At its core, living history is a serious recreation of an earlier culture. It is not fantasy LAMP, though many such societies brag about how they are true living and those societies who have written authenticity (I prefer the term “accuracy”) rules are just anal and judgmental. Interpretation of what is “thenty” varies; that is why there are so many similar but different societies, many across varying eras (I call them “Fellow Travelers”). But any living-history society that can legitimately style itself by that name has three things in common:
1 Everything is has “on the line” has a historical inspiration, either an actual artefact from the time or a literary description. Most societies demand two or three instances, which is why most Norse societies are not over run by people with bronze Buddha!
- Reenacting equipment are made from historically accurate materials, so that—in the case of the early Middle ages—members are not using cotton, polyester or plywood.
- They do not mix different eras or too many uncommon items unless they use items recycled from an earlier era or an expensive, uncommon item is unique and not universally seen if a low status impression is being depicted.
Beyond these matters lies the exceptions of them, and they differ widely. Whether the reenactors have first- or third- (or even second-) person impressions, or even if they talk modern English (or the language of the main surrounding culture) are entirely dependent mainly on the society. But some of the elements mentioned below make it completely not living history, though others have a grey area. . Some are fairly standard and wide spread, such as blank ammunition, rebated combat blades and no lead drinking vessels. We will deal with the extent of these exceptions below. But first, let’s look at the five common levels of accuracy…
Every object used or displayed is an exact duplicate of an historical object down to how it was made. It is a duplicate that could be found in a museum, and anything that does not differ in any extent—great or not, materiasl, design, tools—that were not used on the original. To a good extent, this is experimental archaeology.
What You See Is What is Accurate
The visible parts of every object used or displayed is an exact duplicate of an historical object, but unseen, interior seams are not necessarily by hand, non-period details—such as grommets—might be hidden and non-period tools are used.
Objects are Inspired by Artefacts
While an object is inspired by an existing artefact, the replica may be made of a different material (but nothing that was unavailable) and different sizes but still has the general shapes and adds no features no features that were unavailable such as rope handles and plastic hinges. The use of things that cannot be provenanced such as leather hinges.
The extent of these modifications are determined by the society’s Authenticity Officer (AO), and any modification cannot be unilateral and must be approved by the AO. In some cases, something that was permitted is now forbidden and must be replaced or just eliminated by a certain time.
Many societies have degrees of innovation, where a practical change is made that is related to an example but possible…but have the AO approval before making or displaying it!
Items Are Medieval-esque
Items are vaguely based on what is true, but it is more important to look neat and cool and almost as if you stepped out of a Mel Gibson film. At this point, it is usually bit uncertain whether it is living history or not.
If They’da Haddit. They’da Usedit if it was Cool
The “reenactor” eschews all research and does what he wants because fancy-dress cosplay is more important than anything else. This is, of course, definitely not living history.
None of the above are absolute black and white, and every aspect may be fudged, debated and debated. In addition, you and your society has its own standards. Having farby standards is not bad if you and your members agree to it and unless members of your society object to being surrounded by farb or you brag about how thenty it is. However, each should be in your mind and neither ignored nor even considered.