Saturday, 18 January 2014

Tony Robinson's Weird Wonders: The British, by Tony Robinson

Tony Robinson, of Time Team and Blackadder fame guides the reader through the triumphs and tragedies of the British Empire.  It's inventions, explorers, key personnel, overseas territories and general aura of 'Conquer or Die'.  He talks about the various displaced peoples, the lifestyles, habits and tastes of the overseas British ex-pats and some of the key dates that each of the territories were released back to the people that live in them. Robinson also visits some more modern history, such as The Great War and World War II and discusses the effect that these conflicts had on the Empire.

The tone of the book is gently humorous, full of factual titbits of information and trivia.  It's presented by five young illustrated characters who pop in and out at various points and deliver information or ask questions.  A bit Horrible Histories in style, but with less focus on the obscure and the gross.  It's well researched and gives an engaging whistle stop historical narrative that is informative and interesting.

What it lacks in detail it makes up for in accessibility, though it could be said that the single-strand historical narrative is a little simplistic in its approach.  Though Robinson's style is accessible to all and the book is not overtly pitched at either gender, history does seem to be a little bit dude-heavy.  Though, obviously, that is not something that Tony has any control over, it wouldn't have killed him to sprinkle the historical page with a few more women.  Women that aren't Queen Victoria, anyway.

All in all, a speedy, informative read and I actually learned what caused the First World War, which is something I've never been totally sure about.

My history is terrible.

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