Re-Commendation: Horrible Histories

As the name would suggest, the series of history books written by famed late-1700s Prussian historian Aloysius von Horrible.

[Note: Not a real person]

Bit of a slow day today, since it was my niece’s birthday, so I was largely occupied with that.

On the other hand, I was right about Rings of Power holding off its big trailer until Comic-Con:

Keep watching until after the “Prime Video” logo shows up…

That’s presented largely for your consideration and to bring the “There’s probably going to be a new trailer at Comic-Con” plotline to a close.


My actual (re-)post today is, at best, rather tangentially related to Lord of the Rings, in that I’ve had an ongoing sense that I don’t talk about books for someone who writes books.

So, I’m dusting off one of my previous recommendations, which is indeed about books. Also, British books, somewhat strengthening the flimsy connection to Tolkien.

And those books are Horrible Histories:

Horrible Histories: Scholastic.

Horrible Histories is, as the name would suggest, the series of history books written by famed late-1700s Prussian historian Aloysius von Horrible, seen here in a 1200% real and factual, genuine 1797 woodcut.

Author’s Note: Not a real person.

That was a joke.

What Horrible Histories actually is is a history of the world — though one with a not insubstantial Britain-centric point of view (it is a British series) that basically plays up the horrible aspects of said history: the wars, the political intrigue, the crazy Emperors declaring war on the ocean, the murders, the assassinations, the discredited medical theories, the weird food.

Hence, the name of the series.

Notably, Horrible Histories presents the horribleness of history in a way that’s fun for kids — for example, the battle of Agincourt, wherein the heroic French knights heroically charged into battle and got themselves heroically shot full of arrows.

Figure 1: So many arrows.
Via Wikipedia. Public Domain.

And the approach actually works, thanks in large part to the series being written with a very dark, very dry, very British sense of humour.

And, honestly, things like “Even the heroes were jerks”, “The things we take for granted didn’t always exist”, “War is terrible”, and “The past was generally awful, be happy it’s over” aren’t terrible lessons for kids to learn.

The book series also lead to a BBC show (which I also recommend), which is basically a fast-paced sketch comedy show that happens to also be educational and informative. If you’re curious, it’s available on Netflix (at least in Canada) and a lot of individual clips have been posted on its YouTube channel.

And it’s got one heck of a theme song:


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