Saturday 11 March 2023

Guest Review: Ask a Historian: 50 Surprising Answers to Things You Always Wanted to Know By Greg Jenner

Why is Italy called Italy? How old is curry? How fast was the medieval Chinese post system? How do we know how people sounded in the past? Who invented maths?

Responding to fifty genuine questions from the public, Greg Jenner takes you on an entertaining tour through history from the Stone Age to the Swinging Sixties, revealing the best and most surprising stories, facts and historical characters from the past. From ancient joke books, African empires and the invention of meringues, to mummies, mirrors and menstrual pads - Ask A Historian is a deliciously amusing and informative smorgasbord of historical curiosities.

Review: Greg Jenner is a historian who has been involved in the television series “Horrible Histories”. His aim has always been to make the subject of history accessible to everyone. This book was compiled during the Covid lockdown and is an attempt to give answers to 50 questions that have been posed by the public, either during tours to publicise earlier books or, mostly, via an online questionnaire.

The questions vary from ones about statues in Ancient Greece, via the origins of curry, to the treatment of immigrants of the Windrush generation on their arrival in the UK. As can be seen, the questions posed are extremely wide ranging, and the author does his best to answer them in as succinct and readable way as possible. He also makes a lot of witty remarks, and this is what made the book so entertaining for me. For a book on history, it is reasonably short, at a little over 300 pages. However, the author’s aim, as stated in the introduction, was to make it light and entertaining, and in this I feel that he has succeeded. However, he also hopes that the book will have whetted peoples’ appetites to explore further, and to this end there is an extensive list of recommended reading for the various topics covered.

Overall, this book is an entertaining and accessible overview of the question “why?” regarding an eclectic range of historical topics and, hopefully, will encourage readers to continue asking questions.

To order your copy now, just click here!

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