Historical era writing

by Sonia
(Fort Collins, CO)

Question: What is the best way to study a specific era for accuracy in content?

Answer: A good reference librarian, especially one with knowledge of history, is your best friend if you want to research the lifestyle of a particular historical period. It can't hurt to visit museums to see the actual clothing and artifacts, but that's not always practical, depending on where you live.

The reason I say consult a reference librarian is because sometimes the best, most useful books on a period aren't the ones you think of at first.

For example, I once stumbled upon, quite by accident, a book in a library that was essentially a textbook written for professional British housekeepers in the 19th century.

I had never known such books existed, but for anyone writing a cosy murder mystery or other story set in that era, this book was a goldmine. It laid out exactly what every servant's job was in a large aristocratic household, from the scullery maid to the butler. It contained recipes, telling you what food was eaten. It told you how to set a table, how to clean a room, how to care for a lady or gentleman's wardrobe, how to make a bed, etc. It offered incredible details about life in that era.

That's the kind of book a good librarian should help you find. To find such a librarian, try a university library or maybe a very big public library, rather than a little public library. University libraries usually cater to academic researchers, so they know their stuff and they have access to better reference materials.

Of course, you can start with an internet search, and Wikipedia just to get an overview, but to get straight to the best sources, I'd ask a librarian.

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