Authenticity is a term derived from authentic meaning genuine. The term is somewhat a misnomer as used by many historical recreationists as the term has come to refer to objects or practises that are historically accurate, rather than genuine.
Authenticity is a goal sought by some recreationists, the majority of re-enactors and is the stated purpose of living historians and is actively despised, feared and criticised by others. The way it was actually done "back then". People who try to pursue this goal are often referred to as "Authenticity Mavins" or "Authenticity Nazis", or "Authenticity Police", or some other such insulting terms by members of groups whose goals aren't primarily concerned with this state.
In the SCA (as stated in Corpora), you must make an attempt at pre-17th century garb, although it's always nice to see people making an effort beyond this. There are several ways the SCA encourage authenticity, although the attitudes of some members (which are given the labels above) unfortunately can give the rest of the group a bad name.
Authenticity in the SCA
How is authenticity encouraged in the SCA?
- College of Heralds - Documentation is required to register your SCA name and device.
- Arts & Sciences - Authenticity (or historical accuracy) is a criterion when judging A&S competitions. Normally documentation is required.
- Fighters - Well, although duct tape may still be used as strap substitutes, motorcycle helmets are no longer permitted as legal armour, and most people wear a tabard over their pickle barrel armour bits.
- Dancing - SCA dance practices mostly teach period dances these days.
- Camping - More and more period pavilions are being seen at camping events.
- Feasts - Most cooks serve period food at events, and avoid using New World foods.
How is Authenticty Not Encouraged in the SCA
- No minimum standards- the 'any attempt is good enough' idea does not encourage some people to go beyond the minimum.
- Period by Consensus Ideology - acceptance of non-period items on display breeds the same attitude in some others
- 20ft Rule - looking good at 20ft is not much good when you are 5 ft from something
- Safety Standards - grilled helmets, basket hilted polearms, rattan swords covered in plastic tape are easily picked out as non-historic.
- Competitive combat - changed style of fighting to encourage aluminium armour, non-armoured lower legs, poor historical technique due to efforts to be faster in combat.
Authenticity in (Australian) Reenactment
How is Authenticity encouraged in Reenactment/Living History?
- Encouragement - New people are encouraged using the 'Research before Recreation' maxim. New people are lent clothing and shown examples of previous work from all spectrums of reenactment and reference material. Positive reinforce of effort and appliaction is applied.
- Workshops - Experienced people help new people with the construcion of shoes, clothing, and equipment.
- Access to Knowledge Base- Some groups maintain a small library of convenient reference material and suppliers with a notes on what certain suppliers do that is good and what is not-so-good.
- Modelling Best Practise - Senior members are expected to demonstrate the standard at which all are expected to aim. Those that produce very good goods and/or engage in period practises are openly praised, regardless of group affilation.
- Multi-group Events - where new members can see what others are doing and see where others fall above or below the set standard.
- Minimum standards- If someone does not put a basic effort to meet a minimum standard they might be asked to leave.
- 'Not Authentic, Not on Show' Maxim - One Australian reenactment group has a similar policy known as the Brunkerville Protocol which involves a member of the group who observes a non-authentic item left in the open for more than 5 minutes is entitled to hurl it out of camp towards the midden.
- 'If it's not Right, Say So' Maxim - during displays reenactors will actively indicate aspects that have been changed from a historical basis and often why (e.g. I'm wearing gauntlets even though we have no evidence of Vikings using them as a getting hit on the hands really hurts). This educates both their new members and any public.
- Non-Competitive Combats- Most reenactment groups treat combat as a fun activity rather than a competition to be won. Thus weapon combinations that are more suited to winning in the artificial combats of reenactment are increasingly being scorned and abandoned in favour of better historical representation (i.e. less two-handed spears and swords on the battlefield and more single handed spears used in combination with shields in Dark Ages events).
- Appealing to Vanity - No one likes to look crap, especially when other look good around you. Thus, wearing joggers when others all have made/bought their own turnshoes makes one uncomfortable.
- Open Admiration -
These practises tends to result in a recreation that is closer to form, in not always construction.
- helmets being two-piece welded rather than raised from a single sheet
- shields made of plywood rather than planked
- non-period armour items that such as vambraces or elbow pads for certain cultures are required to be hidden under clothing
- duct tape fixes are not allowed (indeed duct tape is not a part of most reenactment fighter's possessions)
- non-period campsites are out of sight of the event area and usually placed further away from the activities to encourage period tentage
How is Authenticity Not Encouraged in Reenactment/Living History
- Safety Concerns - For safety reasons certain styles of shots are not allowed by groups thus preventing some historical techniques from being used. Differing groups have differing standards.
- Laws - Some aspects of history are prohibited by law and thus are unable to portrayed (e.g. falconry in Australia)
- Modern sensibilities - some aspects of history have taken a backseat to accommodation of modern sensibilities (e.g. vegetarian/gluten-free/food-free options at feasts, acceptance of eyeglasses on battlefields). Some others with remain acceptable as long as they are historical (e.g. fylfots), although they may be offensive in a modern context. The balance between historical accuracy and concern for modern scruples depends on the group.