As some of you may know, one of my many interests is history. In fact, I did quite a bit of history at university and am a trained high school history teacher (and English teacher). There are a lot of great history books out there, and while I do enjoy reading conventional history books, I also enjoy fun history books, which just present the content in a more entertaining manner, or perhaps poke fun at the history they are exploring.
One book which does this really well is 1000 Years Of Annoying The French by Stephen Clarke. This is a cheeky look at the last millennium, and how the relationship between the English and the French has changed through all those years, through all the wars between Britain and France, or, as the book states, when they “were at least glowering at each other across what we Brits provocatively call the English Channel.” Centuries of historical “facts” are questioned, with varying evidence against the commonly held beliefs – some of these include the Battle of Hastings, whether the Brits were really responsible for the death of Joan of Arc, whether the guillotine was a French invention, and one of the most controversial and surprising – was Champagne really a French invention?
Many of these historical insults are hilarious but remain light-hearted, and certainly shouldn’t be offensive to anybody with a sense of humour and open mind. Some of these arguments are perhaps based on technicalities more than anything, but it is still a highly entertaining read, and with 28 “facts” examined over 600 pages, there is plenty here to keep you occupied for a long time.
I have perhaps pointed this out before, but I like books like this which present history in a different light for two reasons. Firstly, they make it more interesting, and help it to appeal to a wider audience who perhaps are not normally interested in history (and I am always enthusiastic for making history a more widely enjoyed subject), and secondly, because it challenges conventional history and causes the reader to actually think about what they read, and to question historical information more regularly – we all too often just believe what we read because we think it comes from a trustworthy source, and history, much like science, is regularly changing with new revelations, perspectives and understandings.
If you want a history book that is going to make you laugh out loud and also make you think, this is definitely the book for you!
Do you know of any great history books like this that are entertaining? Are there any you have read which changed your mind about a certain part of history?