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01 December 2008

More Brain Crushes: Steven Ozment


As many of you know, I grew up among re-enactors. What you might not know is that one of my main eras/locations is 16th century Germany (or the Duchies that now make up modern Germany). The origins of the group I started out with are quite specific: The Northern Renaissance Faire that took place in Novato CA for many, many years, and the obscure fact that Queen Elizabeth I had a troop of Landsknecht mercenaries in her employ. Here’s a picture of my in my Durer inspired dress.

Among this group of re-enactors, Steven Ozment (the McLean Professor of Ancient and Modern History at Harvard University) is like a god. His books are engaging reads, full of very personal history that is easy to identify with, as well as serious studies of the history of the era and times.

His larger histories are also well worth reading, but it’s the more personal books that appeal most to me. My favorite is probably The Buergermeister's Daughter. Based on an archive of letters between Anna, her father and siblings, and her lovers (who included both a nobleman and a cavalry officer) it’s a gripping, true-life story of a woman who existed outside her time and place. Anna carried on multiple affairs, was ejected from her home, and when she sued her father for support, he had her captured and chained up in her room! She eventually escaped and her lawsuit against her siblings for her part of the family estate went on for 30 years (hence the magnificent collection of letters in the court’s archive).

But I’ll admit that the tender, loving letters between a husband and wife that are the center of Magdalena and Balthasar are also highly appealing, and the stories spanning three generations of one family told in Three Behaim Boys are simply fascinating (the third Behaim dies of fever in South America, his wandering feet and martial ways having led him on a most interesting path.

So, for those interested in history outside the hothouse of Britain, check Ozment out. For those of you who might be interested in romances set in this world (you knew I’d get here, didn’t you?), check out T J Bennett (she was a Golden Heart finalist with me, so I’ll admit to being biased).

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Kalen. :-)

Yes, Ozment is indeed a god, and an extremely gracious one as well. He answered my research questions for THE LEGACY several years ago even though I knew I probably sounded like an idiot at the time, and steered me in the right direction. He also was very happy to receive my signed novel (a historical romance!) as a gift, even though he is a brainiac professor. Nice guy, all the way around.

TJ Bennett

1:01 PM  
Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Kalen, you look marvelous!!
What interesting people. No wonder you've been captivated by that time.

7:17 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Kalen, I grew up going to the Renaissance Faire in Novato (I even made myself a costume when I was a teenager, though it was far from authentic by re-enactor's standards). We must have been there at the same time more than once. I love books based on period letters. And much as I love British history, exploring other settings is always fascinating.

11:20 PM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

Kalen, you look amazing in that costume! Did you build it? Thanks for introducing me to Ozment; I was unfamiliar with him.

I did the NY State Renaissance Faire up in Tuxedo NY many years ago back when they hired Equity actors and did a number of staged skits and productions (including a Shakespearean play, truncated for time so that people could enjoy more aspects of the Faire during the day). I played Maid Marian. It was a hoot.

I've always enjoyed re-enactments, though I get very disappointed (like at Valley Forge) when some of them are utterly clueless as to the history of the era and can't discuss anything beyond the few facts they've been given to memorize. The military re-enactors at VF were excellent, but the camp followers seemed to be just that in real life -- the wives, girlfriends and kids of the military re-enactors who didn't want to spend the weekend home alone, so they threw on a costume and stirred a pot.

6:08 AM  
Anonymous Lauren Willig said...

He was one of my grad school advisors! He's just as nice in person.

2:51 PM  

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