The first period of history that I have researched in any depth has been the 18th century in England. I did this to better understand and then write about two famous individuals that lived in those times. One appears as a character in my first screenplay. The second was a political figure that is the main character in a musical that I have been working on for the last twenty five years.
It is a fantastic period of time to research, interesting in so many ways. I began with biographies about the individuals, then branched out into histories, general and specific. Thankfully there are many good histories about this century (and from their indexes, leads to many more). Histories that not only cover political changes – kings and prime ministers etc., but also social ones – crime, religion, slavery, etc.
Since one of my projects has many of its scenes set in Parliament, I had to school myself in its history and workings too. As you may know Parliament is made up of two chambers: the House of Commons and the House of Lords. To the first, commoners were elected by landholders and other qualified individuals; and the second was comprised of members of the aristocracy or nobility i.e. Peers of the realm. All on the face of it easy to understand until exceptions or outright contradictions cropped up.
As I familiarized myself with the colleagues of my main character in the lower chamber I didn’t think much at first that some were titled Sir This and Lord That. Then, when reading about commoners in the House accepting a peerage, resulting in their being raised to the House of Lords, I found myself asking why were these other peers in Commons not raised also.
A bit of time passed before I discovered the answer to this mystery. We had an internet connection in those days, but it was back when search engines were in their infancy, definitely before Google. Anyway, I found the answer in my reading. It was a simple distinction. There was more than one peerage. If you were in the English peerage, you were raised to the House of Lords. If you had an Irish title, (and the ones I was curious about did), you stayed in the House of Commons. So, not all Lords were equal.