I’ve already mentioned the entertainment inherent in history. Many will read that and say, perhaps quite forcefully, “This guy’s a nut!”
Ah contraire, the entertainment is there.
The problem is in how it’s been fed to us. In order to ensure that students have actually studied their lessons our education systems demand that we memorize – and later enter in tests – the year that something happened. In truth, the year doesn’t matter except in its relation to, and thereby its effect on some other event.
For instance, Jacques Cartier apparently arrived in the area that is now known as Montreal in 1535. That date was probably important to Champlain who later used Cartier’s information and lived in the area for some time, but for me it doesn’t mean too much. What I would like to know is did Jacques and his crew cut down trees? Did they shoot (or try to shoot) a moose? Did the Iroquoian bows make their ancient firearms look puny? Did any of them sleep with Iroquois women?
There was undoubtedly some laughter. I can imagine the native population enjoying the Frenchmen’s reaction to weather, wildlife and vegetation.
How many people actually believed Cartier’s stories when he returned to France? How many didn’t believe him but used those stories anyway to create money for themselves? … Much the same as speculators do with stocks today.
In 1614 Champlain received, from France’s King Louis XIII, 10 years of exclusive trading rites for furs from New France.
Just a minute! That’s like someone having exclusive rights to sell all the diamonds produced in North America.
What did Champlain have on good King Louis? What did King Louis, (who was renowned for at least thinking he had everything) expect to get from Champlain in return for this ten year agreement?
My point is, when someone tells you that one of Champlain’s men, Brûlé spent 20 years among the Huron; kick your imagination into gear. Such information about an 18 year old moving into the bush with what the Europeans of the day thought of as savages raises several questions. Why? What happened?
Use your imagination.
All this is why I generally write historical fiction. So far I’ve had ‘The Great Liquor War’ and ‘Partners’ and hope to soon have ‘Homesteader’ out and, perhaps by the end of ’09 I can have ‘The Yearlings’ released. They are all historical in some respects. To some degree they all contain historical content although they are all meant to be primarily entertainment.
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