Saturday, June 20, 2009

World History at a Glance

I've touched on words from the Medieval era and the Regency, and didn't scratch the surface of either. The Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian eras await, as do ancient Celts, Picts, Romans, and Greeks, the American Civil War, The Jacobite uprisings, The Spanish Inquisition--the list seems endless.

Many of these eras overlap because they took place in different parts of the world. Trying to keep what happened when in any viable order can be confusing and time consuming. However, through most of history, events worked like ripples, pushing out to effect other parts of the globe. Knowing what was happening elsewhere can add dimension to your writing.

At one point, I had a timeline taped around the perimeter of my office. I added things to it as I ran across them and soon found myself running out of space, taping up more paper, adding more info until I could find nothing. When I'm working, the inability to find what I want chews my last nerve. I tore the thing down, spent hours putting it in order, only to find more bits to add later. Soon, I found myself tearing it down yet again.

Then I stumbled upon a real treasure: The Timechart History of the World--6000 years of world history unfolded. (ISBN-13:97807607-6507-6534-0 & ISBN-10: 0-7607-6534-0)

It does, in fact, unfold. Eyeballing it, I would say it is about twenty inches tall by twelve inches wide, but only about 1/4 inch deep. When working on an era, I open the book, unfold the pages, and see what other world events occurred about the same time and how, if at all, they might effect my characters.

For instance: 1000 A.D. finds the 19th Song Dynasty ruling China under Emporor Tching-Tsong (Yes, that's really his name). Egypt has become an independent Kalifate, while the Califate (yes, they're spelled differently) of Bagdad is ruled by Kader. Persia is ruled by Mahmoud, first Sultan of Chizni, who conquers India. Meanwhile the Seljukian Turks are rising in power.

In the eastern empire (Greece) Basil II and Constantine IX both claim the throne. In the western empire (Rome) Sylvester rules. Lower Italy is still retained by the Greek emperors while Naples, Sardinia, and Corsica remain under Rome. At this time Venice, which became independent of the eastern empire in 997 A.D., acquired Dalmatia and Istria. (During its illustrious history, Venice has had 122 Doges (Dukes), the first, Anefesto, in 697 A.D., the last, Luigi, in 1797 when Bonaparte gave it to Austria.)

We are about 1/4 of the way up the page.

I deliberately chose to start at the bottom because most of us who write in this era write European history. These rulers and events have nothing to do with our work. Or do they?

The first Crusade began in the latter part of the eleventh century. How many knights answered the call to free Jerusalem? Who did they fight? And why? How did they travel? Who did they meet? What events would effect them and the outcome of their crusade?

By looking at this timeline, you have a starting place. A map of the Crusaders' route will show you which of these rulers might have helped or interfered with their quest. Having names give you a toe up on your research.

Part of writing history is understanding it. To get a good grip on world events, I recommend this book. I have other timeline tomes, but they haven't the "at a glance" advantage.

With its classical maps, use of both Biblical and Scientific timelines, pages dedicated to the ruling powers and a host of other information, this book is a gem in any library's crown. It is "based on the famous and now very rare Victorian wallchart with much material specially reproduced from the world famous British Library held in the British Museum London" according to the back cover.

I hope some of you will find it as invaluable and thought provoking as I have.



This is why my historicals don't do well in contests, to much research. Argh!

Gwynlyn MacKenzie said...

Ain't no such animal, Kelly. You need all that research, IMHO, so the words flow with confidence. The trick is, of course, to keep many of those marvelous facts to yourself. Killer, isn't it? But the reader wants the story, not the history lesson, as my CP is so diligent to remind me--again and again and again.

Thanks for stopping.

Julie Robinson said...

I love timelines and charts! And looked this one up on Amazon. Do you mean the book by David Gibbons?

Julie Robinson said...

Oh, I like what you did with the taping around your office. I'm always trying to figure things out like that too!

Gwynlyn MacKenzie said...

Julie, this is a Barnes & Noble book. I doubt you'll find it anywhere but there. I meant to mention it and must have forgotten. Sorry.

As for the taping around the office, that turned into a MAJOR nightmare--especially after the eighteenth century. This timeline goes to 2003 so I'm glad I write historicals. Who can keep up with the rate at which the world is changing?

Julie Robinson said...

You're right about that! I barely keep up with today's numerous events, much less history's. Of course, sometimes it seems that they're blurring together, or maybe it's a repeat of history with different characters!

I was just in B&N with my hubby and son. We went to lunch for Father's Day and went there afterwards.Oh well, I'll just have to use it as an excuse to make another trip there!!

Robin Kaye said...

Hi Sweetie~

I'm in awe of anyone who writes historicals. I can't imagine the work it entails. Just getting the dialogue down would be like learning another language and I have a hard enough time with contemporary American English. That's probably why I usually write with a Brooklyn accent.

Lately I've been home schooling my 7th grade ballerina and I've become very familiar with timelines. I think we've actually used the on line one that you mentioned.

Hugs...Robin :)

Gwynlyn MacKenzie said...

Robin!!!! Honey, I'm so looking forward to seeing you next month. Want to tell you, I loaned Romeo, Romeo to my DIL, and she told me today you have another fan!


Hywela Lyn said...

Hi Gwynlyn. just popping by to thank you so much for your kind comment on my feature on 'Chicks of Characterisation.'

Although I write futuristic fantasy romance, my worlds tend to be based on my native Wales and ancient civilisations - so the research is important. (And I do agree about keeping a lot to oneself. The main thing is 'knowing' the background, which enables one to give the story 'body' and this somehow comes through to the reader. Personally I love the research.)

Gwynlyn MacKenzie said...


I, too, write in the futuristic genre--under a different name--although mine is more Science Fiction than Fantasy, but I often find myself using my historical research to give the world 'body' and flavor. Glad to know I'm not alone.

Renee said...

I love history. I love timelines even more, ask my kids. :) Thank you for sharing this treasure with us.