Heretics, witches, and the like.
In the year of our Lord 1600, Girodano Bruno was burned as a heretic in England (real life). In 1598, Sashue was strangled for witchery in what is now New Mexico (fiction, Crimson Sky). In 1610, Galileo saw the moons of Jupiter through his telescope. Later, under extreme threat, he chose a different response from Bruno and avoided the flames.
What else was going on? Mary Queen of Scots was executed in 1587. Her nemesis Elizabeth I died in 1603. Shakespeare wrote Hamlet the same year. Around this time, the Ming dynasty in China came to a close. John Smith and Pocahontas were getting acquainted in Jamestown. De Champlain established Quebec. The King James Bible was published (1611) at the direction of King James I who wrote scholarly volumes about how to detect witches. African slaves were coming to the New World in gruesome slave ships.
And what was going on in our own Southwest? The Spanish were expanding their settlements from Mexico northwards. They had explored the region we call New Mexico two generations earlier, but in 1598, a large group including women and children came not to explore but to settle. They brought tools and seeds and animals and grit. And they encountered—surprise—the people who already lived there. The pueblos were well established communities facing their own difficulties with drought and marauders.
Living in peaceful, secure Denton, Texas, it takes some effort to imagine what it must have been like to have stronger, better equipped, better trained adversaries invading your homeland. It’s happened many times, all over the globe, but this was in our own land. It happened to real people, documented in old texts written mostly by Spanish priests. My favorite kind of novel takes the reader to such a time and place when people were challenged by forces they could not control, could not perhaps ever conquer. How do individuals find the strength to withstand or adapt to such extreme circumstances? (Crimson Sky, the story of individual men and women of the pueblos when the Conquistadors marched into their land — in the same year Shakespeare and his partners built The Globe theater on the south bank of the Thames, only two years before Bruno burned at the stake.)