Thursday, March 10, 2011

Living the Colonial Era

Why are some of us so passionate about historical fiction in general, and for me and many others, specifically historical fiction set during the American colonial, Revolution, and Federalist eras? A couple of weeks ago we touched on the current popularity of these periods on the colonial Christian writers e-mail loop I belong to. In the secular market, the 18th and early 19th centuries in both America and England are gaining a substantial audience. Movies and books by, about, and similar to Jane Austin’s seem to crop up on a very regular basis.

One member of our group felt that the current popularity of this period in American history is due to a desire to get back to the foundations on which this country was built: self-reliance, courage, individualism, independence, and especially godly ideals, values, and principles. I agree with her, and I’d add adventure to the list, which, along with all of the above, is a great draw for me. Americans are nothing if not adventurous. All of us are immigrants, including the native peoples who got here first, and immigrants are by nature adventurers looking for opportunity of one kind or another and the freedom to pursue their individual happiness.

We all tend to have an idealistic view of the past. As we look back, the early period of our nation’s history seems to present an ideal landscape, with heroes who were bigger than life and goals more worthy than those common to our own time. Of course, reality is always more complex than that kind of simplistic view, but it is true that technology has radically changed our culture, and not all for the better. We have sacrificed the intimacy of relationships for the illusion of electronic connections that isolate us. And so we look back on earlier times and long for what we have lost. But in many ways that longing is a good thing because it can lead us to reach back and reclaim what is true and good and of eternal value.

I recently came across a couple of blogs that feed right into my interest in colonial-era history and might be of interest to you as well if you haven’t already discovered them. Carla Glade is a fellow member of the e-mail loop I mentioned, and her blog Writing to Distraction offers a series on dressing a colonial lady that’s extremely informative.

The second is the blog of a New England reenactor, Mary Spencer, An Historical Lady. It’s an absolutely wonderful resource for costuming and other 18th century period-correct information. I could spend hours delving around the blog and its links. What I need is another day in my day . . .

If you’ve discovered a blog or website you especially admire that focuses on the American colonial, Revolutionary, or Federal periods, please share in a comment! I’m always looking for new resources.


  1. Oooh, Joan. Where did you find the photo of the gown. It reminds a lot of one I've dressed my heroine in.

    This ia great blog:

    Another reeanctor, but he is into wood craft and survival skills.

    And you already know about my blog. :)

  2. Unfortunately I can't remember where I found this image, and of course I didn't note it down anywhere. I'm trying to get better at doing that. I have a couple of even more beautiful gowns, one that's from the mid 1700s and is English Spitalfields silk very elaborately printed. Since we're talking about clothing on our various blogs, I'll post those too.

    I'll check out the blog right away. Sounds like it would be very helpful for my purposes.

    Yes, I do know about your excellent blog, and I wish I had more time to get on it!

  3. Thanks so much for mentioning my Colonial Dress blog series, Joan! It's been great fun. You have done a marvelous job here at showcasing 18th century gowns. I love the quilted petticoat that is seen in this post.

    I love the An Historical Lady blog and her website as well.

    Here are a few 18thc blogs I enjoy:

    Lori, I stopped by the blog you mentioned. Great stuff there!

    You have a beautiful blog here, Joan!

  4. Carla, I couldn't pass your series by without mentioning it. :-) Thank you for these links! I'll check them out--love finding new resources!

  5. Dear Joan,
    Many thanks for mentioning my blog here. I am so pleased that you enjoy 'visiting' me, and I really appreciate the kind words!
    My husband and I do try to live the 17th and 18th centuries as much as possible, not just reenact them.
    A few days ago we were treated to a fabulous romantic holiday tea at one of our favorite places, The Clipper Merchant Tea House, and we have a post of photos we took of us there last week in 18thc. finery, up on my blog right now. We also sent the photos to our friends, the owners, who had requested them for their facebook page, etc.

    We have a website that we hope everyone will enjoy visiting as well. Every year at this time we feature our '18thc. New England Christmastide Gallery' of photos in our 230 year old house.
    The 4th annual gallery is up right now, until Christmas here~

    I am so happy to visit your lovely and informative blog!
    Thank you again,
    Kind regards,

  6. Forgot to add these 2 fantastic blogs I hope your readers will enjoy~
    Sherry Davis' wonderful blog,

    and one of my absolute favs 'Historical Ken's'