Horrible Histories – review

While researching something on a regency-oriented site, I’ve come across a very short clip from the horrible Histories series dealing with those big ladies fans so popular in the 18th century. I was amused and when the clip offered several more videos of this nature I inevitably ended up watching them. A couple of clicks later, I was enjoying a short series of videos with the very best of their episodes on YouTube. 😀

Now I know that this is an ongoing BBC series, with several awards under its belt, but I won’t bore you with details. You can find out more about it on Wikipedia; the link is at the end of the post. What I will discuss here is my reaction to the really aptly named horrible histories.

The video responsible for this post:

The second video I saw was dealing with Vikings and the words they’ve given the English vocabulary. I was just laughing my head off by the end of it. No wonder my sister joined in the madness. Together we’ve been amused, shocked, horrified, and utterly flabbergasted by the beliefs, customs and behaviours of ancient people. I’ve got a lot more history knowledge than she, but even I was taken aback by some of the things that turned out to be true. It’s truly a shocker and an eye-opener. But behind every cringe-worthy fact awoke in me a poignant question: How did we as a species survive to the present day? Sometimes a person gets the feeling that it’s all pure dumb luck. Fortunately that is not so, but people have certainly tried to tip the scales to the opposite.

No wonder my sister and I agreed that a big dose of rational common sense was desperately needed, not to mention a firm woman’s hand to douse these warmongering men with some much needed cold water. Women’s rights never felt more precious, not to mention the convention of human rights and the ban of child labour. Here the true value of the series really is revealed – it helps us understand how good we actually have it nowadays, but also that every era (including ours) has areas where progress is desired and necessary. I like that – when you look past the shock factor, humour and slapstick, a solid sense of morals and ethics is revealed. No wonder they got awards.

The best sketches, in my opinion, were on the origin of English words, the more stupid laws in existence (those that did not involve the death penalty, that is), and the very telling wife-swap. My sister and I enjoyed them the most since they did not have as many cringe-worthy moments in them as, for example, sketches dealing with the history of medicine. These were the worst, closely followed by strange beauty products. How in the world did people come to the idea that burning off freckles was a good thing to do? And then cover the scars with a thick lead-based foundation? Can you say ick and NO?

Strange and funny laws:

Medicine in past eras, though treating certain conditions and diseases the right way, was mostly the case of the remedy being worse than the malady. Why did everything involve some kind of body waste product or parasite? Urine was especially popular, for some bizarre reason. Why would anyone use toxic and most revolting materials to get healthy? Why?!

In case you’re thinking that it’s all bad, let me reassure you – they also show us the better parts of history. I loved the pirates and their five laws. They were not allowed to fight onboard the ship or gamble, they got to vote about every decision (what a contrast to the Royal Navy!), the treasure was shared equally, and – wait for it – they had to be in bed by eight o’clock! 😀 LOL I love these rules.

I would certainly recommend the series to anyone with a sense of irony and a good grasp on sarcasm. (If you are uncomfortable with torture, body waste, death, sexism and racism, and religion bashing to the point where you can’t see the humour in it, kindly avoid the series. The costumes and settings are wonderful, you can see the actors are having a ball, and the interesting facts you learn along can become an interesting discussion topic. You might come over as a geek or a weirdo, but that’s ok too. ;

Website Links:


Here’s the first video of a series that had my sister and I entertained for over an hour:


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