Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Research on the Web

I'm still organizing my workshops and handouts, but having gone through my print library last week, I thought I'd take some time today to talk about some websites I found helpful, particularly with A LOVER'S KISS (out any day now!).

The original idea for the story came from the fascinating fact that the last trial by combat in Britain was not in some far distant medieval day, but in 1818. It turned out I never did use this bit of information in A LOVER'S KISS, but my hero the barrister survived. The real-life accused was Abraham Thornton and you can read more about the case here.

If you're writing about a lawyer and have a trial in the story, it helps if you can actually read transcripts of trials -- and you can at The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, London 1674 - 1834. There's some good stuff there, including "on today's date." On today's date "Lawrence Simpson was tried for stealing a hat and wig from Christopher Longwood while the latter was 'making water' in a lane." Can you not just see this? (Simpson was acquitted.)

Speaking of wigs, I needed to know about the robes and wigs of the lawyers and judges at the Old Bailey. I found an excellent source: Legal Habits: A Brief Sartorial History of Wig, Robe. Apparently judges wore what's called the "full bottom" wig -- seems rife for some sort of amusing remark by a Regency wag, doesn't it?

My hero spends some time fencing. I've taken fencing (and have the gear to prove it), but it's been awhile, so I was a little fuzzy on some of the terms. I found what I needed here.

It helps to have pictures of what you're writing about, and I found the mother lode at British History Online. They even have floor plans, so if you need to know where my lord's dressing room is in relation to my lady's, for instance, there you go.

Sometimes it takes a bit of digging to find what you need, but I'm constantly amazed by the information available at my fingertips now. I find the web particularly helpful for details that may take time to find in a book -- dates, for instance -- or visuals, such as what a tree or bird or robe or building looks like.

I bookmark the pages, but if I find a particularly helpful page or pages on a site, I'll print it up and put it in a file folder for later reference. For one thing, I'm still a print-oriented person; for another, my writing computer isn't connected to the internet (on purpose).


CherylStJohn said...

I'm so bad that even if I have it saved in my bookmarks and in a file, I PRINT A COPY! Why is that? If I can't touch it and feel it, it must not be real.

Margaret Moore said...

That's what I meant by saving in a file -- I print it up, too and put it in a file folder! No wonder we write historicals, eh????

Louisa Cornell said...

Guilty as charged. I have drawers full of file folders of materials I have printed so I can hold them in my hand while I write. Can't help it. I need to be able to look at it on paper. And that British History Online site is going to cost me a fortune in ink and paper!