Historical Crime Fiction as Popular Historiography

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Due to the current history boom in the UK, which manifests itself in the conspicuous popularity of historical novels, costume dramas, and in rising visitor numbers to museums, the study of popular historiography has become a growing and vibrant field. Popular historiography formats such as costume dramas, historical romances, and re-enactments have been recognised as a key influence on the public's knowledge of the past. Consumed informally and voluntarily, entertaining and easily accessible, popular histories are often more significant for the public's perception of ‘historical fact’ than ‘academic’ forms of historiography.This article examines historical crime fiction as a genre of popular historiography with a special focus on recent novels set in the late seventeenth century, a period that has lately been the focus of a number of exciting crime series. As a genre mostly written to a formula, concentrating on a narrow theme (i.e. crime and violence), and typically showing the life of ‘the mean streets’, crime fiction has a genre-specific view of the past. Due to its focus on the everyday, it shows aspects of history which are particularly popular with a wider public. Additionally, as it is frequently preoccupied with history's dark secrets, crime fiction is especially suited to re-writing established images of the past.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-220
Number of pages18
JournalCrime Fiction Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Fields of Science and Technology Classification 2012

  • 602 Linguistics and Literature

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