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1066 and All That I really cannot describe the delightful depth of wit One wouldn’t think that their roving narrative is morally probing, but I detected great commentary on religious intolerance (2425, 4344, 66, 87), as well as socially William and Mary’s “Toleration Act, which said they would tolerate anything, though afterwards it went back on this and decided that they could not tolerate the Scots” (87) Insights on the Southsea Bubble (89, 9192) are particularly applicable in light of present economically straitened circumstances in America.I will only include one large excerpt, from 2728, telling in its style:By congregating there, armed to the teeth, the Barons compelled John to sign the Magna Charter, which said:1 That no one was to be put to death, save for some reason (except the Common People).2 That everyone should be free (except the Common People).3 That everything should be of the same weight and measure throughout the Realm (except the Common People).4 That the Courts should be stationary, instead of following a very tiresome medieval official known as the King's Person all over the country.5 That 'no person should be fined to his utter ruin' (except the King's Person).6 That the Barons should not be tried except by a special jury of other Barons who would understand Magna Charter was therefore the chief cause of Democracy in England, and thus a Good Thing for everyone (except the Common People).They subsequently define baronial duties, among other things, as “to hasten the King’s death, deposition, insanity, etc., and make quite sure that there were always at least three false claimants to the throne,” and “to keep up the Middle Ages” (31) The authors employ a strong offsetting method to make history laughable, such as a definition of the Monroe Doctrine as “prov[ing:] that it is wrong for anyone to have wars in North or South America (except the United States Marines)” (106) I love the way they depict causes of war (such as on 111, 115, 120, 123) or conduct in declaring peace (9293, 124) “The important International Law called the Rule Brittannia, technically known as the Freedom of the Seas” (11)—they later mention that the Dutch dared to challenge this, but they’re really not big enough to ever hold top nation status (8384) The English “Civil War” is summarized as “The utterly memorable Struggle between the Cavaliers (Wrong but Wromantic) and the Roundheads (Right but Repulsive)” (75; see 78).1066 and All That is loaded to the hilt (embedded or otherwise) with sophisticated humor that could well be lost on many without the “benefit” of an extensive historical and literary background Only in passing, for a few examples, I might say that the conversion by a sparrow (7) has reference to Coifi’s tale as related by Bede, Canute’s sitting on the sea (14) has reference to the tale whereby he showed his advisors that his authority was limited where the waves were concerned, the ditty about Adam and Eve (47) has reference to an egalitarian chant during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, the egg standing on its end (59) has reference to an apocryphal tale (a favorite of George Q Cannon’s) about Christopher Columbus demonstrating how easy something is only when one has already done it, ‘Paris is rather a Mess’ (71) should read ‘Paris is worth a Mass,’ and “1 New Presbyter = 1 OLD PRIEST” and ‘No Bishop, No King’ (74) had cryptic reference to Milton’s definition of new presbyters as “old priest writ large” and King James’ reiteration of royal authority As you can see, having to inform the reader of these facts (perhaps even by way of footnote) would defeat the purpose, so I’m afraid that it will remain a sealed book for most Still, anyone should feel free to explore it and feel the power of its irregularly recurring themes, like conquest by fire and the sword (as to method, one or both, or its failure); death by a surfeit of something or other; “top nation”; Gray’s Elegy; and the Irish Question (later transmuted into the Eastern Question).Nevertheless, a quick glance through certain of its features should prove amusing for nearly all I call your attention to the “rationalized” genealogical table on 33, and the sketch of the Battle of Bannockburn on 37, to say nothing of the hilarious tests interspersed throughout I think my favorite test question was, 16, “How angry would you be if it was suggested (1) That the XIth Chap of the Consolations of Boethius was an interpolated palimpsest? (2) That an eisteddfod was an agricultural implement?” Having just concluded a study of the Wars of the Roses, I found the test on 54 astoundingly cutting in its humor (see also 5759 and 60, #8)! Who wouldn’t laugh at this statement about Henry VIII? “He also invented a game called ‘Bluff King Hal’ which he invited his ministers to play with him The players were blindfolded and knelt down with their heads on a block of wood; they then guessed whom the King would marry next” (62). One of the most wellloved and bestselling British humor titles of all time Canute began by being a Bad King on the advice of his Courtiers, who informed him owing to a misunderstanding of the Rule Britannia that the King of England was entitled to sit on the sea without getting wet This humorous history is a book that has itself become part of the UK's history The authors made the claim that All the History you can remember is in the Book, and, for most Brits, they were probably right But it is their own unique interpretation of events that has made the book a classic; an uproarious satire on textbook history and a population's confused recollections of it Things this book doesn't explain about England.(1) Fishfingers in a white bread roll Not so much that they exist as they pass for nutrition.(2) First class on trains being quite often cheaper than economy.(3) The help I get in the Underground with my bag And yet my niece with her baby in a pram gets not a finger lifted to her Stephen says it is because my bag is bigger than I am Luton, which is full of sweet men who take charge Not once have I asked for help, it is just given.(4) Why Birmingham Big Macs are killers.(5) How food can be so bad in the UK that Wagamama looks good So when they ask what you think of it, it is difficult to come up with a good answer In Australia we think it is complete rubbish, no different from eating at MacDonalds And yet I can see in the UK it might be haute cuisine The people you are with think it is mmmmmm good That good.(6) Why are the chips SO fantastic? (7) Why are there so many fabulous local cheeses? Right now I'm just addicted to Yarg.(8) Why are people so badly dressed? On average Even in nice bits of London.(9) Why do people want to stay in odd hotels where nothing works?(10) I take my bowl of breakfast outside to walk around the garden in naked feet I know I should say 'bare' but I have sex on the brain just now and after a while I realise my feet are freezing and upon further thought I realise the GROUND is frozen Literally That's never happened to me before I think this book could have explained that too.(11) Cluedo I've just had my brains beaten in at Cluedo It's HARD About to start play against a world class bridge team online and that feels like it is going to be so easy in comparison And I have a tip: never play Cluedo with computational algorithmists.(12) I'm sitting on the bus tonight and this girl across the aisle, lambasting what I imagine to be a stranger opposite her: 'They say we aren't normal just because we aren't normal Ha It's the ones who aren't normal who are normal.' And, swept along with the momentum of her argument 'It's the ones who are normal who aren't normal They're the abnormal ones.' Her logic was beginning to sound impeccable to me, though it was making my head hurt She somehow segued into how she was finetuning her medication at the moment and I reminded myself not to ask her what I should be taking for my headache.A little while later a woman comes up to me and asks me anxiously if I'm a doctor and when I say 'no' she sits down like she was specifically looking for somebody who wasn't She starts telling me about how she's been in hospital all day and she hasn't had any water for 10 hours and did I know what that does to you? Well, she was talking to the wrong doctor I don't believe in water Her idea that her insanity revolved around having had slightly less water than the other people in the bus just didn't do it for me.It was time to get off.Manchester Full of insane people, maybe? I'm starting to wonder.(13) Now that Manny has mentioned the Australian connection I'm walking down Wilmslow Road and an Englishman stops me 'Where is the Victoria Hotel?' he wanted to know So I say I'm from Australia, which as explanations of ignorance go, didn't get me very far at all 'If you are from Australia,' he said, 'You should know where all the pubs are, shouldn't you.' It was an accusation, not a question As it happens, while (12) was happening to me and I was staring out the window trying to be somewhere else, I did discover the very pub Next time I'll be prepared (14)I was very little when I read 1066 I wish I could have known this That much later we would sit one dark evening on a bench just outside the Tower of London, cold and dark, so nobody is about and your arm is around me and it is like magic 'Just imagine', I whisper to you, 'that you are up there, trapped in that tower, unable to get out, unable to see me.' We look and picture this 'And outside, so near by, looking up towards you right here I would be, full of despair at our predicament but hopeful still that some plan will get you out of there.' I rather think the Tower of London should be seen how we saw it Alone and dark, evoking the danger and sadness and heroes and betrayal that are its past.(15) I’m somewhere between gutted and laughing my head off All illusions about 1066 are now completely shattered as I’ve been here:It’s Slade Hall and I’ve never been to a Hall before and Mandy was thinking of buying it, so I went along to pick out my bedroom and bathroom of which it has 14 and 7 respectively, and I’m gutted You think it looks good there, don’t you? And it has this fabulous history going all the way back to 1160 honestly, it’s this dreadful dive It must have been truly horrible being poor if this is how the rich people lived, that’s all I can say I thought there’d be grand rooms for banquets and balls and – but all the rooms are small squalid little things The fireplaces are 1970s copper Do you have Copper Art here in the UK? If so, yep, exactly.And that picture, talk about photoshopping To the right of the main door quite a lot of that black and white façade is rotting and falling off It’s redwood and it’s only been there 5 years Or so Mike, the caretaker said And look further to the right and some of it is painted cement!! I had no idea cement was such an old invention in England Honestly.Mike is the caretaker and I have now met somebody who actually uses ‘Y’know wot I mean?’ instead of punctuation Brilliant We are standing looking at that view in the photo and he invites us to look at the stumps of trees to each side of the front door – which you can see in the picture above They were a glorious feature But when the councilmen came a while ago to deal with a tree that was messing big time with the gutters – ie a tree that shed leaves – what they did was cut down these two beautiful conifers “’We know our job’ (– Mike quotes them –) y’know wot I mean?” I’m wondering why the real estate agent’s picture didn’t photoshop the trees back in.So we’re standing there and truly you have seen by far and away the best of this building, the crumbling façade and the ruined trees and I thought we’d be making the grand entrance through that front door but ‘We’ll use the side entrance The students stopped using the front entrance because the key’s about 2 foot long Y’know…’Yes, ladies and gentleman We are in student heaven The reason the trees are all covered in dramatic cobwebs I realise is not because the Queensland Maneating spider has been imported to this neck of Manchester but because of Halloween There was a bit of a party that night Just 500 or so Fourteen rooms of students (as Mike always calls them, y’know wot I mean?) and, well, it is quite an interesting situation The students have no intention of showing us any of the bedrooms since they love the place And I really mean love it This is an ad for rooms that is current: Four nice rooms available in Slade Hall, the oldest house in Manchester The rooms are in the Annexe, which is arecent addition, though both the houses mix together and all communal areas are shared between everyone The Annexe has just been refurbished, so all walls are freshly painted, new flooring, etc.House is an eclectic mix of artists, musicians, djs, students, hippies, and general laid back people who enjoy everything from reggae to football We are looking for four new housemates to be our friends rather than just housemates We enjoy camping, adventures, sitting round the fire in the garden, brewing beer, music and other fun stuff :) Everyone is usually busy in the week with work, but we enjoy the weekends Must love music :)Slade Hall is a big old Tudor mansion, bit wonky and creaky but full of life and character It's separated into two houses with ten people in the main house and five in the annexe when full up Both houses have got communal living rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, showers, piano, etc We have an Ultra super massive garden with space to grow vegetables and secret wooded area/secret garden, swings, hammocks, football/frisbee pitch, BBQ, shelter/outdoor living area, lots of trees, birds, butterflies.We are in south Manchester , not far from fallowfield, rusholme, longsight, levenshulme, gorton You can get to town, universities, and stockport really easily in 15/20 mins on the busses, which come every 5 10 minutes Chorlton in about 20mins by bus.Rooms cost 270 a month, and bills are split, 40 per month for everything included Rooms vary in size, and all come furnished with beds, wardrobes, desks, drawers, etcthe usual stuff.We're looking for someone who likes good music, hates drama, has a good sense of humour, likes to be outside, and isn't an idiot :)no d*ckheads, no ists, no philes, plenty of ismsIf you'd like to come for a look round and meet everyone, give Pete a ring :) So, they are not cooperating with viewings, the for sale sign hasn’t a chance But they don’t seem to understand that only one sort of person could possibly think of buying the place: somebody who wants to let it out to bunches of students They are in fact, completely safe We hate it as much as they love it But much as I hate it, you read that Gumtree ad for the rooms for rent and, well, doesn’t it tug at you somewhere? A whole community really does revolve around this extraordinary building Not just the people who live there, it reaches much further than that I had started off wondering if somebody might buy it and spend a million or two doing it up as a bed and breakfast Luckily it is for now in quite the wrong part of town for that to be a sensible proposition.The people who built this place between about the 12th and 17th centuries must surely have been so proud, so full of loyalty to what they had made It is the most splendid thing that, hundreds of years later it is still loved with a passion by people who feel it is part of their being I hope they win the day.Oh And if you want to know about the ghosts, go here: could go on, but you get the drift I read this when I was very little and I kind of thought I knew all about England, but it turns out there is a lot left unanswered in the book.Perhaps a revised edition? This is one of my favourite books of all time; silly, harmless, educated humour at its best It plays on all of the English history that you would traditionally have been taught at school and promptly forgotten, presenting it in the slightly hazy jumble stereotypical of someone who went through the education system a little longer ago than they'd care to remember!The humour is reminiscent of Monty Python, as is often said But Seller Yeatman are less absurdist, though the inherently childish silliness is the same Obviously, no real knowledge of history is needed to enjoy this book!It keeps vaguely to the mockformat of a textbook; there are exam questions at the end of each chapter, which are just as funny as the chapters themselves, and get progressivelyridiculous as you go on Every time I return to 1006 and All That, I am left with tears of laughter rolling down my cheeks; I can't think of any higher recommendation than that! It is truly medicinal for the soul. A blithe sendup of the sort of English history that was forcefed to generations of Britons With test questions such as:Describe in excessive detail: a) The advantages of the Black Deathb) The fate of the Duke of Clarencec) A SurfeitIn short, theI read of British humor circa 18701960, theI understand where Monty Python was coming from. Hilarious, though probably better to read a little at a time, and also if you have some vague idea of real English history Ever since reading this I have wanted to write an American version, called, naturally, 1776 and All That. The back cover of my edition of 1066 AND ALL THAT exults: It merges Clio [muse of History] and Bob Benchley [early 1930's MGM wit] Noel Coward testified: I consider it one of the most enchantingly funny books I have ever read And indeed, this may be the origin of all those parody textbooks and course notes with their screwy review questions at the end It was only 1931, but we get a backofbook examination, cheekily entitled Test Paper V, with questions like: 'An army marches on its stomach.' (Napoleon) Illustrate and explain and Would it have been a Good Thing if Wolfe had succeeded in writing Gray's Anatomy rather than taking Quebec?Actually, whether something is a Good Thing or not a Good Thing is very important to this tongueincheek opus of around 110 pages Another important concept is who in the world gets to be top nation and for how long, although this term is inconsistently capitalized (I'd have a severe word or two with author W.C Sellar, but it being over 85 years since this little *bijou* first saw print, I'd better not.)If you like this kind of thing, it's great fun And after all, we are promised a survey of English history with only two (2 !) dates to be memorized But when a parody comes along, it helps to know what is being parodied, such as calling Australians in the Great War AZTECS (Don't tell anyone, but they're punning on ANZAC.) Otherwise I would have awarded five stars Anyway, 1066 AND ALL THAT has been in print all this time and is cheap, when it isn't funny it at least is puckish, and when it's neither it provokes wry smiles I say go for it, especially now that WE are top nation Well, in 1931 anyway. This has always been a Christmas book to me, because there was a copy in the house of a relative we used to visit at this time of year when I was a child [Here I could really do with a small font.] But I'd never actually finished it before I must have been seven or eight when I secretly abandoned it I wouldn't have been able to bring myself to admit to anyone that I didn't understand all of it, because I was the sort of smartarse Hermione kid that never happened to Even now it's been surprisingly difficult to put those last few sentences into words Well, if I went back in time I would tell her that even with a masters degree and other bits and bobs on the CV that indicate knowing considerablythan average about these things, I didn't get every single joke Look, even here on page two, where it says the Romans defeated the Ancient Britons by unfair means, such as battering rams, tortoises, hippocausts, centipedes, axes and bundles I still don't know what they're getting at with 'bundles', and I wouldn't have understood about the tortoises before I saw a film called Gladiator, which starred an actor everybody else fancied but who I thought was boring and not very good looking at all The film was still quite exciting though.*flicks pages*Ooh, but I bet you'll get this one because of that book about the royal family Henry I was famous for his handwriting yours is going to be really good soon, but not just yet and was therefore called Henry BeauGeste Henry The First Beauclerc! Yes, very good But what's BeauGeste? Oh, sorry, yes, you won't see that till later, in the lists of classics in the backs of other books To be honest I can't remember exactly right now I haven't read it but I think it's a late Victorian or Edwardian adventure novel about some gentleman rogue Anyway, in the same paragraph, here's another bit you might know You'll have read about itrecently than I have who was it again who really died of a surfeit of lampreys? They do keep making jokes about it all over the place in here It gets a bit boring, though it would have been a good one if they'd used it less Basically, the history in here is a lot less basic than it used to be Lists of English kings and their deeds are no longer staples of school curricula as they were for the authors before 1930, and this stuff is familiar only to particularly geeky children, people who've studied history at a higher level, or fiends for historical biographies A lot of it does work for me now, although most of the eighteenth and nineteenth century wars went over my head It was pretty much all political history back then, though there’s a welcome early interpolation of one of my favourite topics, the history of premodern popular culture, in a Test Question: “Intone interminably (but inaudibly)… ii Cuccu”And here again, I run into a reference to Ramillies Wigs This year they’ve popped up several times, though previously I hadn’t seen them socalled outside books on the history of fashion.I had no idea that the term 'the sick man of Europe' was in use as far back as the 30s (when of course it didn't mean Britain, who were then, as it says, Top Nation) I' d assumed it was a 1970s coinage.It’s so gratifying when the book still does what it was supposed to 85 years ago, when you realise that other people did secretly sortofconflate things Pilgrim’s Progress and the Pilgim Fathers: same century, same hats, sameish Puritanism, why not? And Prince Rupert of Hentzau’s role in the Civil War (though they missed out his yellow checked trousers) I’d completely forgotten the effort I once put in to remembering the difference between Robert Louis Stevenson and George Stephenson (The George five pound notes were too late to help.) However they should have known that it wasn't 'the Siege of Sir Pastobol', but the Siege of Sebastian, and it had lots of arrows They mentioned the Diet of Worms (in a question Estimate the medical prowess of the period with reference to), but not as I honestly thought for years as a child that it was a form of torture (the only food made available is live worms; eat them or starveIt took years to correct the impression because I kept skipping paragraphs about it, not wanting to know any .)And I am perenially amused by the idea that people (such as monks at the Reformation) should jolly well realise when a named historical period is over and get on and change.It can be a frustrating book when it confuses you about something you thought you knew perfectly well before If you'd asked me this afternoon which one of Perkin Warbeck and Lambert Simnel was executed and which sent to work in the royal kitchens I might have been able to say Now I really don't know without looking it up again (Ah yes, Simnel, cake, kitchen, that helps.)Sometimes it is really funny I particularly loved Henry II shouting “Who will rid me of this Chesterton beast?”, Warwick the Kingmaker taking application forms, and this question: “How would you have attempted to deal with:a) The Venomous Beadb) A Mabinogion or Wapentake? (Be quick.)”It is seriously jampacked with references and even if youor less know your stuff, you need to be awake These days it isn’t so much a satire of school lessons as a collection of injokes for historians.(I also had an idea to write a satirical review of this which pofacedly takes issue with various things for being colonialist, offensive and anglocentric But I couldn’t quite be bothered, rather like with the review of The Infatuations I’ve meant to write for aaages which treats it as a comeback album from Fairground Attraction for which they’ve lazily used the same cover art as for their first Because publishers should know the history of their images better…) Before there was Monty Python mocking “The Empire,” there was this book When I first read it, I knew enough to laugh at some of the obvious deviations from straight history Things about the American Revolution and King George inviting the colonists to a tea party and their victory marking the end of English being spoken there.But theI have learned, theI can appreciate the depth of the satire Just a welldone little gem.I should end this review now, but if you are in doubt about whether to indulge in this book here are a few excerpts:“Chapter XXVIII…The War of the Roses…Noticing suddenly that the Middle Ages were coming to an end, the Barons now made a stupendous effort to revive the old Feudal amenities of Sackage, Carnage and Wreakage and stave off the Tudors for a time…The achieved this by a very clever plan known as The War of the Roses…One of the rules in the War of the Roses was that everybody was really King but that Edmund Mortimer really ought to be: any Baron who wished to be considered King was allowed to apply at Warwick Kingmaker’s where he was made to fill up a form, answering the following questions (hilarious but not excerpted)….“Chapter XVI…Owing to the inability of the Queen’s ministers to amuse the Crown, superhuman attempts were now made by her Majesty’s generals at home and abroad to provide military diversions These took the form of a wave of Justifiable Wars, including: (with descriptions not included)War with ChinaWar with AfghanistanSheikh War2nd Burmese WarWar against AbyssiniaWar against A ShanteeWar against ZulusAll these attempts having failed, news was brought to the Queen that the Fiji Islands were annexed to the British ‘by the desire of the inhabitants.’ At this point, according to some (seditious) historians, Her Majesty’s lip was observed to tremble.”And Chapter LXII quoted in full“A Bad Thing…America was thus clearly top nation, and History came to a.” History, these authors point out, isn't really what happened: It's what's remembered So that's why everybody out there has a garbled idea of the history of his or her nation, as Sellar and Yeatman present here of Jolly Olde Englande.Most intriguing throughout is the framing of all English history in the guise of whether England was Top Nation at the time these events occurred I'm sure every nation gauges its history by such a standard; knowing when and why one was Top Nation is important for the ego, fragile as they may be It's a good book to read to remind ourselves that we're not at all as educated as we think we are, and that we ought to behumble about our knowledge and about the history we believe our nations possess.


About the Author: W.C. Sellar

Walter Carruthers Sellar was a Scottish humourist who wrote for Punch He is best known for the 1930 book 1066 and All That, a tongue in cheek guide to all the history you can remember, which he wrote together with R J Yeatman.Sellar was born at Golspie in Sutherland He won a scholarship to Fettes College where he was Head Boy in 1917 After serving briefly in World War I as a Second Lieutena


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