Saturday, September 1, 2012

Horses and Horsemen in History: Saturday Links

I love it when historical novelists prove they're also historians! This week I ran into two delightful posts by novelists who want to get their history right.

Susanna Calkins over at A Bloody Good Read posed the question: "How long would it have taken to travel the fifty-plus mile trek from London to Oxford, by horse and carriage, in the mid seventeenth-century?" It's a crucial plot point in her WIP.
I needed the cart (wagon, really) to be able to carry two men and two women, along with two or three barrels or bags of miscellaneous supplies.  I needed the journey to take less than a day.   The wagon had to be decent, but more serviceable and sturdy, than luxurious. It had to be capable of traversing 50 or so miles of the muddy, unpaved London Road. Similarly, the horses had to be from a hearty stock, and affordable for hire by a journeyman. Not being an equestrian, a farrier, or a blacksmith (okay, let’s face it, I’m not even sure if I’ve ever even been on a horse), this has been a truly puzzling question.... (read more
Jonathan Hopkins guest posted over at One Ridiculous Author on another horsey topic--the 19th Century British Cavalry. As every Jane Austen lover knows, the regiment coming to Merryton means eligible men aplenty. But what kind of officers would have been in a regiment like that? Would they have even been gentlemen?

Most fictional cavalrymen are, or were, officers. After all, a lady needed to maintain a certain standard of living so it was no use becoming romantically involved with a private soldier. And since officers had to purchase their commissions, provide their own uniforms, horses and equipment, all on a level of pay which hardly covered daily subsistence, (a lieutenant received only £164 5s 0d a year before deductions and income tax) most needed private means of some sort: family money. 
So it’s somewhat surprising to find in real life the majority of officers were not members of the aristocracy at all but sons of wealthy farmers or industrialists, doctors and lawyers, even clergy – the moneyed middle class – who could afford to subsidise their offspring’s careers.... (read more)

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