Historical Accuracy: The Importance of Longitude in Non-Fiction Literature


Longitude, the geographical coordinate that measures a location’s distance east or west of the Prime Meridian, may seem like a mundane detail. However, in the world of non-fiction literature, it plays a crucial role in maintaining historical accuracy. From capturing the true essence of a place to accurately depicting a character’s journey, longitude is an essential element that should not be underestimated.

The significance of longitude in non-fiction literature first became evident in the 18th century. Before the invention of accurate timepieces, sailors and travelers relied on inaccurate methods such as dead reckoning to determine their longitude. This led to disastrous consequences, from ships running aground to explorers getting lost in uncharted territories. In 1714, the British government offered a monetary reward for anyone who could develop a method to accurately measure longitude at sea. This sparked a race among inventors, resulting in the creation of the marine chronometer by John Harrison, which made it possible to accurately measure longitude.

With the ability to accurately determine longitude, travelers and explorers could now document their journeys with precision and accuracy. This breakthrough had a significant impact on non-fiction literature. It allowed authors to provide readers with a vivid and detailed account of their travels, enhancing the overall reading experience. Longitude also provided a framework for writers to accurately describe a character’s journey. It allowed them to detail the distance traveled, the places visited, and the route taken, making the storyline more believable.

Moreover, longitude also plays a crucial role in capturing the true essence of a place. As travelers and explorers started to document their journeys with accuracy, their descriptions of different places became more reliable. This allowed readers to imagine the exact location being described and get a better sense of the character’s surroundings. For example, a writer might mention a specific longitude in describing the beauty of a sunset over the Grand Canyon, adding to the authenticity of the scene.

In historical non-fiction, longitude is vital in depicting events accurately. As authors recount historical events, the precise location of these events plays a significant role in their accuracy. With the use of longitude, authors can place their characters in the correct geographical context, ensuring that the events and settings portrayed are as close to reality as possible. It also allows readers to connect more with the story and understand the impact of these events on a particular location.

However, accurately depicting longitude in non-fiction literature is not without its challenges. While tools such as the marine chronometer have made it possible to determine longitude at sea, there are still parts of the world where longitude cannot be accurately measured. In these cases, writers often have to rely on secondary sources and extensive research to determine a location’s longitude. It requires in-depth knowledge of geography, history, and topography to paint a realistic and accurate depiction of a place and its longitude.

In conclusion, historical accuracy is a crucial aspect of non-fiction literature, and longitude plays a significant role in achieving it. From accurately describing a character’s journey to capturing the true essence of a place, longitude is an essential element that adds credibility to historical non-fiction. As readers, it is crucial to pay attention to these details and appreciate the effort put in by authors to ensure historical accuracy in their works. After all, it is through these small yet significant details that we can truly grasp the essence of a story and appreciate the power of non-fiction literature.