I love the smell of gunpowder in the morning…
Just people playing at soldiers, aren’t they? Well – I suppose in some ways they are. But if you look at what they do more closely, a slightly different picture emerges.
Go to any historical re-enactment and as well as the bright uniforms and obsolete weaponry there’s a massive amount of research and testing going on right there.
You’ll find it on the campsites, where period food is prepared the same way it was at the time; in the forges, where iron is worked in the same way as hundreds of years ago (and yes, many of the tools they use today are identical with their predecessors); in the horse-lines, where animals are groomed and fed in the old-fashioned manner. And you’ll see it when soldiers drill and manouvre. Try following complex shouted cavalry commands on horseback! Because whilst it’s often easy enough to read about how things were done, in today’s world of labour-saving devices and fast food, getting them right in real life can be a challenge. And when we do, we discover how difficult – or easy – the way of life really was.
There are demonstrations (surgeons are one of my favourites), clothiers, bookstalls. And fighting, of course. ‘Living History’, they call it. And what’s great is that it’s accessible to absolutely anyone who wants to find out why our ancestors lived and acted as they did. You don’t need to read dozens of books filled with dry facts and dates – all you have to do is ask. Because in my experience, re-enactors are some of the most approachable and friendliest of people.
Try it and be amazed!
Next weekend (25th and 26th September) is the 17th International Napoleonic Fair in Dorchester, Dorset. I shall be there on the Saturday to sign copies of Walls of Jericho, together with book critic-turned-author M M Bennetts (May 1812 and Of Honest Fame, both published by Diiarts).
As well as us, there are loads of things to see and do (click on the web link for details). We’d be delighted to meet you and hey – there’ll be fun, education…and shopping.
What else are weekends for?