Fiction writers as researchers and historians

Site of SWH camp from NW_-1

Site of SWH camp from NW – Photo courtesy of Nikiforos Sivenas

Yep! That’s what often happens to us historical fiction writers. We frequently become, by necessity, researchers and historians. Because I chose to write a novel set partly in Northern Greece and Serbia during the last 18 months of WWI, I am now fairly knowledgeable about the Scottish Women’s Hospitals, particularly the unit at Ostrovo.

Recently I started a page here on this blog to track the Australian women who worked with the Scottish Women’s Hospitals. With the help of other researchers and historians I have now updated the list.

The bulk of the list is made up of biographies from the tireless Alan Cumming at the Scottish Women’s Hospitals website. A number are also from Jennifer Baker’s Looking for the Evidence website.

I now have some more searching to do. A new friend Nikiforos Sivenas, whose very elderly father still remembers the women of the Scottish Women’s Hospital field unit at Ostrovo, has kindly supplied photos and a list of all the women who worked at the Ostrovo Unit. It will take me some time but I hope to search all the names to find out whether they are Australian or not. I also plan to read Australian Doctors on the Western Front by Robert Likeman and The Women of Royaumont by Eileen Crofton to locate more. I just need a few more hours in my day!


6 thoughts on “Fiction writers as researchers and historians

  1. Fascinating material. I wish I could get such first hand material to work on 🙂

    But it’s funny that you mentioned this – that we historical writers often become knowlegable in our ‘field’. I’ve just taken part in the AtoZ Challenge and my theme was (guess!) the Roaring Twenties in America. I was a bit hesitant writing about the subject because I’ve never considered myself an expert on the matter (and I still don’t), but as I wrote the 26 articles, I find I knew where to get my info and sometimes I just knew what to write, even without having to resort to info. And the most astonishing part is that people seemed to be interested in actually reading my articles.

    It was a good feeling 🙂


    • I was reluctant to call myself an historian but then after a while you do begin to amass quite a bit of knowledge. I’d say after 26 articles you were pretty knowledge about the Roaring Twenties in America.


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