Historical fiction is fiction where the setting is in a past era. While most fiction is set in the past, it is the recent past -- relatively the same time period as the reader's. In contrast, most science fiction is set in a future era.
Historical fiction may seek to educate the reader about key historical events or how people lived in the past. Or, it may simply be the setting.
Some historical fiction:
- Little House in the Big Woods for young readers (starting about age 7), set in the mid 1800s in the U.S. West
- The Help for adults, set early in the civil rights movement in the U.S.
- Emma for young adults and adults, set in the late 1700s, also a comedy of manners, a humorous view of some of the social conventions of the upper classes at the time in England
- The Last of the Mohicans - when parts of New York were still the "wild west".
- Ivanhoe, a novel set in 12th century England.