Historical reenactment is an activity in which participants recreate some aspects of a historical event or period. It may be a narrowly-defined time period such as a specific war or other event. Or it may be more broadly defined.
Activities related to "reenactment" are not new; there were tournaments in the Middle Ages which would have Roman or other earlier themes, and the Victorians recreated medieval furnishings, such as tapestries. Historical reenactment as a serious pursuit of practical historical interest beyond mere "wash-and-wear wizardry" (re-inventing history as an entertainment to suit contemporary convenience or sensibilities) seems to be an invention of the 20th century.
The term living history describes attempts to bring history to life, either for an audience, or for the participants themselves. The primary distinction between reenactment and a period dramatic performance is the degree of immersion and the amount of improvisation.
Most groups dedicated to reenactment are amateurs who pursue reenactment as a hobby. Military units and battles of the American Revolutionary War and the Civil War are popular areas in the United States. As well, Wild West themes and Cowboy action shooting have huge followings. In the United Kingdom many groups focus on the English Civil War. On the European continent, Napoleonic battles, the Franco-Prussian War, and mediaeval jousting tournaments and other displays of chivalry are popular.
There is also a variation on this theme, that takes elements of historic weapons, clothing, or artifacts and blends them with a creative current history. For example, the Society for Creative Anachronism blends medieval customs, dress, and activities within fantasy kingdoms.
Certain parks, museums, or attractions have paid reenactors. These usually address the recreation of a specific town, village, or activity within a certain time frame. Examples include Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, and Mystic Seaport in Connecticut.
- Archery, Boxing, Duelling, Fencing, Fighting, Grappling, Marksmanship, Martial arts, Shooting, Sparring
- Costumes, Facial hair styles, Militaria, Wild West
- Experimental archaeology
- Renaissance Faire
- Society for Creative Anachronism