During my school years, history, with its dates to be memorized and dusty books, didn’t interest me. (Neither did math, for that matter). English was my favorite subject.
Family history was an important topic in my father’s family, though, and I absorbed much of it almost by osmosis. My grandmother made sure that I and my cousins knew what happened to our ancestors, at least, what she had knowledge of. I learned about our Cherokee ancestors, and about Dr. Pierre Chastain, a French Huguenot who fled religious persecution, arriving in Virginia aboard the Mary and Ann in July, 1700. But beyond that, I had little interest in what happened before.
Until, that is, I had children of my own. The thread of continuity became important to me, and I began to care about the people who came before, what their lives were like, and what they did. And not only my own ancestors, but the ancestors of others.
A friend of Scottish descent often spoke of the fact that his Scottish ancestor was a slave on a plantation near Savannah, Georgia. I was skeptical. And since I also had Scottish ancestors, I began researching Scottish history. And found out he was right…Scots had been enslaved at various times and in various circumstances (Have you ever heard of the Redlegs of Barbados? Read this article.)
“Why do so few people know about this?” I wondered. The answer came immediately. Lots of people are like me–they have no interest in history, and although this information is available in history books, they don’t care to read them. And I thought someone should write a novel, should fictionalize the historic record. If it were entertaining, folks might read it and learn what happened.
I deepened my research and chose a major event in the mid-1700s, The ’45, or, The Jacobite Rebellion, when Bonnie Prince Charlie raised a Highland army to fight for him, to help him reclaim his father’s throne, as the setting of the story. In the aftermath of the last battle of the rebellion, the Battle of Culloden, at least a thousand Highlanders were transported to the American colonies and to the Caribbean, some sold as indentured servants, some as slaves.
And I told the story of that time in the person of Ailean MacLachlainn in High on a Mountain, and I did my utmost to ensure historical accuracy as well as making the story entertaining.
I’ve continued delving into history, following Ailean’s descendants, trying to tell the story of some of the people who went before us.
What about you? Does history interest you?