The RPGer known on Google+ as Jeffro (Jeff Johnson) has written a review of the book High Crusade that is (typical for Jeff) very good and delves into a lot more than just a great book by a great author. Other great writers have already chimed in on the piece and I am going to exploi-, uh, also comment.
Jeff touches on some if the issues with thieves and clerics held by some gamers. I have previously touched on both of these classes, so my opinions should be clear. What I want to focus on in Jeff's insight into how writers and gamers tend to get history wrong.
This is a topic I have touched on before when I discussed how modern people fail to think of distances in an appropriate way. In brief, modern people tend to think of people from other periods as either 'just like me' or 'too stupid to be just like me'. Or, more shortly, we don't portray historical people historically especially when our own misconceptions and prejudices crop up. This is perhaps most egregious in steampunk.
I like steampunk, I read a lot of it, I have friends who make a living writing it, and I play and GM it. And most people get the Victorian period very, very wrong. As Jeff points out in his article many modern writers give people of the Victorian Era a hard time because they were so very, very repressed and stuffy.
Too bad that isn't true. In reality most of the ideas we have of 'stuffy, prudish Victorian Britain with their narrow-mindedness and judgmental attitudes' originated from British satires of American outlooks and attitudes of the era! In fact British Victorians were, yes, focused on moral behavior but were also rather open-minded, charitable, and more inclusive than most would believe. They also weren't all doing opium and seeing prostitutes! Steampunk seems to like one, the other, or both but not to embrace the reality.
Likewise with portrayals of Medieval people. On the one hand they were not a single conversation away from enthusiastically sharing the outlooks and attitudes of a middle-class college sophomore attending a large liberal arts university. On the other they were not bloodthirsty, ignorant savages who thought the world was flat and would burn old ladies at the stake for having a cat.
Yes, Yes, I know - it's a game. Your Vikingland barbarians can have horns on their helmets, your Irishland natives can all have red hair, I get it. But the reality was very complex, very interesting, and (in my opinion) more fun.
Thanks, Jeff, for a great review.