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An Utterly Impartial History of Britain or 2000 Years of Upper-class Idiots in Charge Hardcover – 22 Oct 2007

235 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st Edition 1st Printing edition (22 Oct. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385611986
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385611985
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 4.2 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (235 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 44,364 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John O'Farrell is the bestselling author of several novels including The Best A Man Can Get, This is Your Life, May Contain Nuts and The Man Who Forgot His Wife. He has also written the very successful history books An Utterly Impartial History of Britain and An Utterly Exasperated History of Modern Britain, as well as a political memoir, Things Can Only Get Better. A former comedy scriptwriter for shows such as Spitting Image and Alias Smith and Jones, he is the founder of the satirical website NewsBiscuit and is well known for appearing on TV programmes including Grumpy Old Men, The Review Show and Have I Got News For You.

Product Description

Review

"Excellent...John O'Farrell gives an extra squirm to the traditional English comedy of embarrassment" (Sunday Times)

"So funny because it rings true...Packed with painfully observed jokes" (The Times)

"Punchline fuelled, relentless humour...Is John O'Farrell funny? Very!" (The Mirror)

"A tart narrative voice and a delectably understated way with wisecracks...Very, very funny" (New York Times)

"O'Farrell is a consistently humorous writer with an acute ear for the absurdities of middle class pretension" (Mail On Sunday)

Book Description

A cantankerous history of Britain by one of our most popular humorists

Inside This Book

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

132 of 145 people found the following review helpful By A J Martin on 19 May 2008
Format: Paperback
As a former university history student, I have to say that I knew shockingly little about the times of Ancient and post- Cromwellian Britain. Most history books I read were so dry and, frankly, dull, that I felt my head hitting the page after the first lines of the introduction. This book is totally different, and all the better for it. From reading this book, the author has made British history flow from one dynasty to the next so that you are compelled to turn the page. OK, so it might not be a true historians critique of our past, but it's one that is easily relatable. Running through the narrative is a wonderfully sarcastic wit, which not only serves to make the book more pleasurable to read but also reminds us of our true murky past, should we think that Britains history is one of stiff- upper- lipped honour and decency from start to finish. Each monarch is scrutinised for what they really were, from Elizabeth I and what really caused the defeat of the Spanish Armada (bad weather!) to the puritanical despotism of Cronwell's rule, despite being seen nowadays as almost a national hero, having a statue in pride of place outside Westminster.

I would recommend this book to anyone, as a funny, witty, and informative guide to British History. If you're new to History or just want to refresh your memory or expand your knowledge, this book is well worth a read. It'll make you laugh too, which is always a plus!
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82 of 92 people found the following review helpful By Ichabod J VINE VOICE on 4 Jun. 2008
Format: Paperback
O'Farrell enters Bill Bryson territory here by providing a read that's informative yet fun - it gives a basic chronological account of British history, the facts interspersed with a great many jokes, most of which warrant a bit of a smile if not outright mirth.

It's certainly worth a go if you want to reacquaint yourself with the rudiments of our island's history, or maybe find out about them for the first time if the dry and dusty approach to History at school left you yawning.

Overall, a very entertaining read provided one doesn't get cross with its flippant approach to the subject, which would be to miss the point. Those wanting a scholarly treatment should look elsewhere, but if you like to have a laugh and learn a bit as you go, this is for you.
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119 of 136 people found the following review helpful By Markhoni on 4 Nov. 2007
Format: Hardcover
As a History teacher, I'm all for making the subject more accessible and fun. This book tries to be a cross between '1066 And All That' and the Terry Deary 'Horrible History' for adults. Parts of it are very funny indeed and there are some sections which do inform as they entertain. Unfortunately, and I hate to be a killjoy, the whole thing is let down by the sheer laziness and superficiality of John O'Farrell's research. As he cheerfully admits , his factual information is largely skimmed from a few books and a quick trawl through the internet. Parts are just plain wrong, and as another reviewer says he seems completely ignorant of the last 20 years of Historical research. His account of the First World War, for example, is full of old myths and inaccuracies. Much of his 'analysis' is simply assertion, and there is no sense that History is a subject open to debate and different interpretations. To be fair, the title and subtitle of the book do acknowledge this in a way. However, if you're going to enthuse people about a subject, surely you should make some effort to make the information you're putting across as accurate as possible. I don't think Bill Bryson would have received plaudits for his popular science book if he'd got Einstein's Theory Of Relativity completely wrong!
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Big Jim TOP 100 REVIEWER on 23 Mar. 2008
Format: Hardcover
Here is the perfect, ahem, toilet book. Easy to pick up and put down, it lightly dusts over the details of British history to put forward the extremely partial views of the author on some subjects - especially when they can be connected to issues today, such as immigration. One annoyance in this is that although there is a less than lengthy bibliography at the end, many statements we are meant to take as facts are left unaccredited. As an example Britain before 1066 had "...a well developed legal system, effective regional government, good trade networks, strong coinage and thriving churches and monasteries" Did it? You won't find any evidence to back this up in here I'm afraid. And there are lots of bald facts like this produced with no specific evidence, or clues as to where we might want to go to see the evidence. But am I missing the point of this book?

As a laugh out loud comedy book this is really rather good. Some of the "jokes" are sub pythonesque and hit you over the head like a hammer. For example, one of the first landlords to be ostracized by his tenants after new land laws were brought in was a Captain Boycott. As the author says, "...this could be a whole new word in the English language" "Yes, if landlords evict anyone we'll captain them" OK perhaps you had to be there, but there are many, better examples of this sort of humour in this book.

One thing worth noting is that the humour does seem to relent as the book (and history) goes on. Perhaps more recent events aren't as rich pickings for this sort of thing as the Dark Ages, but nevertheless, the author's partiality does come out when we get nearer the 20th Century so there is definite irony in the title.
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