I’ve bemoaned the teaching of history in English schools in this blog before. We get the Bronze age, the Romans, the Normans, the Tudors and the World Wars and not much in between. Like the Author of this month’s first book, I was unenthused by way history is taught in British schools. The book is Stick A Flag In It – A Thousand Years Of Bizarre History From Britain And Beyond by Arran Lomas and published in October by Unbound (www.unbound.com)
I am amazed how the current passion for denying and rewriting unpopular history has ignited a bit of a passion in me for finding out the truthful versions of events, even if they show my historic heroes as flawed humans rather than gods. Living in Ireland, I’m occasionally made to feel ashamed of my British ancestors. There’s a lot to apologise for and many to apologise to, I agree, but for a small island, the UK has made its mark in terms of influence, progress and the transformation of large parts of the globe. Essentially, I’m proud to be English.
What Lomas does in Stick A Flag In It, is take an engaging and joyous romp through a millennia of history, from 1066 and the battle of Hastings, to the eve of the First World War. The Brits have been an eccentric, ingenious and sometimes unhinged race, from mad monarchs to mass-murdering lepers. Lomas explores the stories behind notable events and presents some quirky facts and the origin of such words as Trenchers and Accolade.
I’m notoriously blunt myself and have a dark sense of humour. I like people like Jeremy Clarkson who are passionate about their subject, tell it how it is and can make me smile too. Jeremy Clarkson is a bit of a history buff himself, particularly on wartime history, something contestants on the TV quiz, ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’ should bear in mind if they should need to ask the host. If Jeremy had written a book on British History, I feel it would read a lot like this book.
Lomas’s writing style is laddish, humorous and opinionated. Something along the lines of a history show fronted by the three ex Top Gear presenters of Clarkson, Hammond and May. Sometimes I felt a bit overwhelmed with all the metaphors and jokes and it felt like the author was trying too hard to be funny. However, the book is genuinely very entertaining and educational.
This English author Arran Lomas’s (@thoughty2) first book. He’s better known for being man behind YouTube hit, Thoughty2. Since 2012 he has created videos covering topics like crime, space, medicine, conspiracy theories, food and social issues, not forgetting history too.
I’d have possibly enjoyed the book more as a dip in and out sort of read, rather than your usual cover to cover job. But even where the history was more familiar, Lomas adds an extra pinch of something quirky you didn’t know, to make it a worthwhile read.
This is an ideal Christmas present for the lad or ladette in your life, who likes their history warts and all, with a side helping of giggles. Like British history, this book is full of unexpected twists and turns and is never dull.
So, drop a pin on your phone’s google map, or stick one on an old OS map you have lying around,marking where your nearest book shop should be and then set out to get a copy. Better still save your energy and download a copy online. Either way, enjoy it or put away as a Crimbo stocking filler.
Reviewed by: Georgina Murphy
This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy and read it, comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d really appreciate the feedback.