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1000 Years of Annoying the French by Stephen…

1000 Years of Annoying the French (original 2010; edition 2011)

by Stephen Clarke (Author)

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5421637,570 (3.83)19
Was the Battle of Hastings a French victory? Non! William the Conqueror was Norman and hated the French. Were the Brits really responsible for the death of Joan of Arc? Non! The French sentenced her to death for wearing trousers. Was the guillotine a French invention? Non! It was invented in Yorkshire. Ten centuries' worth of French historical 'facts' bite the dust as Stephen Clarke looks at what has really been going on since 1066.… (more)
Title:1000 Years of Annoying the French
Authors:Stephen Clarke (Author)
Info:Black Swan Books, Limited (2011), Edition: First Edition
Collections:Your library

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1000 Years of Annoying the French by Stephen Clarke (2010)


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This millennial look at the history of Britain and France is told with wry, sometimes childishly irritating, and rarely laugh-inducing humour. It’s pretty comprehensive, coming in at just under 650 pages, and it’s not all as good as the rest of it.

Beginning with William the Conqueror (not French) and ending with Nicolas Sarkozy (French), Clarke covers a fair bit of ground including food, battles, trade, battles, Canada, battles, wine, battles, Voltaire, battles, the French Revolution and battles. Oh, and there are about seven chapters dedicated to Napoleon.

You learn a lot about the impact of France on the world. In many cases, as the book has a clear anti-French bias (albeit tongue-in-cheek apparently) Clarke takes pains to point out where our common understanding of the influence of France on history is misplaced.

Although history is the opinion of whoever decides to interpret certain selected facts a certain way, it’s helpful to know that there are alternative ways to interpret facts so that the French don’t get the glory for many things they think they’re responsible for. As a Brit, that’s very satisfying.

Despite it being a whimsical ride for the most part, it did drag from time to time, and I was glad to get it over with. There are far too many dad jokes in here for me. He’s a writer, not a comedian.

I can see this being something of a good read on holiday or on the plane. Something to pick up and put down. It’s interesting enough. But Clarke is no Bryson, and I couldn’t help but wish our USAnian friend could have advised him. ( )
  arukiyomi | Sep 6, 2020 |
This turned out far better than I expected from the (admittedly amusing) title. Indeed, this not being my period, I could only really find two errors (when talking about Mary, Queen of Scots' imprisonment at Tutbury in Staffordshire, Clarke refers to "nearby" Buxton when it's anything but; and he gets the origin of the Sudeten Germans wrong - but then again, so does nearly everyone else) and one glossing over (his account of the 1956 Suez crisis seems a bit sketchy over the American and Russian reactions, and just saying that he was concentrating on the Anglo-French story is no excuse because Clarke went off-piste for essential background earlier).

But these are minor quibbles; after all, no-one's going to use this as their primary source for serious historical research. Are they?

Nearly 700 pages slipped past very easily. It read like a cross between 'Game of Thrones' and 'Horrible Histories'. Ruth Murray's cover art is a delight. ( )
2 vote RobertDay | Mar 22, 2020 |
This book is a hoot. OK, so according to other reviewers, there are historical inaccuracies (my knowledge however is not as comprehensive) so to me it reads quite well.

This 'new, revised, updated and expanded edition' will need another serious revision, update and expansion now the Brexit furore has hit the history books and will certainly give even more annoyance to the French (and Germans)

Whilst reading (in batches - far too much to do all at once) the 'I didn't know THAT' syndrome crept up quite often. Many a good snippet to throw into the conversation amongst Francophones who generally speaking really are as arrogant as the French themselves. ( )
  Kampuskop | Nov 12, 2018 |
Mainly good fun, though the schoolboy jokes get a bit wearing. Teasing mockery of French pretensions and a bit of righting of myths: e.g. the guillotine was invented in England and champagne too. Sometimes he's an unreliable witness, Tolly guillotined? Has Clarke read his own book? in the next chapter already he tells us Guillotine was introduced during revolution.
Sometimes an unreliable witness, e.g.
Buckingham died? No, assassinated!

p222 Mademoiselle as “senior female heir to the throne”- certainly not heir: see Salic Law
And Gruyère is Swiss!
Funniest are the quotes at the epilogue, though most are anti-English: e.g."Now i know why the English prefer tea; I just tasted their coffee" ( )
  vguy | Nov 20, 2017 |
Slightly overlong, but entertaining and sometimes informative account of the history between 2 countries who are really the best of enemies. ( )
  Devatipan | Sep 17, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
The French have always considered themselves to be nature's aristocrats, whilst their failures (such as Crecy, Agincourt, and their candidature for the 2012 Olympics) have been swept under the carpet by a race who 'still consider Napoleon's retreat from Moscow to be a strategic withdrawal, and the Nazi occupation of France as merely a waiting period until De Gaulle was ready to come back and seize victory.'
But in chronicling a millennium spent glowering at one another from across the Channel, Clarke also makes a spirited argument for English ownership of virtually every great French tradition.
Take Champagne, for instance. Far from being a French invention, bubbly only became possible once British bottle-making techniques provided a product that could withstand all that extra fizz without the contents exploding all over your dinner table. And with the onset of global warming, the best vintages will soon be grown on the Hackney Marshes, anyway.
Even the guillotine, ultimate symbol of liberty, equality and fraternity, can claim to be an English invention. An earlier version of this device for achieving rapid weight-loss was allegedly being used in a small market town in Yorkshire some years before the eponymous Parisian professor came up with his own design.
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'The English, by nature, always want to fight their neighbours for no reason, which is why they all die badly.' - From the Journal d'un Bourgeois de Paris, written during the Hundred Years War

'We have been, we are, and I trust we always will be, detested by the French.' - The Duke of Wellington
To the Crimée Crew for their thousand years of patience, and especially to N., who helped me through every battle.

Merci to my editor Selina Walker for her sense of history in reminding me constantly of my deadline.

And to everyone at Susanna Lea's agency for their role in making this whole histoire possible.

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The French are very proud of the fact that they were the last people to invade the British Isles.
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Was the Battle of Hastings a French victory? Non! William the Conqueror was Norman and hated the French. Were the Brits really responsible for the death of Joan of Arc? Non! The French sentenced her to death for wearing trousers. Was the guillotine a French invention? Non! It was invented in Yorkshire. Ten centuries' worth of French historical 'facts' bite the dust as Stephen Clarke looks at what has really been going on since 1066.

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