I have always been fascinated by historical trivia, which is one reason I enjoy reading historical fiction so much. And Diana Gabaldon's books, of course, are a treasure trove for people who like to read about the minutiae of daily life in the 18th century, from the details of food and clothing and folk medicines in those days, to the proper way to make lead balls for a musket (by pouring molten lead into a bullet mold, as Jamie does in ABOSAA). <g>
But the things that really catch my eye are the more unusual details, things that seem utterly bizarre by 21st-century standards. Some of my favorite examples from the books in this category:
- the "hanged-men's grease" (DRAGONFLY IN AMBER)
- curing syphilis by deliberately infecting the patient with malaria, to induce a high fever (LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER)
- the "sin-eater" (ABOSAA)
- encounters with crocodiles and voodoo sacrifice in the Caribbean (VOYAGER)
- the whole concept of the "fiery cross" and how it relates to the KKK (FIERY CROSS)
As I say, I love this sort of thing; I always have. And I found a couple of sites recently that some of you may find interesting:
The Virtual Dime Museum - Focuses mainly on the Victorian era. Updated frequently.
The Museum of Questionable Medical Devices - You only have to watch infomercials on TV to realize that "quackery" is not something limited to prior centuries. <g> Some of the items displayed on this site are pretty funny. If you enjoy (and are occasionally appalled by) the descriptions of 18th-century medicine in the OUTLANDER books, I think you'll appreciate this.
The 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalog - I have a copy of this book (reprinted in the 1960's) and I love to look through it, especially for the descriptions of patent medicines (advertising cures for just about anything you can imagine) and the pictures of clothing for all ages.
What about the rest of you? What's your favorite bit of historical trivia from the OUTLANDER books? Do you have a site you would recommend for people who like to read about this sort of thing?
As always, I'm interested to hear what you think.