Why is Italy called Italy? How old is curry? Which people from history would best pull off a casino heist? Who was the richest person of all time? When was the first Monday? What were history’s weirdest medical procedures that actually worked? How much horse manure was splattered on the streets of Tudor London? How fast was the medieval Chinese postal system? What did The Flintstones get right about the Stone Age? Who gets to name historical eras, and what will ours be called in 100 years’ time? How do we know how people sounded in the past? How old is sign language?
In Ask a Historian, the author, BBC podcaster and public historian Greg Jenner provides answers to things you always wondered about but didn’t know who to ask. Responding to 50 genuine questions from the public, Greg whisks you off on an entertaining tour through the ages, revealing the best and most surprising stories, facts and historical characters from the past. Bouncing through a wide range of subjects – from ancient jokebooks, African empires and bizarre tales of medicinal cannibalism, to the invention of meringues, mirrors and menstrual pads – Ask a Historian spans the Stone Age to the Swinging Sixties and offers up a deliciously amusing and informative smorgasbord of historical curiosities, devoured one morsel at a time.
Author: Greg Jenner
Narrator: Greg Jenner
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Run Time: 11hrs 4mins
Genre: Historical Non-Fiction/Comedy
My Rating of ‘Ask a Historian’ 5 out of 5
I’ll start off by saying, due to it being pretty much the main reason for negative reviews of this book, that it isn’t written like your average academical history book. It’s done with a comedic style and does have foul language. That genuinely seems to be the only bone people have to pick with this book from the reviews I read, so felt it best to get that out at the top of the review as it’s obviously not to everyone’s taste.
In ‘Ask A Historian’ Greg Jenner answers fifty historical questions sent in by members of the public. And, as mentioned above, he does so in his own entertaining, yet informative way. Each question is given a good amount of air time and explained as much as Greg possibly can. Most tend go off on tangents relating to the topic, leaving the reader/listener with a more comprehensive knowledge than if he’d simply blandly answered the question.
I feel this book would be absolutely ideal for the kind of audience looking to dip their toes into the history pond for the first time without running away screaming. Unlike most historical texts that are incredibly heavy on the dry, yet incredibly important details, Greg’s light-hearted way of delivering his answers might prove more beneficial to the type of person who might have a more casual approach to wanting to learn history.
There’s a good range in this book due to the wide array of people that submitted questions. So, even if the first few questions aren’t the flavour of history you enjoy most, you can sit back and rest assured that there is genuinely something for everyone inside.
I thoroughly enjoyed this and have already downloaded another audio book by Greg. In the world of academia it’s uncommon to brand something as ‘easy reading’ or say that you don’t have to pay massive amounts of attention to it to get the benefit. With this book, Greg certainly achieves that.