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An utterly impartial history of Britain, or,…

An utterly impartial history of Britain, or, 2000 years of upper-class… (2007)

by John O'Farrell

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5462118,349 (3.74)25
  1. 10
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» See also 25 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
Too much humour and too little history for my taste. Did not finish. ( )
  MarthaJeanne | Nov 20, 2017 |
I bought this book out of impulse at the airport, unsure whether I was ever going to read it, but once started, I couldn’t stop. First of all, it’s utterly funny. It’s like watching a stand-up comedian. You laugh out loud. It’s an interesting tale of British history through the eyes of a modern Briton. Like someone noticed in another comment (Acquafortis) the best thing about this book is that makes you go and check facts and things, it awakes your curiosity in a way that few books do. ( )
1 vote RebeccaVegas | Dec 12, 2011 |
Meet the most influential characters in British history from Caesar to Churchill. Chronicles of the past 2000 years with a summation at the end of each era. Facetious remarks are made about the left, right and royals; some gags witty, others make you groan. ( )
1 vote paperdust | Jun 14, 2011 |
LOVED IT!!!!! Hilarious and entertaining way to learn about history!! ( )
1 vote kerriek_99 | Feb 13, 2011 |
"An Utterly Impartial History of Britain" is, of course, nothing of the sort. Anyone aware of O'Farrell's debut book, his memoir "Things Can Only Get Better" will have some idea where his political sympathies are. For those that aren't the book was a recollection of his time as a Labour member at the time the party was in the wilderness between 1979 and 1997. If you're still not sure, the subtitle "2000 Years of Upper Class Idiots in Charge" should seal the deal.

Even at 550 pages, this is an inevitably superficial scamper through nearly two millennia of mostly English history (O'Farrell has the decency to apologise to the Celtic fringes for the book's Anglocentric viewpoint) and is very much focussed on the activities of those in charge, nearly all of whom are found wanting in some way - Gladstone, Lloyd George and Churchill are about the only ones spared, at least in view of their public lives.

The approach is strictly chronological and credit to the writer for trying to cover the murkier areas of history i.e. the Dark Ages, in some depth, areas which schools often skim over. There is also some effort to rehabilitate some of the less popular figures in history - was Richard III all bad? - but not very convincingly.

Anyway, this is the wrong book to go to if you want to learn much history. O'Farrell's focus is on the wisecracks, the vast majority of which take the form of imposing modern sensibilities on events from history. Whilst he often hits the spot, this gets a bit wearing after a while and left this reader wishing for a little bit more variation.

The book's pleasant enough, but it doesn't do for political history what Bill Bryson "A Short History of Nearly Everything" is often credited with doing for science, which is what I suspect the pitch to the publishers was. ( )
  Grammath | Mar 29, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
By virtue of age, by attitude, sometimes, and because I hail from one of the many parts of the south of England where voters were once rabbits in the headlights of the seemingly unstoppable Tory juggernaut, souped-up with the promise of owning your own home (while Labour's horse and cart, borrowed from Steptoe and Son, lay in a ditch), I am one of "Thatcher's children". Given this, John O'Farrell's latest book is, for me at least, an engrossing and agonising read. And fortunately, a funny one too. Though the author, whom I once heard described as a "sit-down comedian" because of his gags-per-line rate, has penned a print version of an "I Love the Post-War Years" TV clips show, and a sometimes back-handed tribute to the Labour Party since 1945, it is the Thatcher era, 30 years on, that inevitably proves the most engrossing.

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Book description
Many of us were put off history by the dreary way it was taught at school. Back then 'The Origins of the Industrial Revolution' seemed less compelling than the chance to test the bold claim on Timothy Johnsons 'Shatterproof' ruler. But here at last is a chance to have a good laugh and learn the stuff you feel you ought to know by now.

In this 'Horrible History for Grown Ups' you can read how Anglo-Saxon liberals struggled to be positive about immigration; 'Look I think we have to try and respect the religious customs of our new Viking friends - oi, he's nicked my bloody ox!' Discover how England's peculiar class system was established by some snobby French nobles whose posh descendents still have wine cellars and second homes in the Dordogne today. And explore the complex socio-economic reasons why Britain's kings were the first in Europe to be brought to heel; (because the Stuarts were such a useless bunch of untalented, incompetent, arrogant, upper-class thickoes that Parliament didn't have much choice.)

A book about then that is also incisive and illuminating about now, 2000 Years of Upper Class Idiots in Charge, is an hilarious, informative and cantankerous journey through Britain's fascinating and bizarre history. As entertaining as a witch burning, and a lot more laughs.[retrieved 4/24/18 from Amazon.co.uk]
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Many of us were put off history by the dreary way it was taught at school. Back then 'The Origins of the Industrial Revolution' seemed less compelling than the chance to test the bold claim on Timothy Johnsons 'Shatterproof' ruler. But here at last is a chance to have a good laugh and learn the stuff you feel you ought to know by now.… (more)

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