Historical fiction

I often come across home educating families where historical fiction plays a big rôle in the teaching of history. Indeed, some families claim to use nothing else. The books of GA Henty are so popular among home schoolers in the USA that the fact that home schoolers use them even gets a (rather negative) mention in the Wikipedia article on Henty. This popularity also ensures that they are in print which is just as well if you want to read them since they can be expensive second hand. Henty was a prolific writer who dictated his novels to his secretaries as he strode up and down and he placed his boy hero against a background researched by reading a selection of books requested from the library before beginning work on the tale.

I think myself that relying entirely on a Henty view of the world would be unwise for a Christian home educator but certainly historical fiction can enrich the understanding of history greatly – so long as you are clear that it is fiction. Writers of historical fiction are accused of bias and incomplete knowledge but of course these problems also afflict writers of history books. Elsewhere on this website you will find a box of historical fiction titles that can be borrowed. As well as some Henty books, there are stories by outstanding children's authors such as Henry Treese, Geoffrey Trease, Cynthia Harnett and Rosemary Sutcliffe – all of whom do a better job (in my opinion) than Henty when it comes to story-line, historical accuracy and believability. The box also contains one classic, John Halifax Gentleman, a story every child should know and the most famous tale of excitement, romance and rescue in all historical fiction – the Scarlet Pimpernel. If you find you enjoy it there are a number of sequels you can follow up. Almost all the books in the box are excellent for reading aloud. Sometimes a really exciting story will prompt a reluctant reader to finish reading a book himself if you start off by reading it aloud and then just leave it lying around. This box is available at the moment so if you feel inspired to get your teeth into some books in this genre do get in touch.

Historical fiction was also a staple of children's magazines and annuals. There is a selection of shorter stories culled from these sources on Volume 6 of the Mothers' Companion and information on where they fit it with The Story of God's Dealings with our Nation so that you can fit them in with more formal history teaching if you wish.

Last but not least, if you want to enjoy an extended look at 17th century Europe through historical fiction, Trasna na Dtonnta or A Tale of Three Cities is now available as a paperback or ebook just scroll down here.

Happy reading!