Historical reenactment is an activity in which participants recreate some aspects of a historical event or period. It may be a narrowly-defined time period such as a specific war or other event. Or it may be more broadly defined.

Activities related to "reenactment" are not new, there were tournaments in the Middle Ages which would have Roman or other earlier themes, and the Victorians recreated medieval furnishings, such as tapestries. Historical reenactment as a serious pursuit of practical historical interest beyond mere "wash-and-wear wizardry" (re-inventing history as an entertainment to suit contemporary convenience or sensibilities) seems to be an invention of the 20th century.

The term living history describes attempts to bring history to life, either for an audience, or for the participants themselves. The primary distinction between reenactment and a period dramatic performance is the degree of immersion and the amount of improvisation.

Most groups dedicated to reenactment are amatuers who pursue reenactent as a hobby. Military units and battles of the American Revolutionary War and the Civil War are popular areas in the United States. In the United Kingdom many groups focus on the English Civil War.

Some individual reenactors concentrate on recreating a specific persona, such as Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, or Benjamin Franklin.

Fantasy History

There is also a variation on this theme, that takes elements of historic weapons, clothing, or artifacts and blends them with a creative current history. For example, the Society for Creative Anachronism blends medieval customs, dress, and activities within fantasy kingdoms.

Professional Reenactment

Certain parks, museums, or attractions have paid reenactors. These usually address the recreation of a specific town, village, or activity within a certain time frame. Examples include Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, and Mystic Seaport in Connecticut.

See also: Reconstruction archaeology.

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