On Research For Writing My Historical Novels, by Mary Nichols

Good guide on how one author stacks her shelves with general research materials related to the time periods she’s interested in.

Writing Historical Novels

Historians will tell you to go to primary sources for your research and that, of course, is ideal but it is not always possible and, for the kind of books I write, not really necessary. I am not trying to educate my readers, though it is a plus if they learn something they didn’t previously know and it interests them. I want a believable background for a story.

Before the days of the internet it was done through books. It still is to a great extent. The shelves in my study are crammed with books I use for research.

First of all there is the invaluable Oxford English Dictionary and then there are those of general interest, used for background.

There are social histories like The English: A Social History 1066-1945 by Christopher Hibbert, A Social History of England by Asa Briggs,  a much-thumbed penguin edition of Chronology of the…

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