That Pesky Research
by Dina Sleiman
Historical research is tough. Even tougher than finding the right information sometimes, is knowing the right questions to ask. For example, in my first medieval novel I assumed they would have cards and coffee. But when I actually thought to check on those issues, I found out my setting was 50 years too early for either of them to have made their way to England. On the coffee issue, I just changed the drink. On the cards issue, I had a crusader bring them back from the Holy Land.
My latest medieval creation has a fun acrobatic twist. I can't tell you how many times I've read about medieval "acrobats" in historical text books. So, I never thought to ask if the word acrobat actually existed at the time. But right before sending out my final version of Dauntless Love, my daughter's skepticism about the acrobats prompted me to do a little more last minute research. And...I found out the word "acrobat" actually did not exist in English at that time. They would have been called "tumblers" or possibly "aerialists" if they worked off the ground. When used in military training, acrobatics would have been referred to as "agility skills." Mind you, since they spoke Middle English in 1217, I'm fairly lenient with myself on using words from as late as the 1600s when the language stabilized. But "acrobat" wasn't around until the 1800s.
In my last minute research I also found this cool video of medieval "tumblers." If they claim to be "acrobats," don't you believe them!
So let's talk historical research. What are funny mistakes you've seen or made? What are the questions you never even thought to ask?