetings. All reenactors have friends all over the country and we all drive far distances to meet up with our friends and build a town for a weekend. Then we don't see each other until the next meet up, sometimes we only see certain friends once a year. If you go to an event where you don't know anyone, you are almost certain to know someone who knows someone you know. :)

Is dressing in period clothing a want or a need?  

- I think it’s still a want at this point. It is definitely a preference over modern clothes. I feel pretty in dresses, even my dirty Civil War dress. Modern clothing clings to every body flaw. In the past, you could achieve an attractive “shape” regardless of what your body shape was.   

How do you feel while wearing accurate period clothing?

- I feel “at home.” I do wear a Colonial dress 5 days a week in the summer so maybe it’s from that. I feel most at home in a corset. It just makes everything feel very secure and covered.  

How long have you been doing living history?

- Well if you count those years of pretending as a small child, then for a very long time. I did come Colonial living history with a homeschooled family when I was in 7th grade.  I didn’t reenact until I was in college because my family wasn’t really interested in history at all. I had to go to reenactments by myself. I've been reenacting the Civil War Era for 6 years.

To what extent do you portray one from the past: mainstream, progressive, or hardcore? 

- I am a happy mainstreamer. I am always trying to improve but I am also poor and frugal. My kit is limited but quality. I frequently do without than to do incorrect. I am far from a hardcore, though.  

Do you believe in time-travel?

- I wish it was possible, but I do not think it is possible in the way we want it. I mean, I think Einstein had a theory and I’m with Einstein. But I don’t think that would put us in a world of the past.

Actual time-travel or mind-travel?

-I do love mind-travel. I think the world needs more mind-travel and the best place to get it is from living histories and books.

Have you ever experienced "seeing the elephant" while reenacting, whether soldier or civilian?
In other words, have you ever felt you were "there"?

-Yes.  Every time I can’t go to the ball because I don’t have a nice dress. I sit in my tent and mope and girls put on their beautiful silks and I’m stuck in my grease covered work dress.

How do you feel upon entering a period home?

- When I enter a period home I feel like I want to build my own. I love a house where you can fix things yourself. Historical homes make me relaxed. There isn’t the background noise like in a modern house: no toilets flushing, no air conditioner running in the back, no hard drives buzzing or refrigerators running. It’s glorious.   

Does the feeling change when entering said home while in period clothing?

-When I enter a period house in period clothing I feel like I am a part of the house.  The house is another world and I am just the ambiance.  

Head over to Ken's blog and leave your answers there. The photo above was taken by my friend and fellow blogger Jeff at Dispatches from Company Q


  1. You know, the ball issue is always something that has bothered me. Looking at a typical reenactment "ball", you'll notice that most are held outside, in a barn, pavilion, etc. These would not really qualify as "balls" in the 19th century. They would be dances, and wearing a full-on ball gown to an outdoor dance would be overkill. Not every woman owned a ball gown in the 19th century, just like most of us do not have fancy formal gowns considered black-tie affair worthy today. The way I see it, when attending your standard reenactment "ball", one should be wearing a nice, clean dress, maybe what would have been your persona's "best", or "church" dress, not a ball gown anyway, as that is what would have most commonly been worn. Now when I do attend events and watch the ball (I rarely dance), even when I see a lady wearing a 100% period appropriate ball gown, it still strikes me as incorrect, as it is inappropriate for the setting. In short- don't fret too much about not having a ball gown, just work your way up to a nicer "day dress" and wear that- you'll technically be one of the most period correct people there!

    1. Thanks Chandra. I get what you mean sometimes it's the equivalent of a modern day person grocery shopping in a red carpet gown.


Tell me what you think!

Copyright © 2008-2020 Stephanie Ann Farra. All rights reserved.

All materials posted on this site are subject to copyrights owned by Stephanie Ann Farra. Any reproduction, retransmissions, or republication of all or part of any document found on this site is expressly prohibited, unless the author has explicitly granted its prior written consent to so reproduce, retransmit, or republish the material. All other rights reserved.