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Harry Potter and History by Nancy R. Reagin

Harry Potter and History (2011)

by Nancy R. Reagin (Editor)

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1194155,994 (3.75)4
"A guide to the history behind the world of Harry Potter? Just in time for the last Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part II). Harry Potter lives in a world that is both magical and historical. Hogwarts pupils ride an old-fashioned steam train to school, notes are taken on parchment with quill pens, and Muggle legends come to life in the form of werewolves, witches, and magical spells. This book is the first to explore the real history in which Harry's world is rooted.. Did you know that bezoars and mandrakes were fashionable luxury items for centuries? Find out how Europeans first developed the potions, spells, and charms taught at Hogwarts, from Avada Kedavra to love charms. Learn how the European prosecution of witches led to the Statute of Secrecy, meet the real Nicholas Flamel, see how the Malfoys stack up against Muggle English aristocrats, and compare the history of the wizarding world to real-life history.. Gives you the historical backdrop to Harry Potter's world. Covers topics ranging from how real British boarding schools compare to Hogwarts to how parchment, quills, and scrolls used in the wizarding world were made. Includes a timeline comparing the history of the wizarding world to Muggle "real" history. Filled with fascinating facts and background, Harry Potter and History is an essential companion for every Harry Potter fan."-- "Fans will learn about topics like the European prosecution of witches, who the real Nicholas Flamel was, and the historical origins of the spells and charms Hogwarts students learn, from Avada Kedavra to the bezoar. The book features a timeline comparing the history of the wizarding world to real-life history"--… (more)



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Fascinating! So many different angles I'd never considered or personally analyzed. ( )
  benuathanasia | Dec 25, 2017 |
This anthology of essays about history and Harry Potter is, as such things usually are, hit and miss. Many of the essays seek to explore something about history in tandem to the same topic in Harry Potter (the way government works, for instance, or the historical (Muggle) treatment of witches), and these pieces, for me, were the least interesting. They basically took an element of the world of Harry Potter and then explored a relevant history topic inspired by that element. These essays might be fascinating to someone interested in that particular history topic, but I wasn't, for the most part. A handful of the pieces, however, did a better job of making the historical discussion relevant to the reading and interpretation of Harry Potter itself. These I found interesting and compelling. My favorites were "Severus Snape and the Standard Book of Spells: Ancient Tongues in the Wizarding World," about Rowling's use of ancient languages in the books; "School Ties, House Points, and Quidditch: Hogwarts as a British Boarding School," which does what it says on the tin; and "Hermione Raised Her Hand Again: Wizards Writing History," which discusses the way Harry, Ron, and Hermione often have to become historians to solve the problems of their world, questioning the histories that have been told to them, seeking out primary sources, and reinterpreting what they know about the past. I, clearly, liked best the essays which inched back toward literary criticism along with the history, so your mileage may vary. ( )
  lycomayflower | May 10, 2015 |
When I was at the bookstore looking for volumes of Harry Potter criticism, the clerk almost flipped out to discover that there was a "Pop Culture and History Series." Certainly it's an interesting idea: To study where our modern pop ideas came from.

The execution proved more complicated. This volume consists of a series of essays exploring how the Harry Potter books compare to actual historical situations -- how, e.g., the hidden world of magic users compares to the hidden world of the Jews in Europe. Or how the Death Eaters' use of torture compares to the Inquisition -- or to modern American methods of interrogating prisoners from the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts.

Many of these analogies are spot-on. Rowling is a liberal, and clearly she is disgusted by torture, and by particularism based on ancestry or religion or the like.

But I can't help but feel that a lot was missing. Rowling is also a Christian, and there is a lot of Christian theology going on under the surface. Yes, some would suggest that that is part of another book -- but very many of the topics discussed are things that were condemned because of religion. Witches in the Middle Ages, e.g., weren't condemned because they could do "magical" things; they were burned because their alleged powers came from the Devil. This book makes that point -- but doesn't really get into the history of religion, or the theology, that caused the situation.

And there is a great deal to be learned by looking at the history within the Potter books, as well as the history outside them. And the folklore that accompanies it.

Almost all Potter criticism strikes me as shallow. This is deeper than some. But I really don't think it went as far as it could. The Potter books are a parallel -- almost an allegory -- of Christianity, with a Pelagian overlay. They approach a parody of much folklore. They play language games at a level not seen since J. R. R. Tolkien. A book that really dug into all those aspects would be a tremendous tool. This might be a piece of that puzzle. But it is too small a piece to see the whole picture. ( )
  waltzmn | Jun 12, 2014 |
This book is a compilation of writings that examine the Harry Potter universe through historical points of view, imagining how Harry's imaginary world could have been affected by the real world and speculating on where Rowling obtained many of her ideas for characters, plot twists, and other witch-oriented information. What pleased me, as a reader, most was how the writers could take both the real and fantasy events and discuss them in light of current political conflicts. It's a bit chilling to realize that we human beings have not really progressed much further in our social abilities and inabilities than from the times of the active witch hunts. ( )
  hefruth | Jun 11, 2012 |
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For Mary,
the first magic that ever happened to me
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Writing Magic History
Like Hermione Granger, I found my task -- editing this book -- much easier than I thought it would be.

A Half-Blood World?
Harry Potter is magical, as everyone knows.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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