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How to create a believable history for your fantasy world

Updated: Jan 8

Creating a believable and immersive history for your world can be a challenging task, but it is also an essential part of world building.

Whether you are writing a fantasy novel, designing a video game, or simply creating a world for your own enjoyment, a well-crafted history can add depth and richness to your world.

In this essay, we will explore some key considerations for world builders looking to create histories for their worlds, including historical eras, fantasy historians, the forces that drive historical change, and the ideas that shape historical events.

By understanding these elements and how they interact with one another, you can create a dynamic and believable history for your world.

In a fantasy world, history might be seen as a series of tumultuous events, such as battles, wars, and the rise and fall of empires.

This is similar to how ancient historians like Herodotus wrote about history - as one long, epic story. However, modern historians approach history in a more nuanced way, considering multiple perspectives and trying to understand the context and causes of events.

To create a convincing fantasy world, it can be helpful to think like an actual historian and consider the various factors that shape historical change.

This might include economic, political, social, and cultural forces, as well as the actions and motivations of individuals and groups.

By taking a more complex and multifaceted approach to your world's history, you can create a more believable and immersive world for your readers or players to explore.

Economic factors have played a significant role in shaping world history. For example, the development of agriculture allowed humans to settle in one place and build civilizations, while the Industrial Revolution transformed the way people worked and lived.

Economic changes can also lead to political upheaval, as different groups compete for resources and power.

One example of economic factors driving historical change is the colonization of the Americas by European powers.

The desire for new markets and resources, as well as the technological advances of the time, allowed the Europeans to explore and conquer new lands.

This colonization had far-reaching consequences, including the displacement and exploitation of indigenous peoples, the transatlantic slave trade, and the spread of European culture and institutions.

Social factors, such as class, race, and gender, have also played a significant role in shaping history.

These factors can intersect and overlap, creating complex dynamics that influence historical change.

For example, the abolition of slavery in the United States was driven in part by social and cultural changes, as well as economic factors.

The abolition movement was led by a diverse group of people, including freed slaves, white abolitionists, and religious leaders who believed that slavery was morally wrong.

The movement was also influenced by the Enlightenment ideas of liberty and equality, which were spreading at the time.

The abolition of slavery had a profound impact on the United States and its history, shaping the country's social and political landscape for decades to come.

Cultural factors, such as religion, art, and literature, can also drive historical change. For example, the spread of Christianity during the Roman Empire had a significant impact on the empire's culture and politics.

The religion was eventually adopted as the state religion, and its teachings shaped the way people thought about the world and their place in it.

Similarly, the Renaissance, a period of cultural and intellectual revival in Europe, was driven in part by a renewed interest in classical literature and art.

This renewed interest in the classical world led to the rediscovery of scientific and philosophical ideas, which in turn shaped the cultural and intellectual landscape of Europe.

In summary, economic, social, and cultural factors have all played a significant role in shaping world history. Understanding these factors and how they interact with one another can help world builders create a more believable and immersive history for their worlds.

Fantasy Forces of History

In a fantasy world, you have the freedom to include any number of fantastical elements that might shape the course of history. Here are a few ideas for historical forces that might shape a fantasy world:

  1. The emergence of magic: In a fantasy world where magic exists, it could play a significant role in shaping the course of history. For example, the discovery of new magical abilities or the development of new magical technologies could lead to great leaps forward in society. At the same time, magic could also be a source of conflict, as different groups vie for control of magical resources or seek to use magic for their own ends.

  1. The rise and fall of empires: As in the real world, the rise and fall of empires could shape the course of history in a fantasy world. Empires might rise to power through military conquest, diplomacy, or economic dominance, and their fall could be brought about by internal conflict, external threats, or a combination of both.

  1. The emergence of powerful beings: In a fantasy world, the emergence of powerful beings such as dragons or demons could have a major impact on history. These beings might be feared or revered, and their actions could shape the course of events. For example, a dragon might demand tribute from a kingdom in exchange for protection, or a demon might seek to conquer the world.

  1. The realization that the world is connected to other realities or dimensions: In a fantasy world, the discovery that the world is connected to other realities or dimensions could have major consequences. This could lead to the exploration and colonization of other worlds, or it could bring new dangers and challenges to the world as a whole.

In each of these case