What is Living History

What is Living History? There are multiple definitions of living history and it means different things to different people. A brief synopsis is re-creating a way of life from the past through physical interpretation utilizing historical artifacts –either original or reproduction- as well as modes of dress based on the time period being portrayed, in a setting where a battle was fought or community was re-created.

It is when people “live” history, historical events or historical eras through either the reenactment of those events or times, or through the observation of others reenacting those events or times.

It is historical education through first-hand experience and observation of its recreation.

Reproducing a lifestyle, environment or chain of events from the past to better understand or portray, and thereby learn from or teach, the experiences of the people who actually lived those events or in that environment.

Practically speaking, living history is a chance for anyone interested in all things historical to come together  with like-minded  historians and hobbyists  to express their desire to learn or teach history, to show respect for the people who have come before us, to present their passion for historical dress and costuming, and to share their knowledge of “primitive” skills and foodways.

ReenactorsCamp-CookingPot Watermark

A direct quote from Wikipedia states “Living history is an activity that incorporates historical tools, activities and dress into an interactive presentation that seeks to give observers and participants a sense of stepping back in time. Although it does not necessarily seek to reenact a specific event in history, living history is similar to, and sometimes incorporates, historical reenactment. Living history is an educational medium used by living history museums, historic sites, heritage interpreters, schools and historical reenactment groups to educate the public or their own members in particular areas of history, such as clothing styles, pastimes and handicrafts, or to simply convey a sense of the everyday life of a certain period in history.”

In the United State, living history generally covers the eras of the French & Indian War, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, Texas War for Independence, the Fur Trade Rendezvous also known as Buckskinning, the American Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korean Conflict, and Medieval/Renaissance.

Within each of these groups you will find historians and living history enthusiasts who portray varying levels of authenticity. Early in this century a few “hardcore” reenactors started a series of full immersion living history events using the acronym BUFU. By Us For Us. Essentially they are juried events where the reenactors do their best to use only clothing, items and speech used by the people whom they are portraying. It is a chance for these historians to put into practice what they have been researching. Immersion living history events tend to be small and private, meaning the general population is not allowed on site. By contrast, there is the Fur Trade Rendezvous, which for the most part, has a lesser degree of authenticity by allowing items and clothing that aren’t era specific and is enjoyed by people just entering the hobby.

Manskers Watermark

If you desire more information on living history participants, organizations, facilities, museums and events, please scroll to the top of the page and click on one of the menu buttons which will direct you to resources that will provide more explanations of what living history is and what living historians do.

If you are a living historian or living history enthusiast I would love to hear what your definition of living history is. Please leave a comment and let me know how you define living history.

This post contains affiliate links where the author receives a (very) small commission when you purchase something.

~ Goodwife Abigail


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