It’s easy to start adventure with historical reenactment with 5 simple steps:
- You need to decide which period you like.
- Find a reenactment group near you.
- Decide who you want to be – choose a persona.
- Research some details to create an authentic impression.
- Start assembling your reenactment kit.
Check for more details on how to get started with reenactment below.
How to decide what period to choose for historical reenactment?
Reenactment should be something that you like and enjoy – you will be spending time and effort to portray look and behavior of a historical person that you recreate, so it is important to choose something that resonates with you.
You do have a lot to choose from, all across the world there are many reenactment groups that focus on different time periods, to mention for example:
– Ancient Greek,
– Dark Ages,
– Middle Ages,
– English Civil War,
– Fur trade,
– American Civil War,
– Victorian England,
– World War I,
– World War II,
– Korean War,
– Vietnam War.
If you are struggling to decide think about what book or movie character you liked the most and think how you would feel to have a chance to live his/her life for a moment – maybe that would be it?
Is it hard to find a reenactment group near you?
Not at all, most of them are active on Facebook, have websites, or can be found in local news when a major reenactment event is close.
A good idea would be to go on a few such events and see how you would feel there, first as a spectator to have a chance to speak with members of the reenactment groups, learn more about their passion and decide which group could be the best fit for you – usually, location is very important, as you would not want to have to drive a few hours just to meet up for training before an upcoming event.
In our article, you can check How To Join A Reenactment Group in 5 Steps.
Another option would be to start your own reenactment group with some friends, but that is a bit more difficult.
What if there is no group in your area that focuses on the period that you wanted in the first place?
You can of course join a group located a bit far away, but this could be generating more costs because of travel expenses, so you may consider also checking other periods that are similar to your first choice – perhaps instead of World War I you can think about World War II if there are more people into this period around you?
Choose your historical alter ego – persona that you would like to become for a while
Your persona, sometimes called also an impression is the role that you decide to play in your reenactment. It might be a real person, historical figure that you would like to “impersonate”, but most reenactors choose to create a character they could identify with.
When you will do some more research, your persona story might change, it is fully normal, as well as fact that many reenactors are interested in more than only one period, so they create different personas with time.
It would be also good to know what type of reenactment events would you like to participate in, as your persona would fit only to some of those categories.
Main types of reenactment events are:
- Living history – it is usually done without a planned script, reenactors try to recreate for a general public the life and lifestyle of people of a certain period. Such impressions can be sometimes focused only on showing how life in a village, military camp daily routine, not only combat skills. They could be not so strict with authenticity many other types and because of that more “amateur friendly”. It is also something that you can do with your partner and kids, as more specialized types will exclude some people – for example, there are not many roles to play on the battlefield for kids, and most of the groups that focus on historical accuracy will not allow them to participate in any way.
- Combat demonstration – they are not meant to recreate a real historical battle, but rather show how it most likely looked in a certain period. Because of that, you will see accurate clothing, armor, and weapons, but reenactors will not follow a historically accurate course of the battle, only some basic tactics or techniques used in this period.
Because of that it is also a bit more “beginner friendly” – historical accuracy is definitively higher, but it is not a fixed scenario only type of reenactment.
- Battle reenactment – participants of such events make the same actions as were taken in the original battle, reenactments are planned according to the historical data that we have about each maneuver and tactics, and usually are organized near the original battleground or in a place that is a similar as original location as possible. Such events include sometimes even several thousand reenactors and can be breathtaking spectacles for the public.
- Tactical combat – this would usually be an event that is not open to the public, rather a private event for participants only. Sides agree on a set of rules like area they will stay in, time limit, victory conditions, etc., and will try to create strategy of their own to defeat other team. It is close to a real battle as it can be in our times but not causing any damage.
- Commercial reenactment – that would be something you can experience sometimes in a museum, castle, or any other touristic attraction with history to back up such an event. Reenactors usually show part of the activity within a certain time frame, related to the main idea of the event. Such reenactments are usually created by actors following a script or professional reenactors that are paid to participate.
Knowing the type of event you would like the most to participate you can now create your persona background. Obvious one would be a name, but if you are not trying to reenact a historical figure try not to mix elements from pop culture with real people, like “Brian Washington” or “Alex von Bismarck” – this would be found as “lame” by many other reenactors. Do some research on names that were used in the period you like and try to create something unique and authentic.
Then read and watch some more about the period to decide about a plausible background story – your place of birth, social class, age, family, profession, etc.
Vast majority of reenactors choose to be soldiers, but remember that even in groups that focus on military reenactment there is place (and sometimes a real need, as to many want to be soldiers) for other characters to be played, such as life partners, camp followers, medics and others, depending on a certain period.
Authenticity is a key for many – make sure to check details so you can create the best impression
Your approach to authenticity in reenactment will be likely changing with time and will be affected by the group you will be in.
Generally speaking time and effort you are willing to put into researching your period and recreating it will affect the way you will be considered by other reenactors.
Many beginners tend to spend relatively little time and effort to check what clothing and uniforms, accessories, behavior, and language details are specific for the period they are interested in.
This is not necessarily wrong as long as you will find people that you can enjoy time with and have a similar attitude, but there are many groups that will have higher standards of authenticity and such a lack of “credibility” would exclude you from being a part of them.
Check how much effort you are willing to put to make sure that your character will appear authentic – are you willing to focus only on the look, not historical accuracy in the way your clothes were made (for example by choosing the fabric which was not existing in the period you reenact).
Authenticity is a very broad topic in the community, issues range from using modern fabric and items by people that do not worry too much with accuracy to hard-core reenactors that will be as close to original as possible, not only through clothing and visible character elements but also with eating seasonally and regionally appropriate food and staying in character for the whole length of the even (so no break with your phone for social media or peeking on a hidden watch).
When you will have a general idea of how authentic you want to be (or have to be to join the group of your choice) you should do deeper research for your persona, to know how people dressed, what was their food, manner of speech, beliefs and social interactions among community members?
At this stage make sure to focus on reliable sources, like books and not movies, which tend to be not too close to historical accuracy.
A good place to look for the resources could be reenactors forum specific for your period – here you can find a list of some that I have found during my research. They usually share links to valuable articles and books that can be used.
Finally, you can think of assembling your reenactment equipment to start having fun
Often called a kit, the equipment that you need to gather will depend on your period of interest and the level of authenticity that you want to keep.
Have in mind that the background story for your persona would affect also this aspect – for example, if you have decided to portray a medieval villager you should not spend money on a fancy dagger that would be appropriate to a knight in that period.
It is better to spend more time on research for your character that starts buying things online because you like how they look, only to find later that if you would like to stay in your role, you cannot use them because they do not match your persona details, like period of time, place where your character lives, age, profession, and social status, to mention only most important aspects.
A very good idea before buying something would be also to speak with members of the group that you are planning to join, as on many occasions they can have spare equipment that they could allow you to use to start with them. Quite often there will be fewer people than needed and many reenactors can share some extra uniforms and equipment that they for example not use any longer so you can start with them. This would give you enough time to see how you feel in the role you choose, so you can eventually make modifications based on first experiences and only then make first purchases or your own equipment.
I hope that you know now how to start your journey with reenactment. Most of the topics I mentioned here will be covered in more detail in other articles, so have a look from time to time and see new resources from me.
Have a great time with reenactment!