Wednesday 14 November 2018

Experiencing History

Experiencing History by @CarolynMAuthor 

I never used to be a history buff. I didn't really study it in school, I only did one subject (in one year) at university. To be honest, my young and foolish self didn't really see the point.

Now, however...

As a writer of historical fiction I suppose it's inevitable that I pay closer attention to how history has shaped our world. I noticed this particularly on a recent family holiday as we spent time in the west coast of the USA: history is everywhere.

Our first day in Los Angeles was spent in Hollywood, where the stars and handprints of long-gone celebrities are etched into the pavement. That was nice, but the importance of history was brought home far more clearly when we visited the Huntington Library, where we saw a Gutenberg Bible (!) and a first Folio of Shakespeare (!) 

and a house filled with old and priceless artwork, ceramics and furnishings that made this Regency author’s heart beat faster. Then our trip along the coastal road to Big Sur and Monterey saw more stops at iconic – and old! - bridges and buildings, before we saw the amazing Yosemite National Park (established by Abraham Lincoln in the 1860s). The towering granite and ancient trees speak of God’s handiwork through millennia; some estimate some redwoods to be four thousand years old!

Our trip took us further north, where we have visited little towns like Eureka, where the beautiful Victorian-era buildings are topped by the eye-popping Carson mansion, built in 1885 by a millionaire who cared not for the conventions, saying words to the effect that “If I build it too plain they’ll say I’m a miser, if I build it too fancy they’ll say I’m showing off, so I might as well build it to please myself.” (Love it!)

Dinner that night was at the Samoa Cookhouse, another history-laden locale. This cookhouse, reputed to be the last cookhouse still serving in the ‘lumberjack-style’ of the 1800s, was a fabulous treasure trove of logging relics and photos from a bygone age. And the food was fabulous (and extremely generously portioned) too!

Writing historical fiction is always a fun blend of imagination, research and – when it allows – experience. As an Australian writing English Regency romance, my opportunity to ‘experience’ the life and times of lords and ladies of 200 years ago is pretty limited J, and means I’m often reliant on online journals and letters from that era to create a sense of authenticity. 

Trips like these don’t come very often, and I’ve been very conscious of God’s grace and largesse, allowing me (& my family) to experience such wonders of the world. 
I’m also very conscious that history is everywhere, with so much to absorb, if only we have eyes to see. 

How about you? Are you someone who notices history? What's a place of historical interest that's recently caught your attention?

Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. Together with her husband she has pastored a church for ten years, and worked part-time as a public high school English and Learning and Support teacher. 
A longtime lover of romance, especially that of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer’s Regency era, Carolyn holds a BA in English Literature, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. Her Regency novels include The Elusive Miss Ellison, The Captivating Lady Charlotte, The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey, Winning Miss Winthrop, and Miss Serena’s Secret, all available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, etc

Connect with her:       websitefacebookpinteresttwitterinstagram


  1. Great blog Carolyn. As much as I call Australia home, I do miss England’s history. As a child, my mum would always be taking myself and my sister to a castle or Hall somewhere and we would imagine ourselves as ‘ladies’ in big, fancy dresses. When I tell my kids the church I got married in was built in the 12th century, their jaws drop slightly as they wonder how that’s possible!
    I have to stop writing now because I’m making myself homesick!!
    Keep up the good work, my friend xxx

    1. Married in a 12th century church - how inspiring! Just imagine all the weddings that have taken place there. Any time you feel the need to return to England to visit more of those castles, just let me know...

  2. Hi Carolyn, I loved seeing the photos from your US trip. I enjoyed studying history at school and learning about other parts of the world. Visiting Pearl Harbor a few years ago inspired my kids to be more interested in history. I love travelling and visiting historic places and armchair travelling via reading novels. :)

    1. It’s wonderful when children are inspired by history. And yes, I love learning about history through reading novels, too.

  3. Thanks for that Carolyn. I've become much more of a history buff in later years. Not so much the things I learned it school, but things that have caught my eye and imagination. I got the inspiration for my novel during a trip to Nova Scotia a few years ago where I learned about the Home Children who came to Canada from England from about the 1860s to the 1930s; Sable Island, which has seen more than 500 shipwrecks and has a beautiful colony of wild horses; and the Halifax Explosion of 1917, which was the largest man-made explosion until that time (ah, but that's for another book). When we approach history with just a list of dates and events, it can be boring. But when we see it through the eyes of the people who lived through those events (and the eyes of our characters), it takes on a new life. Oh to have all the money needed to travel to all of those wonderful sites. Thanks for sharing :)

    1. I can’t wait to read this, Nola! Sounds like a fascinating part of history. I love how things pique our interest and so begins a world of research. How wonderful it would be to travel to those places and research first hand! Thank goodness for the internet, hey?

  4. I love the experience of discovering a layer of history under a place which you thought was ordinary. Like finding out that some ancestor had done some interesting thing at a place I used to pass every day in the bus on the way to work.
    Or discovering one of your ordinary family people lived somewhere amazing - a book seller under the shadow of St Pauls or a Chaplain in Cairo in WWI.
    As an archivist I get paid for the joy of helping others dig extraordinary stories out of dusty old government records.

    1. What an interesting job you have, Tam! And it’s interesting, isn’t it, how family and friends can have connections we never suspected - we just need to take the time to notice, to care and to listen. Thanks for commenting!

  5. I think history is perhaps something we can only appreciate more as we get older. Hmm... Putting Fjordland on my bucket list now!


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