Remember, Remember: Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know about British History with all the Boring bits taken out – Judy Parkinson (2009)

An intriguing book that my sister gave to me last Christmas, this was, quite honestly, the perfect re-introduction to British history from way back to the Vikings through to the close of World War II. Obviously not an in-depth look at these historical events, but it does do exactly what it says on the tin: “a comprehensive overview that gives you all the key facts without any flab.”

As any British schoolchild will know, there is just so much history to cover when you learn British history, that it all ends up as a jumble of dates, kings and queens, and various wars. The editors developed this book as an answer to all the gaps we have in our heads from school day history lessons. There are 150 entries, each about 250 words long, and with just enough information for you to get the facts. Obviously, there is a lot more detail to the history, but to give you a taste of things, this was great.

For example, at my old school, we covered Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Romans, some Vikings, the history of Native Americans (why?) and women’s emancipation (obviously a biggie for a large private girls’ school from Victorian times). So, I don’t know if teachers were “teaching to the test” as they do here in Texas or just how the time periods were selected but it seemed very random and unconnected to me.

“Remember, Remember” is divided into several different time periods: Roman Britain, the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages, Tudor Britain, Stuart Britain, Georgian Britain, Victorian Britain, Edwardian Britain, WWI, the Interwar Years, and WWII. There is an easy to access list of Monarchs (lots of Edwards, Henrys and Georges for some reason), and a time line of the larger events. What worked so well, actually, was the logical chronological order of one event leading to another so you could see the flow and continuity of history, as different monarchs had different areas of interest.

I also found it interesting to see how long the battle between the Roman Catholic church and the Church of England (CofE), and how it all played out over time, Additionally, it cleared up my confusion over the Northern Ireland/Ireland division and who the IRA were and how it all fit in. I was a school girl during the 1970’s, and we grew up with regular bomb threats, bomb drills, avoiding left luggage etc, but not completely understanding what was really going on. Now it’s a little clearer.

I might be gushing a bit, but this was one of the most fascinating (and helpful) books that I have read in a long time. Now, I wonder if there is one for post-WWII to the turn of the century. I have some gaps there as well….

Added later: I found one in the series that covers US history, so will delve into that when it arrives in my post box. 🙂