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.