Top 10 Historical Things I Have Been Obsessed With

 

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Editing has sucked my life away. I have no time for anything but crouching over a keyboard, clutching a hot water bottle to keep the winter freeze away and typing like a frenzied squirrel…Basically, I’m sorry for not posting in a while. So, here I am, said water bottle in hand, wrapped in my fleece cloak with the hood falling into my eyes…yep, I’ll get on with the post.

It’s probably a well known fact that I’m overly obsessed with history. I love history, I love knowing about the past of mankind, the way God has held all the strings together and weaved into a pattern–that sometimes appears beautiful and sometimes hideous, but is always in God’s hands.

It’s awesome.

Anyway, I’ve had many historical obsessions over my short life, but I thought I’d share ten of them with you today. These are probably the most consuming and, in most cases, I still have varying degrees of interest in these subjects.

So, here we go!

The Red Baron

This was an obsession I had in the past three to four years. I was absolutely enamoured with Manfred von Richthofen, otherwise known as The Red Baron and with the “reign of terror” he and his jasta (flying squadron) held over the Allies during April 1917. I was especially upset when I found out that the Australian soldiers, after they shot down Richthofen, pulled apart his famous red plane for souvenirs instead of preserving it in an aviation museum. I still hold a grudge over this and its the main sense of discord between myself and my nation. 😛

This obsession with the Red Baron and with “Bloody April” was ultimately what inspired my novella Comrade (previously called Kameradschaft). It also inspired an interest in Germany and a love of the German language. (And it got so bad that my parents actually bought me a kite modelled to look like the Red Baron’s famous plane. I also bought myself a postcard with a painting called “The Death of the Red Baron”, its on my bookcase now).

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This is the “Death of the Red Baron” postcard. And there’s my Aussie soldiers, at least giving Manfred a good, solid Aussie funeral with military honours, despite the fact that they wrecked his plane. Picture belongs to me.

The Titanic

I’m not sure what triggered my fascination with Titanic and her sister ship Olympic. Maybe it was Michael Morpurgo’s book Kasper, Prince of Cats. Anyway, when I was about eleven, I read books about  Titanic with an all-consuming veracity, I knew every detail of everyone’s lives and every fact about the ships. In fact, probably the only thing that I never did was watch Titanic, mostly because urgh, romance!

This one never actually inspired any books or stories, as far as I can remember, which is pretty strange.

The Wright Brothers

Okay, let me get this straight, I have never gotten over the massive crush I had on Wilbur Wright as a fourteen year old. And yes, I am aware that he’s been dead for 105 years. But regardless, I absolutely loved reading about the Wright Brothers, their planes and experiments and life. I also love their sister, Katharine, and she’s been one of my role-models for years. She’s the perfect example of a woman who is strong and confident, who had an education when education for women was frowned upon (she went further in education than either Wilbur or Orville did) and yet who also wasn’t afraid to sit at the back of the picture. She supported her father and brothers with an amazing strength that I couldn’t even imagine possessing…yes, she’s awesome, and so sadly forgotten.

I wrote a (still unfinished) story about the Wrights, from the perspective of a young boy who lived at Kitty Hawk and whose parents helped Wilbur and Orville with their experiments. Unfortunately, my utter obsession and reliance on facts sort of crushed any imagination in this story.

But the Wright Siblings still remain my favourite historical figures.

The Roman Occupation of Britain

This one is definitely thanks to Rosemary Sutcliff’s books, particularly The Eagle of the Ninth. That’s one of my favourite books and always a go-to reread. I absolutely love it, so it sent me researching the time period it takes place in, that being the Roman occupation of Britain back in the so-called Dark Ages.

Fascinating, in one word. I’ve always wanted to write a book set then, but I’ve never been able to think of a plot that even comes close to any of Sutcliff’s, so I’ve stuck with other periods.

The Early Medieval Period

I’ve always been the sort of person who goes for the underdog, rather than what’s popular and that mindset goes so far as to include historical periods. Whenever we think of the Medieval Period, we tend to think about knights in shining armour and valiant kings, King Arthur and all that, but my favourite  medieval time period was always the early medieval period, when the knights weren’t quite as noble and they wore chainmail and the Normans invaded Britain etc. This was 1000-1200 ish, and for some reason it absolutely fascinated me. Maybe because it seems to be a very much forgotten time nowadays? And it hasn’t been romanticised, so it actually feels like it exists in the real world rather than a fantasy world, like the later medieval period does.

This obsession actually did draw a book–or half a book at least–from me, but I never planned ahead and the book died after I realised that I had no idea where I was trying to go with it. But I still love this period and definitely want to write a book set in it one day.

World War One

Next to the Wrights, this is the one that has stuck with me most deeply and continues to resonate. I love learning about the War and the way that it affected history, the way that it affected the people who lived then and served in it. I wouldn’t be able to count how many books and movies I’ve consumed on this topic. Probably, again, it was Michael Morpurgo’s books, War Horse and Little Manfred (though I’m currently having trouble remembering whether Little Manfred takes place in WW1 or WW2) that sparked this interest.

Anyway, whatever it was, I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. The amount of books pertaining to World War One in my bookshelves is probably quite concerning, and although I’ve never written a novel set in the War, I’ve written innumerable short stories about it. Even essays, I’ve written essays on the subject. Of my own accord. 😛

Even though I’m so interested in the war, my knowledge of the War itself is actually rather vague. I can only remember the names of the important battles and places–Gallipoli, Verdun, the Somme, Fromelles, the Charge of Beersheba, etc–and my knowledge of tactics and strategies is extremely limited. My knowledge and interest lies in the actual people who fought in the war, or lived on the home front and their personal experiences. You might say that its the emotional and psychological side of the War that interests me, rather than the physical facts.

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The Australian War Memorial, originally built to honour the dead of WW1. This picture belongs to me.

Japanese Feudal Period

Of all things, this phase was sparked by Ninjago, you know, that annoying kid’s show that drives most people crazy? Anyway, of course I’d heard about ninja and samurai before, but I’d always thought ninja were a creation of Hollywood’s. Which they are, to a certain extent, but they were based on the very real shinobi, of the periods before and during the Japanese Feudal Period (the Feudal period is roughly the same time as the European Medieval Period. It refers to the times before Japan was united under one ruler, at least, that’s what I understand).

In my research of Japan, I fell in love with the culture, which is so different to my own, and I started writing a novel on it, which some of you might remember as The Blade of the Dragon. It was cliché, but I loved it and only set it aside at the beginning of the year in order to work on The Stars Fill Infinity. The novel should never been seen by light of day, but it was (possibly, I can’t remember), my first complete novel (as in, the first story I wrote which actually reached over 50k words), so it was an achievement. And even though it was a fantasy novel, I researched it very thoroughly to make sure it was historically accurate. And that killed most of the fantasy, unfortunately. Do you sense a recurring theme?

The French Revolution

This is a more recent one. The first time I was ever exposed to the French Revolution was when I read a novel about Marie Antoinette when I was in my preteens, but it didn’t really resonate with me. Later on, last year I think, I read Les Miserables, which isn’t about the French Revolution, but builds a lot off that event and refers to it a lot. Then I read The Scarlet Pimpernel, and finally, A Tale of Two Cities. Between these books, I became a little obsessed.  Before I wrote The Stars Fill Infinity and When Infinity is Empty, I did a lot of research on the French and Russian Revolutions in order to base many of the events that happen in my dystopian future off the events of France’s past.

My latest novel, the final novel in the Infinity Trilogy, is a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel and it’s the one most heavily inspired by the Revolution, so I’m definitely going to keep reading my books and learning.

The European Royal Families

This was entirely thanks to the My Royal Diaries series of books that I read a lot when I was younger. I think I’ve mentioned before that when I was eight or nine, the time when most girls want to be a Disney princess, I was fascinated by real princesses–Lady Jane Grey, Marie Antoinette, Cleopatra, Anastasia, Queen Victoria, Princess Victoria and a myriad of others. And I learnt a lot about the European royal family in that time.

Recently, my family has been watching the BBC tv series Victoria and I’ve been able to show off my knowledge of European royalty and I’m surprised by how much I actually remember.

I’ve never written a book or even a story based on this phase, but…maybe one day. We’ll see if a plot bunny comes to visit me now.

The Early Olympics (1896-1956)

Entirely thanks to Eric Liddell and Chariots of Fire. Initially, I read about Eric Liddell in a Christian missionary book and I found in him a man I really admired, so I read more biographies and eventually watched the movie Chariots of Fire, which I liked, but didn’t adore. Then I started reading up on those early Olympic games, from about the first modern Olympics to the Melbourne 1956 games and then brought books and found myself dragged into a world that most people didn’t even know about.

I think what drew me to those early games in particular was how…relaxed they were, I guess. Nowadays, athletes seem to think that it’s their duty to go to the Olympics, but back then it was seen as an expensive honour. Until 1924, athletes actually had to pay their own way to the Olympics and they certainly didn’t get paid or sponsored.

One of my favourite athletes, Ray Ewry, was a high jumper who won eight gold medals at the Olympics (he never won anything but gold medals, which makes him the most successful Olympian ever, though not the one with the most medals). After achieving international fame, he went home to New York and spent the rest of his life designing architecture.

I just love how humble most of them were. And Ray Ewry especially was awesome. Read up about him if you get a chance.

Do you like history? What historical things have you been obsessed with? Who’s your favourite historical figure? Do you read historical fiction?

25 thoughts on “Top 10 Historical Things I Have Been Obsessed With

  1. I still can’t figure out why on earth am I obsessed with Les Mis. I only know why I love that musical: not why I am obsessed with it.

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  2. It is odd thinking of my life before Les Mis. I loved musicals before Les Mis, but the love of musicals wasn’t even a passion.

    I already knew about the spectacle/dance, comedy, romance, complexity, and knew about the emotional side of musicals. The core emotions I knew were excitement, love, joy, and sad. So I already pretty much knew what musicals were. Wicked taught all of that.

    Les Mis just took things a step further and challenged everything I once knew. I realized I was 100% blind to heartbreak. I had interpreted all musicals were comic and happy, but still capable of sad songs. That is what I thought. It just disproved many things. Back in high school, I told myself I will never love a single tragedy. Than the movie came out and I learned to love Les Mis. Without Les Mis, I wouldn’t have developed my passion for musicals in the first. Just to let you know, I didn’t know about the West End before Les Mis.

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  3. I love whatever you are obsessed with that inspired your ‘Infinity’ series. 😉 #loyalfangirl
    I’ve always liked the civil war (and post-civil war) and revolutionary war time period. And the World Wars are interesting too. 🙂 Does being obsessed about future/future events count? 😛

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  4. This post is super awesome! I love historical fiction and would love to write some of my own, if only I wasn’t so mortified of research. I think there are so many periods and events that are often overlooked that would make amazing stories. I was once interested in writing a story about the two princes in the tower who were presumably murdered by their uncle Richard, but I never got anywhere with it.
    Historical fiction has sparked my interest in both the World Wars, the French Revolution, and several other events. I’m obsessed with newsboys in New York in the late 19th century for instance.
    Ugh, Titanic is such an irritating movie, because there are actually a lot of great things about it. Everything is wonderful…except the main characters and their relationship. Every time it showed the captain or some other characters- like this elderly couple or a mum with her kids- I actually cared about what was going on, but Rose and Jack just made me laugh and/cringe. The movie had such potential, but the love story was just SO BAD. So I understand your avoidance of it.
    Again, fantastic post! You are convicting me to dig into history again, despite my mortal fear of reading nonfiction. I don’t know why I have this fear since I actually find a lot of history really fascinating. It’s rather inconvenient.

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  5. It’s always fascinating to me to find that history’s the least-liked school subject, at least in the US, because I absolutely love it! So it’s always fun to find people who also like history! (I was checking for textbooks for my Western Civ. class yesterday and was completely shocked to find that barely enough people had enrolled for the class to even be considered a class…)
    You have some really great picks on this list! I’ve especially had an interest in the Japanese feudal era and especially the end of it and the Sanada Ten Braves who are one of the earliest examples of historical fiction which is just kind of fascinating to me… recently, I’ve been thinking that I would like to write something about them but I probably won’t be able to get working on that for a while as I work out the details!
    Then, there’s my little obsession with the Hasburgs which I blame entirely on German musicals which keep pushing them in my face and now I’m kind of entirely in love with researching ’em when possible!
    Anyways, it was a lot of fun to read about your favorite historical things! I hope that editing continues to go well!

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  6. 😀 That would be Les Mis, wouldn’t it? The most passionate of all my obsessions!
    They’re pretty interesting too! I’ve read a few books from the Civil War Era and the Revolutionary War, but I really should do more research on them. 😀

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  7. Don’t let the editing defeat you, you can do it! 😀
    That was a fun post. I used to read a lot of historical fiction, especially set in the Roman Empire or WW2, but I haven’t read any for a while now. I guess I’ve been too busy trying to get through extra long epic fantasy series.
    I like using history to inspire fantasy cultures. I’m also somewhat obsessed with feudal Japan, so I’ve based some of my made up countries on it. That does mean more research, though.

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  8. This was such a fun post to read! I have a lot of random time periods I’ve been enamored with too. WWI and WWII, the Romanov family, Victorian history, the American Revolution, the American Frontier, etc. It usually stems from what I read. 😂

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  9. Thank you 😀 The Romanovs are fascinating, aren’t they? They were part of my European Royal family obsession 🙂 The American Revolution is also quite interesting, though I’ve never really found myself “obsessed” with it. Yep, me too, it definitely stems from what I read/watch. 😀

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  10. I know I can do it, I’m so close to the end. But editing is a very draining process 😛
    I think I’m the opposite, I used to read a lot of those epicly long fantasies and now I read more historical, although I’ve always loved both (my two favourite genres right there :D)
    That’s a great idea! I think Tolkien definitely did stuff like that, and it sounds like a really cool way of making more unique cultures. Yeah, but research is fun. Isn’t it?? 😛 I’ve always enjoyed it, though I can understand why some people don’t like it. 🙂

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  11. That’s terrible! I remember being shocked by the amount of people that hate history when history is, simply put, awesome.
    The Japanese feudal era is just full of interesting things, and there were so many new things appearing, like, as you said, historical fiction!
    I spent some time researching the Hapsburgs a few years ago because of a book I read called “Leviathan”, which was a historical retelling/alternate history about the son (fictional son, that is) of Franz Ferdinand and Sophia and I found their stories really interesting! And now, of course, I find German theatre is rather obsessed with them, so my obsession starts all over again 😀
    Thanks for the editing well-wishes. I hope yours goes well too!

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  12. A story about the two princes would be awesome! (Incidentally, the first thought I had when I heard about them ages ago was that it would be so cool to write about them. I’ve never got any further with that either).
    Oh, I wonder which musical would inspire such interest in 19th Century New York newsboys? 😛
    Yep, I know I would be hugely disappointed by Titanic, so I steer very clear of it. Its sad that it centres around hugely cringeworthy romance when there’s so much of interest on the Titanic and so many TRUE stories of bravery and heroism and love 🙂
    Yes, go and read about history! Write historical fiction! Go forth and conquer the nonfiction!

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  13. It’s a pretty awesome musical and I didn’t think I’d like a tragedy either, but here we are. Its my favourite musical and probably always will be. 🙂

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  14. So fascinating! I think part of my obsession with early America has to do with the movie The Last of the Mohicans and The Patriot. I also live in America soooo😄

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  15. I thought I would never love a tragedy because I thought the genre was pure sad and nothing else. Les Mis showed me they go beyond: I was able to discover its underlying: the spirituality in the musical is what I connect with. I have loved Les Mis since 2013 and already seen the stage show 5 times and seen the movie who knows how many times.

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  16. Ahh this is SUCH a fun throwback!! I feel like I was super into all of these when I was in highschool too?! I was homeschooling so basically researching random periods or people in history was like my #1 hobby. 😂 Totally normal I’m sure. But I was obsessed particularly with Egypt!! And reading like The Golden Goblet and Mara Daughter of the Nile! Also I read Eric Lidell! And totally obessed with The Eagle of the Ninth (and then the movie)…like I couldn’t stop reading about that era. 😍

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  17. Yep, three cheers for homeschooling and researching random historical periods! Eric Liddell was pretty cool! I remember watching The Eagle, but I don’t remember liking it… it probably strayed too much from the book for me to condone it 😛

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  18. if you love learning about the Roman occupation of Britian, I have to ask if you’ve read the White Isle by Caroline Dale Snedeker. I read it for school and I looooved it. I don’t know where my mom put it, but I really want to read it again. I’m pretty sure it made me cry? that’s (usually) a pretty good sign that it was a good book.

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  19. I have been asking myself the same thing over and over. Why am I so obsessed with history. It is my passion. My main areas of interest are: 1. Ohio History (I live in Ohio) 2. Civil War 3. Civil Rights History 4. Church History I am reading a series by Richard Paul Evans called The Walk.. I guess I love meeting people and hearing their story. (everyone has a story). I guess perhaps that why I might love history .. because it is someone’s life and their story. Thanks for the wonderful discussion.

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  20. These all sound so fascinating! I don’t really know about any of these things except for the bits of Ohio history that intersect with the Wright Brothers 😀
    Thanks for visiting my blog 😀

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