What is historical context for Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson?
The book frequently refers to the battles between the Patriots and the Loyalists. That would put the novel taking place sometime during the American Revolution. More specifically, the book takes place between May 1776 and January 1777. The setting is mostly New York City, which was a political and military hotbed of conflict. Anderson does a nice job of weaving Isabel's story with actual events and people of the time period. For example, Isabel attends the hanging of Thomas Hickey. Hickey was actually hanged for treason against the Patriots and possible involvement in a plot to kill George Washington. Another item that puts some historical context into the novel is that Isabel reads Thomas Paine's book Common Sense. The fire Isabel rescues Lady Seymour from is also a real historical event that occurred in New York in 1776. No definitive cause has ever been found for the fire, but the fire did burn roughly 500 buildings. That amounts to roughly one quarter of the houses in New York at the time.
Anderson also provides a dozen or so pages at the end of the novel in which she addresses many other real historical features and events she included in the novel.