Historical Reenactments Pros And Cons


If you have been considering taking part in a historical reenactment, you might be wondering what the benefits and potential drawbacks are. In fact, it doesn’t matter if you are on the battlefield or if you are standing on the sidelines, there are both pros and cons to consider.

Benefits of reenactment Drawbacks of reenactment
Chance to experience living historyPossible injury
Building appreciation for the eventInconsistency
Showing the reality of historyPossible lack of accuracy
Building interest in future reenactors
Giving a way for people to escape the daily routine
Audience participation
Bringing people together

Obviously, the pros and cons of historical reenactments are going to differ, depending on the type of reenactment and its validity. It might also depend upon the person who is attending the event, as some of them are going to benefit for different reasons. Taking a closer look at them can help you know if you should get involved or not.

What Are the Pros of Historical Reenactments?

  • Living History – Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of any type of historical reenactment is that it provides a living history of what took place. We all have the opportunity to learn by reading a book on the subject, which could include history books, but there is nothing quite like seeing it take place on the field in front of you.
example of living history village
Example of living history. Source: Fort Nisqually Living History Museum, in Point Defiance Park; www.aaslh.org

Admittedly, it is important to consider the accuracy of the event. Having an accurate portrayal is going to obviously be more of a benefit than just having a lot of volunteers run out on the field in an event that would be considered more like LARPing than a legitimate historical reenactment. If you are wondering what differences between reenactment and LARPing are, have a look at our article – Is LARPing the Same as Reenactment?

When the reenactment takes place in an accurate way with people who are passionate about the moment in history they are reenacting, something amazing happens. Suddenly, it provides benefits to both those who are reenacting the event and anyone who is watching from the sidelines.

  • Builds Appreciation For The Event – It’s difficult to imagine at times that certain events took place, even if they took place in our own backyard. For example, we might consider the American Civil War, which took place well over 100 years ago.
reenactment of Shiloh anniversary battle
Reenactment example – Shiloh 155th Anniversary. Source: Tennesse News www.wbbjtv.com

Obviously, the Civil War was a significant event in history that shaped a country in more ways than most people realize. That being said, much of what took place during that time has also been lost to history and the passing of time.

When you are associated with a historical reenactment, it helps to build your appreciation for what actually took place. It also gives people the opportunity to see the reality of what took place, which leads us to our next benefit.

  • Showing The Reality Of History – Most people realize that something significant took place but they may not understand the full impact of what occurred. Going back to our example of the Civil War in the United States, the reality of history is often lost to time.
history reality in reenactment
Reenactors – First Special Service Force Reenactment Unit from Edmonton at the Veterans’ Appreciation Day. Source: Sylvan Lake News

We may sometimes hear or read about some of the events that took place but we can’t get the full flavor of what actually happened until we see it portrayed in front of us. Movies may attempt to do this, but actually watching the reenactment live is going to help grow your appreciation of the reality and what exactly took place.

  • Building Interest In Future Reenactors – One of the big benefits of historical reenactments is building interest for future events. In many cases, these events take place on an annual basis on the anniversary of the original occurrence.
waterloo battle spectators
Spectators at the reenactment of the Battle of Waterloo. Source: www.businessinsider.com from Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

At one time, many people were interested in these types of reenactments but that interest has waned in recent years. Having a historical reenactment gives you the opportunity to build appreciation and an interest in those who may take part in it in future years.

  • A Way For People To Escape – It is no secret that people need an opportunity to escape reality. What better way to escape than to actually take part in reality, at least a reality that occurred many years ago? Historical reenactments provide this benefit to all who participate.
  • Audience Participation – When reading a book or watching a movie on some historical event, the audience is merely watching on from the sidelines. They don’t actually get involved in the event, but that’s not always the case with every historical reenactment.
audience participation in reenactment
Audience participation in Medieval Tournament Shows. Source: Plantagenet Medieval Society; www.plantagenet.org.uk

Many historical reenactments offer the opportunity for people to take part in the event. For battle reenactments, they may be able to volunteer as extras who march on a specific location. In other types of reenactments, they may be able to do anything from mixing stew to making clothing.

  • Brings People Together – We live in a world that tends to be separated on many different levels. Perhaps that is why one of the benefits of having historical reenactments is the fact that it brings people together on a personal level.
reenactment bringing people together
Integration between reenactors. Source: Doug Beghtel/The Oregonian; www.oregonlive.com

Honestly, it’s nice to get out of the house every once in a while, and having an event such as this allows us to get a little sunshine and enjoy some human interaction.

Are There Any Cons to Historical Reenactments?

There are many benefits to attending and taking part in historical reenactments, as you can see above. It is good to consider the negative side of these reenactments as well.

Admittedly, the pros far outweigh any cons when it comes to these events, but thinking about some of the negatives can also help us to weed out those problems whenever possible.

  • Possible injury – Any time you have a physical activity taking place, there is a possibility for injury. It is especially true when firearms are being used by almost everybody at the event.
injured reenactor at Waterloo
An injured historical reenactor at the Battle of Waterloo. Source: www.businessinsider.com from Carl Court/Getty Images

Due to the possibility of injury, it is important to pay attention to the safety reminders that will be provided to anybody participating in a historical reenactment. In some cases, these reminders have been worked on over the course of many years and a significant amount of time has been put into putting them together.

The possibility of injury or even worse is very sobering. It isn’t something that has to put a damper on the entire event, however, as there are many ways to avoid problems such as this. As long as we go into these events with safety in mind, we can even scratch this con off the list. If you would like to know more about how reenactment groups are making sure that reenactment events with firearms are safe, both for reenactors and spectators, have a look at our article – Gun Safety For Reenactors (Rules, Manuals, Checklist).

  • Inconsistency – In many cases, the historical reenactment is going to be put on by a host of volunteers. Some of these volunteers may just be starting out while others may have been at it for quite some time.
historical accuracy in clothing
Different levels of historical accuracy with clothing, from none to high. Source: www.valresa.com

There may be some inconsistencies in the way that we dress for the event and the equipment that we use. It is something that tends to weed itself out over time but as new volunteers continue to get involved, they may also show these inconsistencies.

  • Lack Of Accuracy – Most historical reenactments are going over a very specific event and trying to portray it in the most accurate way possible. It is impossible, however, to ensure 100% accuracy in all cases.

A lack of accuracy is not necessarily going to be an extremely negative part of the event, but it is something to consider. Continuing to improve on our abilities and on our knowledge of our part in the reenactment can help to keep these inaccuracies to a minimum.

If you would like to know how to become a reenactor, have a look at our article – 5 Easy Steps to Start Reenactment as Your Hobby

ReenactmentGuide

Group of reenactment passionates, writing for people looking to start an adventure with historical reenactment and struggling to find valuable and actual information.

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