recreating a specific historical event as closely as possible, generally
at or near the site of the original event. Living history is more
general, recreating living and life for a specific period of time without
being tied to any specific event. Re-enactors and living historians are a
group of people with an interest (which can in time grow to be a fanatical
obsession) in a particular historical event or period.
Unlike a historian, a
re-enactor or living historian, however, is not satisfied with
merely the dry facts, dates and narratives available from history books,
diaries and journals and the artifacts seen on display in museums.
The living historian wants to experience life as it was during the time
of interest, from the smells of campfires and cooking foods in the
evening, the feel of buckskin clothing against the skin, the satisfaction
of a well thrown tomahawk or knife sticking in a target, to starting a
campfire with flint and steel, or the shock from a muzzle-loading rifle
being fired. Re-enacting is a
celebration of our past and those qualities-independence, courage and
self-reliance-that we admire in our ancestors.
Re-enacting also provides the opportunity to share ones historical
interests with other enthusiasts, as well as those skills and knowledge
sets that go with it.
A caution though,
the past was not all glamour and our forebears were not all heroes.
They were, like us, human, and deeds of greatness are mingled with
dark deeds, the ruthless slaughter of wildlife, and senseless atrocities
against native peoples. Also,
our ancestors viewed living very differently than we do today.
Shear survival was often the goal, and there was no assurance of a
long and healthy life. Anything
that could be done to assure survival was considered fair.
If you are
considering re-enacting or living history, one of the best places to start is by looking around at the events which
locally or in your region. Re-enactments
will most often reflect events or the history of that area.
It might not be possible to do French and Indian War re-enactments
if you live in Colorado, unless you can budget for the travel expenses.
However, in Colorado, the fur trade is very appropriate to the
state’s history, and there are many so-called re-enactments of “Rendezvous”
held throughout the state (historically, there never was a rendezvous
within Colorado). Before
you start gathering clothing and gear, attend a couple of
rendezvous to see what its like. Most
rendezvous are open to “Pilgrims” during the day and you can learn a
lot by observation, and by talking to the participants.
Participants may seem like a cliquish lot, and to a certain extent
they are. They are trying, as
best they can, to recreate a time in history, and to block out those
things which do not fit in. They
already know each other, and in some cases have friendships which may go
back for decades. However, ask
questions! These people
didn’t put hundreds of hours into research, sewing and construction of
clothing and purchase or building of equipment and development of skills
to keep it all to themselves. They
are proud of what they’ve done and the times they represent, and are
only to happy to share what they know with anyone who demonstrates an
Take a camera
with you and take lots of pictures. Pictures
can be an immense aid when you start putting your own outfit together.
re-enactor strives for as much historical accuracy as is possible,
exceptions are made in some matters. It
is no longer possible to ride out and bring down a buffalo before dinner,
and so the convenience of the modern cooler (of course properly disguised,
or hidden) is usually allowed. Other
exceptions for sanitation, and for health and safety reasons, are also
rendezvous will have different rules regarding what is acceptable or not,
and different ways of enforcing those rules.
It might behoove one to question the rendezvous booshway prior to
attending a specific event.
Also, be aware that many "Rendezvous" would be better
characterized as "theme camping" rather than truly historically
Also, be aware that many "Rendezvous" would be better characterized as "theme camping" rather than truly historically accurate.