Reenactment & Living History

What are historical reenactment and living history?

Historical reenactment is an educational activity in which participants attempt to recreate some aspects of a historical event or period. (Read the following article about reenactment...)

Living histories are usually meant for education of the public. Such events do not necessarily have a mock battle but instead are aimed at portraying the life, and more importantly the lifestyle, of people of the period. This often includes both military and civilian camps. Occasionally, storytelling or acting sketches take place to involve or explain the camps background to the viewing public. More common are craft and cooking demonstrations, song and leisure activities, and lectures. Combat training or duels can also be encountered even when larger combat demonstrations are not present.

The Quebec Historical Corps participates in both reenactment and living history, most often in combination at the same event.

Why does the Quebec Historical Corps choose to represent those particular events and periods?

The Quebec Historical Corps is intent on providing an educational experience to the public, which highlights northeastern Canadian and American history. As such, the Corps has chosen to focus on military conflicts that have forged the identity of these two nations. Moreover, bicentennial and 250th anniversary commemorations at various historical sites have also contributed to the choice of periods and events.

The current focus of the QHC is the bicentennial of the war of 1812-14, and most of our 2012 through 2014 events are representations of this period and conflict (see our 2012 calendar on our Home Page).

What kind of research do you do?

The Quebec Historical Corps actively encourages its members to acquire as much knowledge as possible on the period(s) and the conflict(s) they portray, as well as on the particulars of the character they have chosen, or are promoted to (rank-and-file soldier, officer, laundress, officer's wife, land agent, etc.). Members are encouraged to mainly use primary sources (original objects in museums, contemporary writings, etc.), and well-documented secondary sources (modern books, articles, etc.) as a basis for developing their portrayal. Sources are shared and discussed amongst members, thereby adding to the body of research and knowledge on the time period and event.

The Quebec Historical Corps also encourages its members to participate in experimental archeology, using accurate reproductions of clothing, weapons and other objects to experience firsthand their uses and be able to share these experiences with the public, promoting better understanding of our past in everyday situations.

What level of historical accuracy do you advocate?

In an ideal world, historical reenactors would be able to offer the public a perfect living replica of the past. However, we are well aware that this is impossible, even with the best intentions. Modern safety requirements (for example, the use of a flash guard on muskets to keep sparks from creating "side burns" on our fellow soldiers), health and modern sensibilities (for example, in the restricted use of domestic animals onsite), financial restrictions (Alas! we are volunteers and have modern-life commitments such as mortgages and car payments), and simply the inability for anyone to perfectly understand and represent how people in the 18th and early 19th century thought and behaved, are general obstacles to a "perfect" representation.

Reenactment groups all have various degrees of tolerance in this area. The Quebec Historical Corps' policy is that any modern object should remain hidden from public view. For example, we generally provide a tent at events near the cooking area where members who wish to store their food in modern containers (i.e. the infamous blue plastic cooler) can do so conveniently without creating a blatant anachronism. The QHC requires its members to refrain from using anything obviously anachronistic or inappropriate in their portrayal (ex. sunglasses or modern plastic glasses, makeup, synthetic fabrics, clothing not proven to have been worn during the particular period or glaringly unfit for the wearer's social status, such as an elaborate silk gown on a private's wife, etc.). Further accuracy is at the discretion of each member. Some members, for example, like to be immersed in the whole experience, sleeping on straw pallets in their tents, wearing 18th century underwear (aka: only their shirt or chemise), or using early 19th century food preservation techniques. This level of authenticity is appreciated by and interesting to the public, but not required.

Do you own the clothing and the other objects you use during reenactments?

All QHC members are volunteers, and are required to purchase their own equipment and clothing (direction and support is provided for new reenactors). The cost of reenacting varies and depends on what the individual is ready to invest time-wise and money-wise, his or her skills in making the clothing and/or equipment, as well as the character he or she chooses to portray. The basic accoutrements of a private soldier of the 60th Royal Americans, for example, can cost between CAD$2,000 and CAD$3,000, including the cost of the musket, but excluding the cost of the tent (another CAD$500+). The QHC is aware that many new reenactors find the expense difficult to manage all at once, and can loan certain pieces of equipment and clothing while the new member is gradually outfitting him- or herself. Many businesses and individuals sell reproductions of period clothing and objects. AS not all merchants offer historically accurate goods, the QHC provides a list of material needed for each representation, which also includes sanctioned suppliers.

Some of the stuff you do looks dangerous? Is it really safe?

The utmost care is taken during reenactments, both by the management of the historical sites and by the reenactment groups, to ensure the safety of the public and of the reenactors themselves. What was usual in the 18th and 19th centuries seems hazardous now, such as open fires, explosives (black powder), muskets, and bayonets. Strict and extensive regulations ensure the site remains safe. Here are a few examples:

  • Each muzzle-loader (i.e. musket) is thoroughly inspected by the unit's officer before any demonstration
  • Fires are only permitted in the kitchen area, which is always kept well away from the sleeping tents, and must be contained (stones, metal plaque, or dugout, depending on the site), and a full bucket of water must be kept nearby
  • Regular rounds are made throughout the night to ensure the safety of the camp
  • Battle scenarios are carefully planned beforehand via an officer's meeting and explanation to the troops
  • Minors must be supervised at all times and are the responsibility of their parents
  • Special precautions are taken during excessively hot days (for example, limiting the battle scenario or providing extra water)
  • Etc.

Moreover, each group is required to have liability insurance for all its members, a policy with which the Quebec Historical Corps complies entirely.

Do you have any restrictions in the portrayals you permit, for example, women as combatants?

The main focus of the QHC is to represent accurately as possible life in the 18th and early 19th centuries, given the constraints of modern life and our woefully inadequate knowledge of what is was actually like to live at the time. We acknowledge that many of us don't fit the mould of the average or typical soldier or civilian of the time periods we represent: most of us are too tall, too old, too o0verweight, have too many teeth, have a job that requires us to wear our hair short, or are women who would like to represent men because... well... sometimes it's just plain fun and interesting to recreate a battle and soldier's life.

What we do require of our members is that they make their best effort to look the part, for example by wearing a wig, procuring period appropriate spectacles, padding any telltale signs of femininity (in the case of a woman portraying a soldier), etc. Click here to see a few examples of how reenactment can transform you into a totally different person.

When and where can I see your reenactments?

As our members reside mainly along the Saint-Lawrence seaway and in the northeastern US, we try to organize and participate in events that are close to home, and in the late spring, summer, and early fall, in order to accommodate the greatest number. Most historical sites where our events are staged also welcome the greatest number of visitors during this period.

Our calendar of events is posted on this website's Home Page.

I would like to join the Quebec Historical Corps. How does this work?

You should first read the information provided on this website and narrow your focus as to which time period and regiment/civilian you wish to represent. All descriptions are accessible via the What we do page. (Please be aware that in order to carry and fire any type of muzzle-loader, i.e. a musket, you must be at least 16 years of age, with written parental consent if you are under 18).

Once you have a general idea of what you want to portray, you can get in touch with the person listed on our Join Us page. We wil refer you to a long-standing member of the Quebec Historical Corps, who can meet with you either in person (geography permitting) or via telephone, Skype, Face Time or other, to answer any questions you may have, and to make sure you are equipped for your first trial reenactment.

The QHC understands that potential members may want to "try it out" before investing in the purchase of expensive equipment and clothing. We have extra clothing and material that we can loan you for a weekend, so you can decided if you actually like reenacting of want to continue on as a spectator.

Should you decide to officially join the QHC, you will be voted in at the next general assembly (usually held every year in March) as a probationary member during one year, at which time (during the following general assembly), you will be voted in as a full member if your portrayal meets QHC standards, and you have attended at least one event during the year.