Historical novel

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According to Encyclopædia Britannica, a historical novel is

Contents

Overview

An early example of historical fiction is Luó Guànzhōng's 14th century Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which covers one of the most important periods of Chinese history. In England, Daniel Defoe (ca. 1659–1731) was one of the first successful writers in this genre. Defoe works such as Robinson Crusoe (1719) used historical settings.

A pioneer of the genre in Western Europe was the German author Benedikte Naubert (1756–1819), who wrote 50 historical novels. Her technique of focusing attention on a person of minor historical significance and witnessing events through his eyes was borrowed by Sir Walter Scott, who had read her works.

The historical novel was further popularized in the 19th century by writers classified as Romantics. Many regard Sir Walter Scott as the first to have used this technique, in his novels of Scottish history such as Waverley (1814) and Rob Roy (1818). His Ivanhoe (1820) gains credit for renewing interest in the Middle Ages. Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831) furnishes another 19th century example of the romantic-historical novel as does Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. In the United States, Nathaniel Hawthorne and James Fenimore Cooper were prominent.

Many early historical novels played an important role in the rise of European popular interest in the history of the Middle Ages. Hugo's Hunchback often receives credit for fueling the movement to save Gothic architecture in France, leading to the establishment of the Monuments historiques, the French governmental authority for historic preservation.

Historical fiction has also served to encourage movements of romantic nationalism. A series of novels by Józef Ignacy Kraszewski on the history of Poland popularized the country's history after it had lost its independence in the Partitions of Poland. Subsequently the Polish winner of the 1905 Nobel Prize in literature, Henryk Sienkiewicz, wrote several immensely popular novels set in conflicts between the Poles and predatory Teutonic Knights, rebelling Cossacks and invading Swedes. (He also penned a once popular novel about Nero's Rome and the early Christians, Quo Vadis, which has been filmed several times.)

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