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Historical reenactment

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Reenactors of the American Civil War

Historical reenactment is an activity in which participants recreate some aspects of a historical event or period. It may be a narrowly-defined time period, such as a specific war or other event, or it may be more broadly defined.

Activities related to "reenactment" are not new; there were tournaments in the Middle Ages which would have Roman or other earlier themes, and the Victorians recreated medieval furnishings, such as tapestries. However, historical reenactment as a serious pursuit of practical historical interest, beyond mere "wash-and-wear wizardry" (re-inventing history as an entertainment to suit contemporary convenience or sensibilities), seems to be an invention of the 20th century.

The term living history describes attempts to bring history to life, either for an audience, or for the participants themselves. The primary distinction between reenactment and a period dramatic performance is the degree of immersion and the amount of improvisation.

Most groups dedicated to reenactment are amateurs who pursue reenactment as a hobby. Military units and battles of the American Revolutionary War are popular across North America as well as the Civil War period in the United States, where Wild West themes and Cowboy action shooting have huge followings too. In the United Kingdom many groups focus on the English Civil War and the Second World War. On the European continent, Napoleonic battles, the Franco-Prussian War, and mediaeval jousting tournaments and other displays of chivalry are popular. Increasingly, there are a number of enthusiasts who have made it their goal to be as authentic as possible. Small cottage industries abound that provide not only the materials but even the finished product for use by these ultra authentic re-enactors. Uniforms made of hand woven, natural dyed materials are handsewn using the sartorial techniques of the period portrayed. The same can be said of headgear, footwear, camp gear, accoutrements, weapons and so on. These items, while costing sometimes 30%+ more than their mass produced counterparts, offer the wearer an actual life like experience in the use of these materials. Also the spectator of a particular event in which a high level of accuracy is attained, will have a better experience.

Some individual reenactors concentrate on recreating a specific persona, such as Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, or Benjamin Franklin.

Contents

Creative history

Although most historical reenactment groups follow a very loose interpretation of history (sometimes mixing equipment closely related periods or oftenly just the use of inauthentic materials: eg. cotton clothes in a medieval setting) some groups go a step further and mix historical elements with elements of the Fantasy genre or incorporate modern technology or culture into a historical setting (oftenly simply reducing the level of authenticity for increased safety or reduced costs, eg. making melee weapons out of rubber or plastic rather than iron or steel).

A common example for this variation on the theme is the Society for Creative Anachronism, which blends medieval customs, dress, and activities within historically inspired fantasy kingdoms.

Commercial reenactment

Certain parks, museums, or attractions have paid reenactors. These usually address the recreation of a specific town, village, or activity within a certain time frame. Commercial reenactment shows are usually strictly choreographed and follow a strict script.

Examples include Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, and Old Salem in North Carolina as well as the medieval displays and renaissance faires at various European castles, such as Satzvey Castle in Germany.

See also

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