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not all of which are strictly relevant, I'll say that right away
Books - and by books I mean novels - are probably the most painless way to learn about the past. You could go directly to primary sources - visit the British Library and spend hours poring over the crumbly volume they bring you on a cushion. Or you could get yourself access to some of our humidity-controlled airlocked armed-librarian- guarded original texts in the university libraries - if you pass the security checks.
It's more likely, however, that you'll get your first taste of ordinary and extraordinary life in past times from works of fiction - those written during your period, and 'historical' novels written afterwards.
The great bonus of reading novels is that some other person has done the research for you. They are probably far more thorough than you (OK, more thorough than me) and have the gift of passing on knowledge in a pleasing manner. So read and learn, and never let anyone tell you that reading novels is a waste of time.
Some stories I thought were fab - and informative
For books on Bath click here
- The Silver Pigs, Lindsey Davis (private eye story set in the first century, in Rome and Britain)
- The Crystal Cave, Mary Stewart (Merlin's (Mryddhin's) story, set in Wales and England, some time after the Roman withdrawal from Britain)
- The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer (written late fourteenth century and highly entertaining, especially when read aloud in Middle English in a guesstimated 'authentic' accent)
- Moll Flanders, Daniel Defoe (written seventeenth century in the style of a true confession - more or less tabloid press stuff. About an incestuous, polygamist entrepreneurial thief with the obligatory heart of gold)
- The Town House, Norah Lofts (written twentieth century). Begins in the 1300s, describes ordinary life in (sometimes horrifying) detail.
- Pamela, Samuel Richardson, and Shamela, probably Henry Fielding, the first a story of a virtuous young county woman, and the second, the mickeytake tale of a less virtuous gold-digger out for all she can get. Shamela was written after Pamela became a cult novel - you could get Pamela handkerchiefs, Pamela fans, Pamela purses. I kid you not.(Seventeenth century)
- Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen (early nineteenth century - a satire on the gothic trash novels which were in vogue at the time)(Also - large portions set in Bath)
- The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens (the antics of Mr Pickwick and his associates, including some very contemporary-sounding election campaigning. Dickens stayed in the Saracens Head inn in Bath - the village of Pickwick is a few miles off. Incidentally, I used to live very near Micawber Street in Dickens home of Islington, London- inspiration for another of his characters? -see David Copperfield)
Other stories I just thought were excellent of their kind:
- The Lost Continent, Bill Bryson. My other half 'does not
need' to read this, apparently, because it's all been read aloud,
compulsively, by me. Oops. Same goes for anything by Bryson...
Morgaine saga, CJ
Cherryh. Amazing: real fantasy. For real science fiction
try her Foreigner series.
The Player of Games, Iain M Banks, and Whit,
Last updated 21 February, 2001