Have you ever heard of G.A. Henty? If so, you may be in the minority.
Henty was a widely read British author during the mid- and late-19th century, and the majority of his works are historical adventure stories that appeal especially to children (though adults can certainly enjoy them, too).
His books were popular during and shortly after his lifetime, but faded away from public view during the mid-20th century. In recent times, however, his books have enjoyed something of a renaissance among certain groups, as within conservative Christian homeschool circles, for example.
Here are five reasons why people are enjoying them once more in our day and why you should consider trying them out yourself or with your children.
- Adventure is good. Who doesn’t enjoy a rousing tale of action, suspense and maybe even a narrow escape or two from danger? There is something to be said for a good, quiet life, but there is also, deep inside all of us, a part that clamors for involvement in something big and great. (Something outside!) This is G.A. Henty at his best … helping children see adventure as primarily based in courage. Henty also demonstrates that true adventure can also have a righteous cause.
- Henty shows us that there is a fun way to learn about history. It is a great tragedy that many approaches to teaching history leave students bored and disinterested. There is a reason that history has gained the reputation for being dry as dust. But history can and should be one of the most fascinating studies of all. One great way to make it so is to learn history through the experience of biographies or narratives set in various historical contexts. Henty was a student of the history he wrote about, and as a war correspondent he even had first-hand experience in some of those particular settings. He was able to bring history to life.
- Courage and valor really are virtues (humility and integrity, too). In our day, we have lost sight of these great character traits, but they are as much needed as ever. We need strong leaders. We need to raise a generation of valorous men and women who actually believe this! The culture around us is not inculcating these virtues, and we should be quick to embrace the resources that will help us do so, especially if that strength and courage is taught in combination with a humble integrity as its guide.
- We need a different perspective. If we are only ever exposed to thoughts and voices from our own society and era, we will be sadly limited in our experience and understanding. It does us good to learn from other cultures, times and places. We will learn facts that the deficiencies of our own time and place will not teach us. Books from great voices of the past can enrich our lives greatly.
You might even learn some new words. OK, so there are a number of weightier and more significant reasons to read Henty’s books, but we won’t complain if we learn some new words along the way, too. Have your children ever learned what “fealty” is before? It wouldn’t hurt them to find out.