He also wrote the popular novel, Quo Vadis , about Nero 's Rome and the early Christians , which has been adapted several times for film, in , , , to only name the most prominent. Many early historical novels played an important role in the rise of European popular interest in the history of the Middle Ages. Victor Hugo 's The Hunchback of Notre Dame often receives credit for fueling the movement to preserve the Gothic architecture of France , leading to the establishment of the Monuments historiques , the French governmental authority for historic preservation.
Although the story itself is fiction, many of the persona and events are not. The book is based on research by Monaldi and Sorti, who researched information from 17th-century manuscripts and published works concerning the siege of Vienna , the plague and papacy of Pope Innocent XI.
In some historical novels, major historic events take place mostly off-stage, while the fictional characters inhabit the world where those events occur. Robert Louis Stevenson 's Kidnapped recounts mostly private adventures set against the backdrop of the Jacobite troubles in Scotland. In some works, the accuracy of the historical elements has been questioned, as in Alexandre Dumas ' Queen Margot. A few writers create historical fiction without fictional characters. Historical prose fiction has a long tradition in world literature.
Three of the Four Classics of Chinese literature were set in the distant past: Shi Nai'an 's 14th-century Water Margin concerns 12th-century outlaws; Luo Guanzhong 's 14th-century Romance of the Three Kingdoms concerns the 3rd-century wars which ended the Han Dynasty ; Wu Cheng'en 's 16th-century Journey to the West concerns the 7th-century Buddhist pilgrim Xuanzang. Classical Greek novelists were also "very fond of writing novels about people and places of the past". It is regarded by many as the beginning of the modern tradition of the psychological novel , and as a great classic work.
Its author is generally held to be Madame de La Fayette. The novel recreates that era with remarkable precision. Nearly every character — except the heroine — is a historical figure. Events and intrigues unfold with great faithfulness to documentary record. Historical fiction rose to prominence in Europe during the early 19th century as part of the Romantic reaction to the Enlightenment , especially through the influence of the Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott , whose works were immensely popular throughout Europe.
Jane Porter 's novel Thaddeus of Warsaw is one of the earliest examples of the historical novel in English and went through at least 84 editions. The Trumpet-Major is Thomas Hardy 's only historical novel, and is set in Weymouth during the Napoleonic wars ;  when the town was then anxious about the possibility of invasion by Napoleon. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne , is perhaps the most famous 19th-century American historical novel.
In French literature, the most prominent inheritor of Scott's style of the historical novel was Balzac. Victor Hugo 's The Hunchback of Notre Dame furnishes another 19th-century example of the romantic-historical novel.
Victor Hugo began writing The Hunchback of Notre-Dame in , largely to make his contemporaries more aware of the value of the Gothic architecture , which was neglected and often destroyed to be replaced by new buildings, or defaced by replacement of parts of buildings in a newer style.
George Saintsbury stated: " Monte Cristo is said to have been at its first appearance, and for some time subsequently, the most popular book in Europe. The book was "translated into virtually all modern languages and has never been out of print in most of them. There have been at least twenty-nine motion pictures based on it Tolstoy's War and Peace offers an example of 19th-century historical fiction used to critique contemporary history.
Tolstoy read the standard histories available in Russian and French about the Napoleonic Wars , and used the novel to challenge those historical approaches. At the start of the novel's third volume he describes his work as blurring the line between fiction and history, in order to get closer to the truth. The Charterhouse of Parma by Marie-Henri Beyle Stendhal is an epic retelling of the story of an Italian nobleman who lives through the Napoleonic period in Italian history. It includes a description of the Battle of Waterloo by the principal character.
Stendhal fought with Napoleon and participated in the French invasion of Russia. The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni has been called the most famous and widely read novel of the Italian language. Unfortunately, in them the narrative talent not equaled the patriotic passion, and their novels, full of rhetoric and melodramatic excesses, are today barely readable as historical documents. A significant exception is The Confessions of an Italian by Ippolito Nievo , an epic about the Venetian republic 's fall and the Napoleonic age , told with satiric irony and youthful brio Nievo wrote it when he was 26 years old.
A major 20th-century example of this genre is the German author Thomas Mann 's Buddenbrooks This chronicles the decline of a wealthy north German merchant family over the course of four generations, incidentally portraying the manner of life and mores of the Hanseatic bourgeoisie in the years from to This was Mann's first novel, and with the publication of the 2nd edition in , Buddenbrooks became a major literary success. The work led to a Nobel Prize in Literature for Mann in ; although the Nobel award generally recognises an author's body of work, the Swedish Academy's citation for Mann identified "his great novel Buddenbrooks " as the principal reason for his prize.
In it Mann retells the familiar biblical stories of Genesis , from Jacob to Joseph chapters 27—50 , setting it in the historical context of the reign of Akhenaten — BC in ancient Egypt. Powys suggests parallels with these historical periods and Britain in the late s and during World War II. Heyer essentially established the historical romance genre and its subgenre Regency romance , which was inspired by Jane Austen.
To ensure accuracy, Heyer collected reference works and kept detailed notes on all aspects of Regency life. While some critics thought the novels were too detailed, others considered the level of detail to be Heyer's greatest asset; Heyer even recreated William the Conqueror 's crossing into England for her novel The Conqueror.
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Naomi Mitchison's finest novel The Corn King and the Spring Queen is regarded by some as the best historical novel of the 20th century. In addition to fictional portrayals of Theseus , Socrates , Plato and Alexander the Great , she wrote a non-fiction biography of Alexander. The Siege of Krishnapur by J. Farrell has been described as an "outstanding novel".
The main characters find themselves subject to the increasing strictures and deprivation of the siege, which reverses the "normal" structure of life where Europeans govern Asian subjects. The absurdity of the class system in a town no one can leave becomes a source of comic invention, though the text is serious in intent and tone. Though the genre has evolved since its inception, the historical novel remains popular with authors and readers to this day and bestsellers include Patrick O'Brian 's Aubrey—Maturin series , Ken Follett 's Pillars of the Earth , and Neal Stephenson 's Baroque Cycle.
A development in British and Irish writing in the past 25 years has been the renewed interest in the First World War.
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William Golding wrote a number of historical novels. The Inheritors is set in prehistoric times and shows "new people" generally identified with Homo sapiens sapiens , triumphing over a gentler race generally identified with Neanderthals by deceit and violence. The Spire follows the building and near collapse of a huge spire onto a medieval cathedral generally assumed to be Salisbury Cathedral ; the spire symbolizing both spiritual aspiration and worldly vanity. The Scorpion God consists of three novellas, the first set in a prehistoric African hunter-gatherer band 'Clonk, Clonk' , the second in an ancient Egyptian court 'The Scorpion God' and the third in the court of a Roman emperor 'Envoy Extraordinary'.
Kenneth Roberts wrote several books set around the events of the American Revolution, of which Northwest Passage , Oliver Wiswell , and Lydia Bailey all became best-sellers in the s and s. Doctorow , William Kennedy.
Southern novelists like Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa The leopard , Francesco Iovine Lady Ava , Carlo Alianello The heritage of the prioress and, more recently, Andrea Camilleri The Preston brewer have retold the events of the Italian Unification , often overturning their traditional image, heroic and progressive. The conservative Riccardo Bacchelli in The devil at the long point and the communist Vasco Pratolini in Metello had described, by two ideologically opposite points of view, the birth of the Italian Socialism.
Bacchelli is also the author of The mill on the Po , the powerful, also if a little farraginous, saga of a family of millers, from Napoleon to the First World War , one of the most epic novels of the last century. So it was for Fulvio Tomizza The evil coming from North , about the Reformation , Dacia Maraini The silent duchess , about the female condition in the Eighteenth century and Sebastiano Vassalli The chimera , about the witch hunt.
Fani Popova—Mutafova was a Bulgarian author who is considered by many to have been the best-selling Bulgarian historical fiction author ever. Yana Yazova — also has several novels that can be considered historical as " Alexander of Macedon ", her only novel on non-Bulgarian thematic, as well as her trilogy " Balkani ". Vera Mutafchieva — is the author of historical novels which were translated into 11 languages. The novel was adapted in the serial movie " Time of Violence ", divided into two parts with the subtitles "The Threat" and "The Violence" by by the director Lyudmil Staykov.
In June , " Time of Violence " was chosen as the most beloved film of Bulgarian viewers in "Laced Shoes of Bulgarian Cinema", a large-scale consultation with the audience of Bulgarian National Television. A 20th-century variant of the historical novel is documentary fiction, which incorporates "not only historical characters and events, but also reports of everyday events" found in contemporary newspapers.
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Historical mysteries or "historical whodunits " are set by their authors in the distant past, with a plot that which involves the solving of a mystery or crime usually murder. Though works combining these genres have existed since at least the early s, many credit Ellis Peters 's Cadfael Chronicles — with popularizing them. These are set between and A. One of the first popular historical romances appeared in , when Georgette Heyer published The Black Moth , which is set in It was not until that she wrote the first of her signature Regency novels, set around the English Regency period — , when the Prince Regent ruled England in place of his ill father, George III.
Heyer's Regency novels were inspired by Jane Austen 's novels of the late 18th and early 19th century. Because Heyer's writing was set in the midst of events that had occurred over years previously, she included authentic period detail in order for her readers to understand. Heyer's characters often contained more modern-day sensibilities, and more conventional characters in the novels would point out the heroine's eccentricities, such as wanting to marry for love.
Some historical novels explore life at sea , including C.
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It is an alternative history in which Franklin Delano Roosevelt is defeated in the presidential election of by Charles Lindbergh and a fascist , anti-semitic government is established. There are other examples, such as Robert Silverberg 's Roma Eterna , in which the Roman Empire survives to the present day and time travel to the past, such as the "Company" stories of Kage Baker. There are authors who write in both subgenres, like Harry Turtledove in his Timeline series and " The Guns of the South " novel, respectively.
Isaac Asimov 's short story What If-- is about a couple who can explore alternate realities by means of a television-like device. This idea can also be found in Asimov's novel The End of Eternity. In that novel, the "Eternals" can change the realities of the world, without people being aware of it. There is also a historical fantasy subgenre.
Otherwise space opera author C. David Gemmel has only two historical fantasy series. The first is the Greek series , which are about Parmenion , a general of Alexander the Great.