Historical novels are those which take place during a period in the past, often the distant past and usually a noteworthy period or one with great cultural significance. A novel may be considered historical if it is a fictionalisation of the life or times of a real-life figure, or the adventures of fictional characters in historical settings. A frequent plot device is to have the protagonists interact with the real people of the time. Historical novels can be written in any of several genres, or in crossover style; among the most frequently used genres are adventure, romance and swashbuckler.
Early Chinese examples include the fourteenth-century Sanguo yanyi (Romance of the Three Kingdoms) by Luo Guanzhong, and the early-sixteenth-century Yinglie zhuan (Romance of Ming Dynasty Heroes), often attributed to Guo Xun. Some of the earliest European writers of historical fiction, beginning around 1800, were Sir Walter Scott and Alexandre Dumas, père. The genre continues today with authors such as George MacDonald Fraser and Philippa Gregory.