Where is the past?

by Karen Wills


“The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there. Put a map in the front of the book. It sets the scene of a story,” said author/map builder Mark Beaulieu at the 2015 Historical Novel Society Conference last June.

Writers of historical novels must do research, and one helpful item in our toolbox should be maps. Two writer/presenters at the Denver explained and showed us how they used maps. Delaney Green who wrote Jem, a Girl of London, which is set in the 18th century, showed us period maps of London and how she used them to give the ring of truth to her fiction…depicting crowded dockside streets and centers of activity in the old city.

Mark Beaulieu presented rare images of land and ocean maps used by Eleanor of Aquitaine, the queen who tried to prevail in the Crusade of 1147. Mark is an expert on her 12th century world, having written a six part series called The Eleanor Code. Eleanor wrote the first maritime laws, hence the use of the word code. She was also a successful trader in wine and silks and spices and the mother of ten. The maps she and her husband, Louis VII used were in part wrong, but they succeeded in getting 50,000 pilgrims to the Holy Lands in the 2nd Crusade, and brought those who survived (only one in twenty) back. They went out on land, crossing Turkey in the winter, and returned by sea.

Mark showed us a facsimile of a Roman marching map 6 feet long, and.referred us to helpful internet sites for those wanting to use maps. One is the David Ramsey Collection. http://www.libutexas.edn/maps/map.sites/hist_sites.html

How many of you like to see a map of the setting for any novel?

2 thoughts on “Where is the past?

  1. LOVE maps in books! Some of my faves are in mysteries, by Elizabeth George, Deborah Crombie, and GM Malliet. My publisher didn’t have money in the art budget for maps — and they’re hard to fit into small, mass market paperbacks — so I put the maps I drew while working on the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries on my website.

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