A knowledge of the past is immensely valuable. It helps us understand who we are, where we came from and why we think the way we do. Historical fiction, though, can take us that one step further. A good novel - be it a romance, a mystery or a thriller - can speculate on how people felt about things: their values and priorities, their dreams and desires.
What did they really believe in - those swaggering Tudors or sombre Victorians? How did they organise themselves and uphold their laws? How did they reward people? How did they punish them? What exactly did they get up to after dark, those outrageous fops and demireps of Georgian England? And what anxieties, what peculiar secrets might they have kept from view, those elegant, tightly laced denizens of the Belle Époque?
We might not always be able to answer these questions with perfect accuracy. But that’s not what counts. It is the asking that is important - the setting out of all the options, all the different ways that people can be. It is a key that liberates the imagination from the narrow chambers of the ‘here and now.’ And every time we open a history book or read a good story we hold that key in our hands.
Outstanding Stories from Tudor to Victorian England