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English History made Brief, Irreverent, and Pleasurable    by Lacey Baldwin Smith order for
English History made Brief, Irreverent, and Pleasurable
by Lacey Baldwin Smith
Order:  USA  Can
Academy Chicago Publishers, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Anise Hollingshead

When commenting on the British ambivalence toward the European Union, Lacey Smith notes that David Frost and Anthony Jay once said the British define Hell as a world 'where the Germans are the police, the Swedish are the comedians, the Italians are the defense force ... the Greeks run the government and the common language is Dutch.' True to the title, this book is filled with similar humorous anecdotes and explanations of a variety of English trivia, historical facts and opinions.

After a few brief introductory chapters that explain British norms and culture, the main part of the book is divided into sections that separate English history into two main parts: everything worth noting before 1485 (Bosworth Field and the beginning of the Tudor reign) and everything worth noting from 1485 until the present. The final sections concentrate in more detail on the monarchies that have ruled in England up to modern times.

The tone of the book throughout is light and humorous, with plenty of amusing and interesting historical trivia, intermingled with more scholarly research. Lacey Baldwin Smith never takes himself or the subject too seriously. As it is a brief and condensed survey of an extended time period, much has been left out, but the most significant events are included. Sometimes the main threads are a little confusing to follow, as the author tends to hop around a bit, but he soon gets back on track.

I enjoyed this volume very much, and was reminded of one of my favorite books about the British, What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, which explained certain customs and historical traditions that were mentioned in these two authors' works. English History made Brief, Irreverent, and Pleasurable has the same lighthearted approach to history - a great book to read on a trip.

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