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Living in the Past Through Historical Reenactment

Get Nostalgic: Living in the Past Through Historical Reenactment

Are you fascinated by the way people lived in past centuries? Rather than read about the past, why not consider visiting? Confused? Here's how.
UStravelia Staff
Last Updated: Dec 10, 2017
By Earl Hunsinger

If it were possible, would you step back in time to the Middle Ages? In many ways, life was simpler then. Of course, most of the time it was also shorter, and, at least for most people, it was much harder. Still, many people would jump at the opportunity to at least visit the days of yore. Perhaps they admire the knightly code of chivalry, the hands on approach to supplying life's daily needs, or the music and dancing of the period. Maybe they just think that they would look good in the clothing worn back then. So far, no time machine has been invented to transport you back to the Middle Ages (that I'm aware of), but the next best thing exists. In fact, some might say that the alternative is better than the real thing. What am I talking about? Historical re-creation or historical reenactment.

There are thousands of organizations that recreate historical places, events, or objects. Reenactors immerse themselves in history by assuming the identity of a historical figure, either real or typical. The reenactor dresses like a person from their historical period, wearing something appropriate to the station in life of the character they're playing. Some reenactors support themselves by living in the past, entertaining (and educating) the public at the historical re-creation of a town or military fort. A couple of examples of such permanent historical sites are Canada's Fortress of Louisbourg and Colonial Williamsburg in the state of Virginia, USA, which has been called the world's largest living history museum.

Of course, most reenactors put on a costume or historical uniform just for the fun of it. Battle reenactments from various wars are very common. Often, as much realism as possible is put into these, down to the smallest detail. Each reenactor knows where his soldier is supposed to have stood, and what they did. The reenactors may even sleep in period tents and cook over open fires. In fact, rather than reenact battles, this is often the extent of the reenactment.

Renaissance fairs (or faires) have also increased in popularity in recent years. These often include a tournament, where knights on horseback joust or put on swordfighting exhibitions. Jugglers, comedians, and royal 'fools' are often present to entertain the crowd. The entertainment may also include minstrels and period music. Tankards of ale, turkey legs, and other 'medieval' food are available when you get hungry.

Many enjoy visiting a renaissance festival or historical reenactment for the same reason that they would go to any special outdoor weekend event―for something different to do. For others (we'll say the more adventurous or outgoing among us), these events offer the opportunity to become someone completely different. They look forward to the day that they can don that special dress or uniform (or pair of leggings), and stroll into the faire, speaking and acting like someone from another time and place.

Reenactors of all sorts often develop some of the skills that would have been needed to live in their period. Not only is this part of the whole experience, it is often necessary. After all, it's hard to find a store today that carries suits of armor, or practically any other piece of attire worn in the past.

So whether you're looking to live in the past or just visit, historical reenactment might offer an entertaining (and maybe even educational) way to spend a weekend.
Red knight on horseback
Four purple tents aligned
Colonial Williamsburg
The Fortress of Louisbourg