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  #1  
Old 05-25-2011, 01:18 AM
OpalCat OpalCat is offline
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What was life like in the 1600s? (research here)

First off again, disclosure: I'm writing a book (my first!) and starting to do research.

I want to know things about the 1600s, starting very early (first decade) and going through the rest of that century. What level of technology was around? Who were the great minds of the day? Artists? What major discoveries were made? What were cities and towns like, versus rural life? Did anything happen globally of great importance?

Can anyone recommend any books that talk about what life was like for the average person during those times? I'm quite willing to read up to do this research but being pointed in the right direction would be awfully handy and getting started has always been my weakest point when doing research, like for school papers. Once I find the sources I can glean what I need, it's just finding the sources that I stumble on.

I'm interested primarily in English/Scotish/Welsh/Irish and also Dutch. What was London like?

Any pointers would be much appreciated. I know it probably feels like homework help, but you guys are just so resourceful that it's hard not to start here. Even if you can just give me some good Google Fu--search terms that might be handy or search strategies.

Thanks a million.
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  #2  
Old 05-25-2011, 01:45 AM
OpalCat OpalCat is offline
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Oh, and in the book recommendation request, fiction is fine as long as you think it's a fairly realistic portrayal. Oh, movies, too.
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Old 05-25-2011, 01:55 AM
dtilque dtilque is offline
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Elizabeth I died in 1603 and was followed by James I (he of the King James Version of the bible). Shakespeare was still writing at the beginning of the century.

Charles I followed James I but was executed by Cromwell in 1649. The monarchy was eventually restored under Charles II in 1660. James II succeeded him in 1685.

Both the Dutch and English founded colonies in the New World during that century.

There was a series of Anglo-Dutch wars during the 17th century. During one of them, the English took over the Dutch colony. Somewhere I read that Manhattan was traded during treaty talks for a now obscure island in the East Indies. Both the Dutch and the English wanted the East Indian island, since it was the source of some spice. But the Dutch had done better during the war, so the English were forced to take the second-best island.

This should give you plenty of topics to look up in Wikipedia.
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Old 05-25-2011, 02:17 AM
OpalCat OpalCat is offline
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Awesome, dtilque! This is a great starting place! I knew I could count on Dopers to give me some starting points.
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  #5  
Old 05-25-2011, 02:21 AM
mhendo mhendo is online now
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The 17th century was an incredibly important and turbulent period in English history. The transfers of power mentioned by dtilque were not just regular successions, but involved important conflicts over religion, the monarchy, and the authority of Parliament, all culminating in the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

For individual dramatic events, the great fire of London in 1666 is a pretty good candidate.

For something like a book, especially if you're starting from scratch, the best place to start might be social histories, the sort that focus on everyday life. I'm no expert in English history, but i read some as an undergrad, and a couple more as a grad student. Here's a few that will help you get started, on London at least:

Hubbub: Filth, Noise, and Stench in England, 1600-1770

The Making of the English Middle Class: Business, Society and Family Life in London 1660-1730

A City Full of People: Men and Women of London 1650-1750

Shakespeare's London: Everyday Life in London 1580 to 1616

The Social World of Early Modern Westminster: Abbey, Court and Community, 1525-1640

1700: Scenes from London Life

Also, probably the single most famous primary source from 17th-century London:

The Diary of Samuel Pepys

Last edited by mhendo; 05-25-2011 at 02:22 AM..
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  #6  
Old 05-25-2011, 02:31 AM
OpalCat OpalCat is offline
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Wow, thanks mhendo. Those sound like great places to start out.

Fortunately this is for backstory on my older vampire character. The setting of the book will not be in that time, just anecdotal tales when the vampire talks about his past, so I don't need to be fluent in the period, just know enough to sound plausible.

You guys are being immensely helpful; I appreciate it.
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  #7  
Old 05-25-2011, 03:25 AM
dtilque dtilque is offline
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Originally Posted by mhendo View Post
The 17th century was an incredibly important and turbulent period in English history. The transfers of power mentioned by dtilque were not just regular successions, but involved important conflicts over religion, the monarchy, and the authority of Parliament, all culminating in the Glorious Revolution of 1688.
Right. I was just trying to hit the high spots, but forgot one of the biggest.
Quote:
For individual dramatic events, the great fire of London in 1666 is a pretty good candidate.
Note that there was also an outbreak of the bubonic plague during 1665-6, so it was a double disaster.

Another name from this era to look up: Christopher Wren. He was the architect responsible for rebuilding London's churches after the fire. His most notable accomplishment was St Paul's Cathedral, although it didn't get completed until the next century.

In scientific circles, the Royal Society was founded in this century and Isaac Newton did his most important work.
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Old 05-25-2011, 03:53 AM
aruvqan aruvqan is offline
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Go here. You are looking for 'late period' stuff. The run of the SCA ends at 1600, but history is very rarely chopped off short.
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  #9  
Old 05-25-2011, 05:31 AM
Horatio Hellpop Horatio Hellpop is offline
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1611 saw the publication of the Authorized King James Version of the Holy Bible. Its impact was (and remains) huge; the KJV was the first Bible to be (1) literate, (2) popular and (3) in English. The Catholic Church had kind of a vested interest in keeping the Bible in Latin prior to the Protestant Reformation and the first few Bibles to be translated into English were victims of dubious scholarship and a Puritan agenda. Now literate Englishmen could see for themselves what the Bible really said, and form their own interpretations. It remains the Bible of choice for most English-speaking Protestants to this day, and when Biblical quotes are used for any (English-speaking) literary purpose, this is the one writers go to. Few books have made as big an impact on Western culture.
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  #10  
Old 05-25-2011, 05:46 AM
Horatio Hellpop Horatio Hellpop is offline
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A pretty good movie about the 17th Century: Restoration, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Sam Neill. Court intrigues and the state of medical science of the day (1660s) were major themes.
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  #11  
Old 05-25-2011, 06:02 AM
Gyrate Gyrate is offline
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The 17th century was certainly a mess for England. With the Revolution (and Commonwealth and Restoration), Plague, Great Fire and Glorious Revolution it was a happening time.
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  #12  
Old 05-25-2011, 06:13 AM
willthekittensurvive? willthekittensurvive? is offline
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the 1600s are considerd the the Golden Age by the Dutch
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  #13  
Old 05-25-2011, 07:32 AM
OpalCat OpalCat is offline
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Thanks everyone, you're giving me a real jump start on my research.
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  #14  
Old 05-25-2011, 08:14 AM
Gilles de Rais Gilles de Rais is offline
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Read Pepys diaries for dialogue and first-hand information.

Famous diarist who had first-hand accounts of both the plague and the great fire as well as daily, mundane existence like eating and affairs and hiring maids and dealing with transportation.

Love Pepys.... (pronounced PEEPS)
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  #15  
Old 05-25-2011, 09:00 AM
OpalCat OpalCat is offline
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Awesome source, Gilles de Rais! thanks!
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  #16  
Old 05-25-2011, 11:34 AM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is online now
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Here are a couple of books on everyday life in Restoration London, which draw heavily on Pepys, I think.
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  #17  
Old 05-25-2011, 11:42 AM
salinqmind salinqmind is offline
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There's always Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor. (I read on Wikipedia that this book is 972 pages long and was whittled down by the publishers from an epic FIVE times as long!)
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  #18  
Old 05-25-2011, 11:50 AM
ZipperJJ ZipperJJ is online now
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The Baroque Cycle books by Neal Stephenson is historical fiction about the late 1600s, focusing on the Royal Society in London but also includes visits to Germany and the Netherlands and even Turkey.

Of course you'll need like 3 weeks to read it. It's three heavy books. But a fantastic painting of the era.
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  #19  
Old 05-25-2011, 03:33 PM
OpalCat OpalCat is offline
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Are they fairly accurate portrayals, ZipperJJ?
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  #20  
Old 05-25-2011, 05:08 PM
Argent Towers Argent Towers is offline
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If the 1900s were "The American Century," then the 1600s were undoubtedly the "Dutch Century." Most of the major activity of the 1600s can ultimately be connected to the conflicts between the Dutch and the Spanish, and ultimately between the Catholic Holy Roman Empire and the protestant states of Germany, and the Low Countries (Netherlands and parts of Belgium and France.) The defining event of the 1600s really was the Thirty Years War and without understanding it, the history of the period will not make much sense.
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  #21  
Old 05-25-2011, 06:15 PM
OpalCat OpalCat is offline
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Thanks Argent Towers! I'll read that link.
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  #22  
Old 05-25-2011, 06:32 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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Jamestown was founded in the first decade of the 17th century in Virginia. The Mayflower came to Massachusetts in 1620. You live in one of the few areas in the U.S. where you can still see a significant amount of buildings, artifacts, and recreations from that time. You could go to Salem, MA and see the witch museum or to the Plymouth plantation. It has some decent history from that time in a form that is easy to take in and fun. There are a number of 17th century houses still around as well for touring. National Geographic has done some good summaries of Jamestown in magazine and documentary form (Netflix on Demand). That will give you some English/American history from the early people that left England but still had English culture.

Last edited by Shagnasty; 05-25-2011 at 06:34 PM..
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  #23  
Old 05-25-2011, 07:37 PM
lisiate lisiate is offline
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Originally Posted by ZipperJJ View Post
The Baroque Cycle books by Neal Stephenson is historical fiction about the late 1600s, focusing on the Royal Society in London but also includes visits to Germany and the Netherlands and even Turkey.

Of course you'll need like 3 weeks to read it. It's three heavy books. But a fantastic painting of the era.
You read faster than I - took me closer to 3 months.

I'm not sure how to score the Baroque Cycle for realism. I didn't notice any obvious clangers but lets just say it's no ordinary tale. Oh and the books start in Boston, and also include excursions to India, North Africa and Qwghlm.
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  #24  
Old 05-25-2011, 08:53 PM
ZipperJJ ZipperJJ is online now
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Well, the main characters we follow in the books are fictional and do fictional things and have fictional adventures. But they do them alongside real people from history, in real places (except Qwghlm) during real events like wars.

Yeah a lot of pages are dedicated to not-Europe. You could probably skip those and not miss anything.

IMHO they are historically accurate but I think 90% of what I know about that era came from me reading the series It makes me good at trivia tho! OpalCat you should Google it, see what "the Internet" thinks about the accuracy.
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Old 05-25-2011, 09:06 PM
BarryB BarryB is offline
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1611 saw the publication of the Authorized King James Version of the Holy Bible. Its impact was (and remains) huge; the KJV was the first Bible to be (1) literate, (2) popular and (3) in English. The Catholic Church had kind of a vested interest in keeping the Bible in Latin prior to the Protestant Reformation and the first few Bibles to be translated into English were victims of dubious scholarship and a Puritan agenda. Now literate Englishmen could see for themselves what the Bible really said, and form their own interpretations. It remains the Bible of choice for most English-speaking Protestants to this day, and when Biblical quotes are used for any (English-speaking) literary purpose, this is the one writers go to. Few books have made as big an impact on Western culture.
Really? Amazing how the Geneva bible has somehow fallen out of history.
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  #26  
Old 05-25-2011, 09:27 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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A recommendation for The Pyrates by George MacDonald Fraser. Yes, it's a novel about pirates (with a lot of the book set in England) but Fraser is a meticulous historian - he made sure he knew all the real history of the period before making up whatever he wanted. So the book will give you a good feel for the period even though you wouldn't want to use it as a cite. Plus it's highly entertaining.
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  #27  
Old 05-25-2011, 09:31 PM
Qin Shi Huangdi Qin Shi Huangdi is offline
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Everyday Life in Elizabethan Times
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Old 05-25-2011, 09:32 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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One thing you'll want to address in a vampire novel set in this period is witch hunting. The peak of this phenomena ran from about the middle of the sixteenth to the middle of the seventeenth centuries. Tens of thousands of people were executed for allegedly practicing witchcraft during this period.
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Old 05-25-2011, 09:41 PM
Qin Shi Huangdi Qin Shi Huangdi is offline
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One thing you'll want to address in a vampire novel set in this period is witch hunting. The peak of this phenomena ran from about the middle of the sixteenth to the middle of the seventeenth centuries. Tens of thousands of people were executed for allegedly practicing witchcraft during this period.
In areas around Hungary or Transylvania, there was vampire-hunting instead of witch-hunting
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Old 05-25-2011, 09:50 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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In areas around Hungary or Transylvania, there was vampire-hunting instead of witch-hunting
It obviously didn't work judging by the vampire/witch ratio in popular press these days.
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Old 05-25-2011, 09:50 PM
Lobohan Lobohan is offline
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In areas around Hungary or Transylvania, there was vampire-hunting instead of witch-hunting
"Turn her loose. We only got the vampire hunting license."
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  #32  
Old 05-25-2011, 09:56 PM
Sampiro Sampiro is offline
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One thing you'll want to address in a vampire novel set in this period is witch hunting. The peak of this phenomena ran from about the middle of the sixteenth to the middle of the seventeenth centuries. Tens of thousands of people were executed for allegedly practicing witchcraft during this period.
Our notion of the witch as a crone with a flying broom and beat up pointy hat actually comes from a specific case, the Pendle/Lancashire Witches. James I & VI, who had written (or had written) a book on Dæmonologie was fascinated by the case; some biographers and historians theorize that the witches in Macbeth were beefed up if not added to it altogether to reflect the witch trials. (Macbeth premiered before the Pendle trials but was performed numerous times at court and in London.)

The most important development in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales in the 17th century was of course their merger into one land. The merger of the Scottish & English thrones was a huge event; James VI's of Scotland's mother and great-grandfather had both died at the hands of English monarchs and his grandfather spent his short life fighting them.

Northern Ireland had unbelievable shake-ups due to the backlash of decades of wars with the English and the Flight of the Earls. James settled Scots and Yorkshire families by the fleetload onto the lands that had been depopulated by force in northeastern Ireland; they became known as the Ulster Scots, or, in America, the Scots Irish.

Then of course there's the English Civil War which also had arms in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. All in all a topsy turvy century for the monarchs: first they get a Scotsman, then mid century they see a king deposed and beheaded without a successor for the first time ever. Then 'Calvinism gone wild' was replaced by Stuarts gone wild with the restoration- if you're writing about 1660 then it's a way different world than 1616 because suddenly "sin was in and her name was Gwynne", and that lasted until the English king was deposed- uhgain- with James II (a devout Catholic but every bit as big a horndog and playboy as his "Old Rowdy" brother Charles) being chased out by his daughter and (gay)son-in-law/nephew.

If there's a theater element this is really a complex era: you catch the end of Shakespeare's time, then see it really smashed under the Protectorate of Cromwell, then brought back booming by Charles II (with actualy genuine live women on the stage). Commedia dell arte (sp) begins to arrive in England, along with huge elaborate horny masked balls.

And through the entire century of course there's America. The settlement of Jamestown was huge news (few if any outside the highest ups at the Virginia Company offices realized what a nightmare the place was- Auschwitz had lower death rates). Pocahontas became a superstar and pin-up of sorts in the 1610s- speaking of theater she was lodged in a tavern popular with actors and caught the illness that killed her there. As Virginia and then Plimoth slowly stabilize, the emigration from all over Britain to the New World escalates tremendously with people leaving from all ports to try their hand in America. (Interesting thing: many actually didn't have a particular destination selected so much as they went where the ships were headed.)

Meanwhile science and mathematics and astronomy are being revolutionized and the economy is going haywire several times and it's the dawn of the golden age of piracy by the end of the century and then there's some Continental affairs that have major repercussions in Britain. Oh, and Catholics tried to blow up Parliament early on and there are all manner of Protestant v. Catholic and Protestant v. Other Protestant skirmishes and wars.

So, short answer, A LOT was happening.
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  #33  
Old 05-25-2011, 10:13 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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In areas around Hungary or Transylvania, there was vampire-hunting instead of witch-hunting
Vampire hunting never really caught on. The problem was that all the suspects were corpses and you just couldn't get the same satisfaction executing somebody who was already dead.
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  #34  
Old 05-25-2011, 10:26 PM
Sampiro Sampiro is offline
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The problem was that all the suspects were corpses and you just couldn't get the same satisfaction executing somebody who was already dead.
Speak for yourself.
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  #35  
Old 05-25-2011, 10:58 PM
dtilque dtilque is offline
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Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
One thing you'll want to address in a vampire novel set in this period is witch hunting. The peak of this phenomena ran from about the middle of the sixteenth to the middle of the seventeenth centuries. Tens of thousands of people were executed for allegedly practicing witchcraft during this period.
Speaking of which, let's not forget the Witchfinder General
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  #36  
Old 05-25-2011, 11:24 PM
OpalCat OpalCat is offline
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One thing you'll want to address in a vampire novel set in this period is witch hunting. The peak of this phenomena ran from about the middle of the sixteenth to the middle of the seventeenth centuries. Tens of thousands of people were executed for allegedly practicing witchcraft during this period.
The novel is set in present day. Just one of the main characters is that old and I want to have a feel for his back story.
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Old 05-26-2011, 06:13 AM
aldiboronti aldiboronti is offline
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The most important development in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales in the 17th century was of course their merger into one land.
Nitpick. England and Scotland, despite the merger of the thrones, did not actually become one land until the beginning of the 18th century (the Acts of Union passed by England in 1706 and Scotland in 1707).
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Old 05-26-2011, 08:08 AM
glaeken glaeken is offline
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You also have the industrial revolution kicking off big time towards the end of the 17th century which is a pretty signficant thing in itself.

I would also recommend the Baroque Cycle books by Neal Stephenson as they give a great impression of what London was like at the time and he really does cover all the major developments of the period.
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Old 05-26-2011, 08:32 AM
VernWinterbottom VernWinterbottom is offline
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Jamestown was founded in the first decade of the 17th century in Virginia. The Mayflower came to Massachusetts in 1620. You live in one of the few areas in the U.S. where you can still see a significant amount of buildings, artifacts, and recreations from that time. You could go to Salem, MA and see the witch museum or to the Plymouth plantation. It has some decent history from that time in a form that is easy to take in and fun. There are a number of 17th century houses still around as well for touring. National Geographic has done some good summaries of Jamestown in magazine and documentary form (Netflix on Demand). That will give you some English/American history from the early people that left England but still had English culture.
Keep in mind while looking at early America, though, that the small bands of people who began settling here in the wilderness took something of a step backwards technologically. At least at first, the living here was considerably more primitive than it was back home in Europe.
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Old 05-26-2011, 10:41 AM
Northern Piper Northern Piper is online now
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You might be interested in A Journal of the Plague Year by Defoe. He wrote it about 50 years after the plague, but it's a very meticulous account of the plague in London, and certainly gives you a feel for the impact on the ordinary citizen. Plus, if you're writing about vampires, your character may have a professional interest in that many deaths...
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Old 05-26-2011, 03:08 PM
OpalCat OpalCat is offline
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Thanks again for the info and recommendations, people
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  #42  
Old 05-26-2011, 03:48 PM
Sampiro Sampiro is offline
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The novel Forever Amber, the main character of which is a fictional mistress of Charles II, was a huge bestseller in the 1940s and is credited with good research. (IIRC the author, Kathleen Winsor, had planned to do grad work in history but marriage and World War II derailed the plans, and the Restoration Era was to have been the focus of her study; she made so much money off of the novel that she became a writer and married a bunch of times instead.)
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Old 05-26-2011, 04:28 PM
DrDeth DrDeth is online now
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One of the most readable books is:
At Home: A Short History of Private Life, by Bill Bryson
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  #44  
Old 05-27-2011, 02:35 AM
dtilque dtilque is offline
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You also have the industrial revolution kicking off big time towards the end of the 17th century which is a pretty signficant thing in itself.
I think you're about a century off here. The Industrial Revolution is usually considered to have started in the second half of the 18th century.
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Old 05-27-2011, 03:58 AM
glaeken glaeken is offline
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I think you can see a lot of the start of the industrial revolution around that time.
I guess for me I am linking the industrial revolution to things like steam engines starting to arrive from people like Savery and Newcomen. These developments seem like the dawn of the industrial revolution to me. I don't know what academically is considered the dawn though so this is really just my general concept of it.
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Old 05-27-2011, 04:24 AM
BarryB BarryB is offline
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I think you can see a lot of the start of the industrial revolution around that time.
I guess for me I am linking the industrial revolution to things like steam engines starting to arrive from people like Savery and Newcomen. These developments seem like the dawn of the industrial revolution to me. I don't know what academically is considered the dawn though so this is really just my general concept of it.
Savery's engine was patented in 1698, and Newcomen's work came afterwards. Yes, there were some novelty steam engines in the 17th century, but the term Industrial Revolution is used to describe the large economic and social shift that came about because of the widespread use of steam power and machinery, something that would not happen until well into the 18th century.
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Old 05-27-2011, 04:35 AM
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You might be interested in A Journal of the Plague Year by Defoe. He wrote it about 50 years after the plague, but it's a very meticulous account of the plague in London, and certainly gives you a feel for the impact on the ordinary citizen. Plus, if you're writing about vampires, your character may have a professional interest in that many deaths...
I second this - it's not a gripping narrative but there's a lot of detail in it.

I would think your average vampire's reaction to the plague depends on his immunity to it. If he's immune, having lots of people dying is a great cover. If he isn't, he'd be scared to bite anyone.
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Old 05-27-2011, 07:36 AM
Northern Piper Northern Piper is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Nemo
The problem was that all the suspects were corpses and you just couldn't get the same satisfaction executing somebody who was already dead.
Speak for yourself.
Note that Charles II around this time had the corpses of Oliver Cromwell and a few other regicides dug up, hanged, then decapitated, as a retroactive punishment for regicide. See: Oliver Cromwell's Head.

Again, that's something that may be of some interest to Opal's vampire character.
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Old 05-27-2011, 12:02 PM
Sampiro Sampiro is offline
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I think it would be interesting to see a vampire who's been around for 500 years but of the peasant class, middle aged in appearance and chubby. He's irked by fictional vampires being aristocratic and beautiful and having memories of wild parties at St. Petersburg palaces and the like; he remembers how to work a loom in a Scottish waddle and daub cottage and once saw somebody ride down the road that people bowed to but has no idea if it was a king, a lord, or just somebody with a really nice suit of clothes and that's as close as he ever got to mingling with royalty.
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Old 05-27-2011, 05:32 PM
Intelligently Designed Intelligently Designed is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2006
Edward Rutherfurd's historic novels are great reads. In your case, I suggest London and Sarum. They cover huge periods of time but you could focus on the 17th century.
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