Fantastic History or Historical Fantasy?

In this hobby of wargaming with miniatures I am often struck by the incredible attention to detail many put into this engaging pursuit. In my brief foray into the world of WW2 platoon level combat in Europe I found quite literally hundreds of blogs and sites dedicated to getting the details (of everything!) as correct as possible. Likewise as the 200th anniversary of Waterloo rapidly approaches, the many that devote themselves to Napoleonic wargaming are going all out to commemorate that world-changing battle. The hobby shows this summer will re-fight Quatre Bra, Ligny, Le-Haye-Sainte, Hougoumount, Plancenoit, and – of course – the ridge of Mont Saint Jean a dozen times over! It will be fantastic history. Fantastic in the sense that each will be exactingly and beautifully done as close to the reality in miniature that humans can make it. I can’t wait to see it all at Historicon – and all the stunning pictures from everywhere else!

It will also be fantastic in the sense that it is fans (short for fanatics remember) that will make all of this possible – every miniature, every detail, and every moment in loving detail. I suspect it would take millions of Dollars, Pounds, Euros to pay people to do something half as good.

As hobbyists we deal in history and – more so – the interpretation of it. But as with every interpretation we can’t possibly get everything right (“right” being the actual experience as opposed to all the recollections, artifacts, and outright misinformation that comes down to us). At one level or another we deal with historic fantasy – a representation of reality that expresses our sense of things – or how we wish things were.

I would like to have every single detail perfectly correct, but for my period in particular this is essentially impossible. So I have to use my imagination. My favorite blog –Project Auldearn 1645 – does this so well. I think they have taken fantastic history to its limit and at the same time applied historic fantasy to fill in the blanks. I hope to do as much with this blog. If I wait for every possible piece of information to be discovered – MacColla will never get off the beach at Mingary.

Mingary repaired and in MacColla's hands

Mingary repaired and in MacColla’s hands

I also liked what Project Auldearn did for MacColla’s banner. They borrowed from the heraldry of the Lord of The Isles – Clan Ian Mor – his Clan MacDonald ancestors. Mingary and all the Western Isles were lost to Clan MacCaienn Mor – the Lord of Lorne – Clan Campbell – the family of the Marquis of Argyll. So with Mingary’s main gate repaired the picture shows MacColla’s banner now flying in place of the hated Campbell one. The MacDonald – Campbell enmity will continue to play a huge role in the unfolding of the wars to come. Often for MacDonald and Campbell alike it was not the reality of the history between them but how it was remembered.