Three Tips for Reading Historical Non-Fiction

This week I jumped into historical non-fiction for the first time and as some of you may have gathered from this post , I found the experience a little intimidating!  Fortunately, with lots of help from the internet, I made it through – something which turned out to be a surprisingly satisfying experience.  So today I’m going to share with you what I learned, in hopes you won’t need to start a book feeling as lost as I did 🙂

1 – Orient Yourself in Time
My biggest problem when I started reading was that I really wanted to learn something from this book, but I had no prior knowledge of what was happening in the late 1500’s.  I also didn’t know much about when other important events took place in relation the the 1500’s.  Fortunately, I’m not as totally hopeless about history as I may sound, so I was pretty sure I just needed to find a website that gave me a timeline of events to help give me some context.  While searching, I came across this wonderful website which lets you view important world events broken down by era and geographical region.  For instance, I learned that living the late 1500’s Tycho and Kepler were living after the war of the roses, the Spanish Armada, the gun powder plot, and Joan of Arc.  It was really helpful and I highly recommend this as a place to start if you’re feeling lost in time!  

2 – Orient Yourself in Space
I hate to say this, buy my knowledge of geography is far slimmer than my knowledge of history – terrifying, I know!  Luckily, maps are an obvious and simple solution to that problem (I used this one).  Although the answer is quite clear, I wanted to bring it up anyway just to emphasize how much more enjoyable reading can be when you really get what’s going on.  And for someone as geographically challenged as myself, a map is essential for truly understanding the setting in which everything is taking place.

3 – Wikipedia is Your Friend (or If You Don’t Know, Don’t Keep Reading)
My list would certainly not be complete without mentioning wikipedia.  Use it.  Love it.  And don’t, don’t, don’t skim over references you don’t get.  You lose out on so much of the depth of the story if you do!

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