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What is historical fiction?

Historical fiction is a literary genre in which the plot takes place in a setting located in the past.

An essential element of historical fiction is a setting from history. In this setting, historical fiction frequently portrays the manners and social conditions of the persons or times presented in the story and pays attention to other precise period details. Authors frequently choose to explore historical figures through these settings, allowing readers to better understand how these individuals would have responded to their environments. Some subgenres of historical fiction, such as alternate history or historical fantasy, deliberately insert speculative or ahistorical elements into the work; however, other works of historical fiction will be criticized for this lack of "authenticity" because of readerly or generic expectations for almost accuracy of period details. This tension between historical authenticity, or Historicity, and fiction frequently becomes a point of commentary for readers and popular critics, while scholarly criticism frequently goes beyond this commentary, investigating the genre for it's other thematic and critical interests.

Historical fiction as the genre familiar to readers of contemporary western literature has its foundations in the works of Sir Walter Scott and his contemporaries in other national literatures of the early 19th century, such as Honoré de BalzacJames Fenimore Cooper and Leo Tolstoy. However, the melding of "historical" and "fiction" in individual works of literature has a long tradition in most cultures; both western traditions, as early as Ancient Greek and Roman literature, as well as eastern, oral, and folk traditions produced epics, novels, plays and other fictional works describing the historical for contemporary audiences.

Source: Wikipedia.org