….We look forward keenly to the appearance of their last work ~ The Review of Reviews of Reviews
This slim volume…… ~ The Bookworm
…vague…. ~ Vague
Thus goes the snippets of imaginary reviews of 1066 and All That. This is British history as you’ve never read it before, and likely never will again. As H.V. Kaltenborn put it: The worst thing about it is that it is so close to truth as to send you back to the dull historians for a check up. This, my friends, is the most warped version of history you’ve ever read, and it will keep you in utter stitches.
I stopped in for lunch at Don Jose after purchasing this book and the waiters there now think I’ve completely lost it. Seriously hysterical, I was laughing out loud in the restaurant browsing through this masterpiece. It simply turns history on its ear in the most delightful ways.
As with most authors from the past, the use of footnotes can be found throughout this book, and are well worth the irritation of looking to the bottom of the page for them:
…overran the country with fire (1)
(1)And, according to certain obstinate historians, the Sword
While the title suggests that this begins in 1066, it actually begins with Julius Caesar’s first invasion in 55 BC, and follows with his second invasion in 54 BC… As the authors put it, this is owing to the peculiar Roman method of counting.
W.C Sellar and R.J Yeatman collaborated on this romp through the English countryside. It was published first in 1931. Don’t let that put you off. This book is brilliantly funny. It helps to know a bit of the real history to get some of the humor of the misrepresentations, but it’s not really necessary. The authors meant this to be tongue in cheek so it’s not really obscure inside jokes at all. It’s all rather blatant.
For instance, when they begin discussing King Alfred, they tell you that Alfred ought not to be confused with King Arthur, equally memorable but probably non-existant and therefore perhaps less important historically (unless he did exist…) and then they go on to refer to Alfred as Arthur for the next several paragraphs, with the sword being referred to as ExGalahad.
William Tell is explained as the memorable crackshot, inventor of Cross-bow puzzles.
Of Henry II, they say he was a great law-giver, and it was he who laid down the great Legal Principle that everything is either legal or (preferably) illegal.
I could go on giving you examples of this twisted history. Every single page is just gut-busting funny, but one of my favorite passages is in the beginning discussion of the Visigoths, Ostrigoths, and just plain Goths:
Important Note: The Scots (originally Irish, but by now Scotch) were at this time inhabiting Ireland, having driven the Irish (Picts) out of Scotland; while the Picts (originally Scots) were now Irish (living in brackets) and vice versa. It is essential to keep these distinctions clearly in mind (and vice versa)
At a mere 116 pages, this is a one-sit read. Indeed, once you begin you will be hard pressed to put it down again until you’ve finished it. Beginning with Caesar, it ends with King Edward, who’s new policy of peace was very successful and culminated in the Great War to End War… it was the cause of nowadays, and the end of History.
At the end of each section are test questions. Do not skip these…
Why on Earth was William Orange?
Who had what written on whose what?
N.B. Candidates should write on at least one side of the paper.
All through this are little cartoons and illustrations by John Reynolds, who clearly ‘got’ the humor of the authors. The book would be a must-own without those, but they do add even more humor to the whole endeavor.
I just cannot believe that this marvel of a book has fallen under my radar for so very long. I recommend this book to absolutely everyone, whether you are into period history or not. If you want actual history written comically, also grab The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody. These books belong together on everybody’s bookshelf.