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An Utterly Impartial History of Britain or 2000 Years of Upper-class Idiots in Charge [Hardcover]

John O'Farrell
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (191 customer reviews)
Price: 16.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

22 Oct 2007

Many of us were put off history by the dry and dreary way it was taught at school. Back then 'The Origins of the Industrial Revolution' somehow seemed less compelling than the chance to test the bold claim on Timothy Johnson's 'Shatterproof' ruler.But here at last is a chance to have a good laugh and learn all that stuff you feel you really ought to know by now...

In this 'Horrible History for Grown Ups' you can read how Anglo-Saxon liberals struggled to be positive about immigration; 'Look I think we have to try and respect the religious customs of our new Viking friends - oi, he's nicked my bloody ox!'Discover how England's peculiar class system was established by some snobby French nobles whose posh descendents still have wine cellars and second homes in the Dordogne today. And explore the complex socio-economic reasons why Britain's kings were the first in Europe to be brought to heel; (because the Stuarts were such a useless bunch of untalented, incompetent, arrogant, upper-class thickoes that Parliament didn't have much choice.)

A book about then that is also incisive and illuminating about now, '2000 Years of Upper Class Idiots in Charge', is an hilarious, informative and cantankerous journey through Britain' fascinating and bizarre history.As entertaining as a witch burning, and a lot more laughs.

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An Utterly Impartial History of Britain or 2000 Years of Upper-class Idiots in Charge + An Utterly Exasperated History of Modern Britain: or Sixty Years of Making the Same Stupid Mistakes as Always + 1000 Years of Annoying the French
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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: 16.7 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (191 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 253,420 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


"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 (Learn More)
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
127 of 140 people found the following review helpful
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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81 of 91 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History with humour 4 Jun 2008
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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113 of 130 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Amusing but poorly researched 4 Nov 2007
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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars good toilet reading material 27 Jan 2009
I think this book is a great toilet read because as other reviewers have pointed out the jokes and wise-cracks can be a bit tedious if you are trying to read it in one go. Far better I think its to use it as a chronological reference; read in bite size chunks(!) on the loo. Should take about six months for the average adult with healthy bowl movements. The book itself is nether impartial or good history. Written primarily from a relativist, left wing, anti-English point of view, you certainly get a good idea where Mr O'Farrell's head is at. Don't let that put you off though. It's not that bad, and as John O'Farrells other work would suggest, he is actually a very funny man and a great writer.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read for lovers of history and humour.
This book had me laughing out loud and smiling to myself a lot throughout the entire read, it educates and is hugely entertaining which in my opinion is the best way to learn -... Read more
Published 4 days ago by Warren1069
3.0 out of 5 stars Becomes Tedious
This book is OK if you occasionally dip into it . However , it is not a book that you feel a compulsion to read from cover to cover . Read more
Published 4 days ago by A.J. Reynolds
5.0 out of 5 stars Laugh out loud history
I often find history books too dry to enjoy although I did manage Simon Schama. This is not hilarious but does make you laugh from time to time which makes it a joy to read. Read more
Published 19 days ago by Shane
5.0 out of 5 stars The only way to learn and remember British History
This book is absolutely hilarious while being true to British History. How can anyone not find our history compulsive when related in this way.
Published 20 days ago by Mrs. Marion A. Rowland
5.0 out of 5 stars A typical John O'Farrell compelling read.
Classical knowledge of history not fully necessary but a healthy sense of humour is. I had to give up reading this on the train as chuckles and belly laughs are so liberally... Read more
Published 1 month ago by karkay
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny and educational
I love history and I also like a good laugh, this book hits the spot on both areas. It is the sort of writing that I can give my son to read and know he will also chuckle and learn... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Lilly Grace
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and highly amusing - a hit
Bought as a present for a non-British friend who is a devotee of our country's history and he LOVED it. Read more
Published 1 month ago by C. Elmore
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny and informative all at once
It may or may not be totally historically accurate, but that really doesn't matter. This book is informative, based on our actual history and written in a style that really brings... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Julie Rainford
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite sure if this can be impartial ask people who have a trade in...
This book can be quite funny in places informative on a lot of subjects,but has this author got a trade,like electrical or brick laying, if not perhaps he should talk to the trades... Read more
Published 3 months ago by JanR
5.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining.
A gentle jog through British history with John O'Farrell's usual comic genius to keep the pages turning and the centuries entertaining. Great fun to read.
Published 3 months ago by Mark Hixon
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