I went to look up just one little piece of information for my historical novel. I knew I needed it straight from the source my character would have had access to: the newspaper. Two hours and about twenty printed pages later, I emerged.
You see, I’m a sucker for old newspapers. They say so much! The language is, of course, important—what words are used and how. I love one ad I found: Estrayed—one fawn-colored jersey cow. Estrayed! What a great word! The articles are important for what is told and the conclusions that are reached on national and international events and questions, especially from the vantage point of looking back and having more information. The ads are wonderful sources of detail to add texture to a historical story and also good research into what kinds of things were available to the general public at a given time.
Page after page after page of fascinating stuff. And very little of it would have seemed so to the people who read it in “real time.” For me, these pages of the past help round out the picture of life for people that lived through the events we read of in our history books. And for me, the lives of ordinary people are the best part of history.