There is no doubt that, when it comes to researching historical novels, there is a Before the Internet and an After the Internet.
I daresay the same applies to a lot of fields – but let me stick to mine: I’m old enough to remember a time when, if you were Italian and wanted, say, to read Henslowe’s Diary, your best option was a trip of several hundred kilometers – to read the book in Bologna or Venice, supposing someone had told you that Nineteenth Century copies of JP Collier’s edited version were to be found there at all*…
Nowadays, all you have to do is to click here – and there you are.
Which is all the more wonderful because I know how it was before. I found much of the joys and frustrations of Back Then in this delightful guest post that historical novelist Mercedes Rochelle wrote for Annie Whitehead’s blog, Casting Light Upon the Shadow.
I was very much reminded of a research trip I took ages ago – two weeks traipsing around in Western France, a rucksack-and-local-transport affair from minor battlefield to country manor, from small town to local museum… I loved it, found both less and more than I had hoped, and went home with a heap of very heavy books…
I suspect that many of us who started off Before The Internet will recognise themselves in Mercedes Rochelle’s story of public libraries, photocopiers and homonymous hills.
* In fact, I can’t help thinking that, back then in Mantua, it would have taken a considerable effort to discover the existence of JP Collier’s work… or, perhaps, even of the Diary itself. You should have gone to Bologna in the first place, just to dig through the right kind of bibliographical index.