History is chunked up into periods of time. Usually, when doing an over-view, it is broken down into centuries (like the 13th) or into large scale movements (Renaissance) or into governments (Reign of Basil II) or into cultures (Roman, Eastern Roman). Last week I discussed several possible starting points for persona development. This week, let us talk about Centuries as a means of measuring history.
Start with a century, say the 13th. Much happened during that century. And, because the division of time into centuries is random in relation to events and movements, there may be elements that begin in the century before, or begin in the 13th and end in the following century.
A person living in a particular place and time is shaped by the culture, government, religion, and even by the food supply. All of these can be studied by themselves, and when hunting books on these topics, most will cover a lot more time than your one century. In fact, you may find only a paragraph or two that directly addresses the 13th century!
This is when we learn to look to earlier periods, knowing that if we can document, say, a particular food, as having been grown locally or imported, and eaten 100 years before, there is a good chance that our persona may know of it and eat it. But if the food, say Brussels Sprouts, did not develop until the 15th century, you can safely say your persona did not eat it in the 13th century.
Or, considering Byzantine garb, looking at fabrics that might work, we can document roundels that line up in neat rows both vertically and horizontally, to the 10th century, but offset rows of roundels do not show up until late 11th or 12th century. Our 13th century Byzantine could be found wearing either. Museums are fabulous for researching this.
Books will not usually focus on your century alone. Most books on a narrow topic will cover a wider time period. However, getting the bibliographic information and a photocopy of the sections useful to you, stapling them and hole punching for a notebook, is a fast way to start your documentation.
Many people have chosen a century and had a wonderful time developing a persona based on that narrow bit of time. Perhaps you are one of them who will.