Jim's Books

An Utterly Impartial History of Britain

John O'Farrell

An Utterly Impartial History of Britain
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ISBN: 9780385611985


When a historian says 'Waterloo', do you automatically think of Abba? Do you wonder how Neville chamberlain failed to realize that Hitler was a baddie when the Fuhrer was so clearly wearing a Nazi armband? And why did the Normans fight the Saxons at a place called 'Battle?' did they just see the road signs and just think that's where they were supposed to go?

Reviewed on 21st July 2008

This one was quite long, but then when it has to cover two thousand years I suppose it has to be. The only issue was that I felt there was a lot more space spent covering the twentieth century... surely not the most important in British history, but possibly the most documented.

Another common complaint I suspect would be the fundamental lie in the title: "British" history... Up until union the only focus of the book is on English history, with very little mention of the other parts which make up Britain: Wales and Scotland. I'm not saying it's a bad book, just that I would have appreciated more detail on these other areas, as every history book, and all my school history education focussed on England.

This read started off awkwardly, and it took me a while to get comfortable with the somewhat irreverent style of the writing. Particularly the use of sarcasm - sometimes brilliant, comparing the issues of the time with the way we're repeating them today - but sometimes it was hard to spot whether O'Farrell was being serious or not.

All in all it was an interesting and humorous read, but I'm not sure I've come away from it having learnt anything. Back to fiction next I think.

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