I love history. Research is my favorite part of writing. If I’m not careful, I can easily lose hours chasing historical details.
No need to travel to the nearest library and bury oneself in dusty volumes. The internet provides plenty of info. A click of the mouse and there you go.
Click here and a new page opens up. Click there and ten others pop out. A deluge of information can drown a researcher. Like breadcrumbs leading to perdition, I can dig deeper and deeper until I forget just what exactly I was searching for.
Accuracy and veracity worry me. I always try to get several sources who agree on the same events and dates. Since my stories are set during the French Revolution era, I always search out both French and English websites to confirm my findings.
The main historical events are usually very accurate. Dates of battles, of executions and coronations are dead on. But sometimes I’m looking for nuggets hidden amid legends and hearsay. It’s hard to get to the bottom.
LET THEM EAT CAKE
I searched a few hours regarding the origin of the French croissant. Nothing says France like a croissant and coffee for breakfast in today’s world. What about during the revolution in 1793 though?
Legend puts the words “let them eat cake” in Marie-Antoinette’s mouth (which is inaccurate BTW). It’d be easier for me if legend had substituted cake for croissant. When did the flaky pastry originate? I’m sure our modern version is the end result of centuries of refinement and the original croissant looked and tasted different from what we all know.
Many sites said the croissant officially appears in recipe books circa 1850, but others say the croissant came to France with Marie-Antoinette. The young Queen was Austrian. Austria waged a long war against Turkey in the past and legend says the bakers were granted license by the King to create a pastry to commemorate the country’s victory. The Turkish flag bears a crescent and voilà! a new pastry was born.
Another website said the Austrian’s victory pastry was untrue. Several others confirmed the origin of the croissant is lost in time.
What to do? My rule is simple. If it doesn’t contradict proven historical facts, if it’s close enough, I can twist it to fit. After all, I write historical fiction with a French twist.
What’s your rule?