In preparation for the release of my new novel, Mending Horses, my publisher recently sent me an author questionnaire. In addition to the usual background questions—name, rank, serial number, etc.—there was this one: “If you could have a superpower, what would it be?” As a writer of historical fiction, I’d love to be able to go back into the past and see what things were really like in ye not so goode olden dayes. But as someone who really, REALLY appreciates indoor plumbing, central heating, modern medicine, and the other niceties of 21st century living, I would probably last all of fifteen minutes in the deep dark past. Yes, I did spend eight hours a day in the 1830s when I worked at Old Sturbridge Village, but that was enough to make me realize I wouldn’t want to live there, particularly as a female.
So what I’d really like for my superpower is the ability to SEE the past without the discomfort of actually having to BE there. If someone could invent a camera that could look back in time (preferably in 3D), that would be perfect.
Well, a group of students from DeMontfort University, Leicester, England, has done the next best thing. Using maps from the British Library, period images, and photography of surviving buildings from 17th-century England, they put together a video recreation of London as it might have looked before the Great Fire. Imagine Google Earth in 1666. The result is amazing. And it’s as fascinating to read about their research and creative process as it is to watch the video.
You can find their wicked cool work at their Pudding Lane Productions blog.