This morning author Alison Stuart posted a request on a historic fiction list for authors writing about the 17th century to contact her. “Nothing sinister,” she added. “I am just keen to explore an idea about pooling resources to lift the reading public’s interest in this fascinating (but ‘unpopular’) period of history.”

Is the 17th century unpopular?

I think so. The Historical Novel Society puts out a review publication, grouping novels by era. The 16th century invariably has a long listing, as well as the 18th and 19th, but the list of novels set in the 17th is noticably short, rarely more than a handful.

Perhaps the question should be: Why is the 17th century unpopular?

I have a theory about this: England in the 17th century was a dire and gloomy place to be (devastating Plague, the Great Fire). Perhaps this has put people off. Curiously, the experience of the 17th century in France was quite different, at least in the second half of the century, when French culture flowered and flourished during the reign of the Sun King.

It is also a period without “a handle”: What do we call it? Late Renaissance? Early Modern? It seems to be a period in-between … and yet this is what makes it so fascinating, in my view.