Historical reenactment is the practice of recreating the lives of people who lived in the past. This may involve the reenactment of actual events, such as battles or celebrations, or it may be trying to do everyday activities as they would have done. Many people attend reenactment events where the main focus is on the recreation of a battle (without the bloodshed, hopefully!) and the military camps around it, but reenactors may also meet in private to learn and practice new skills.
People take part in reenactment for a variety of reasons. Lots of people do it because it’s fun to dress up and fight, and because it’s a great way to socialise. People also do it to learn new skills and keep traditions alive, and some may reenact to feel closer to their ancestors. Reenactment encompasses a wide variety of activities besides combat. People make clothing and objects, cook meals from historical recipes, craft weapons and armour, and learn camping and survival skills. Reenactment combat can be as complex and functional as modern martial arts.
I am a committee member of the Wychwood Warriors, a Viking and Saxon reenactment group based in Oxford University. We practice combat with blunt replica weapons, researching and making replica clothing and other kit, and do displays for local museums, schools, and events.
I am also a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), a unique international medieval reenactment society, that’s part social group and part academic organisation. Unlike many other reenactment groups, the SCA does not restrict reenactment to a single time period and allows recreation of any time period between the early medieval to the 17th century. Instead of performing for the public, members research and practice activities to share with friends or at private events (although those events may be held in public spaces, with interested onlookers!). Most people in the SCA create a persona, an imagined historical alias for themselves with a name and a backstory, but the SCA is not quite a roleplaying group. Instead, the persona is used as a way to focus research on one time period.