Most everyone on the internet (which makes most of you, as you're reading this review via the internet) has encountered, either in a website or a mass emailing, various humourous and hilarious historical satires, usually presented (alas, urban legend alert!) as inaccuracies found in actual student papers. Mistakes such as:
Egypt is in a desert, and watered by irritation.
Handel was half-German, half-Italian, and half-English.
Lincoln lived at the Gettysburg Address.
And so on.
Well, in the days before email and websites (and photocopiers, to pass such gems around the office), these things did exist, and were, because of the difficulty in finding it by other means, published.
Much to our pleasure, one such collection can still be found. `1066 and All That' is a humourous if fractured look at British history. As an aid for the newly historically literate, this text tells you when something that happened is a Good Thing.
Here we find that Julius Caesar conquered Britain on the first date in British history (a very fortuitous coincidence, that) but failed to overrun the country, and left the natives, who were after all only natives, and completely lacking in the skill of making properly constructed Latin sentences such as Veni, Vidi, Vici (a quality absolutely required for gaining the appellation of 'civilised').
The Scots (originally Irish, but by now Scotch) were at this time inhabiting Ireland, having driven the Irish (Picts) out of Scotland; while the Picts (originally Scots) were now Irish (living in brackets) and vice versa. It is essential to keep these distinctions clearly in mind (and vice versa).'
We are introduced to the conversion of the Angles (no, not Angels, but Angles, hence, Anglicans), helped of course by the Venomous Bead. Shortly thereafter, we had the Egg-Kings (Eggberd, Eggbreth, Eggfroth, etc.), `none of them, however, succeeded in becoming memorable, except in so far as it is difficult to forget such names as Eggbirth, Eggbred, Eggbeard, Eggfilth, etc. Nor is it even remembered by what kind of Eggdeath they perished.'
Of course, you've probably never read the Magna Carta, being as it is in a foreign tongue (funny how English tends to do that). So, this book provides a summary:
`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 very Good Thing for everyone (except the Common People).'
Skipping a bit (you will of course have to read the book for yourself; I can hardly be expected to do all the work for you, now, can I. What am I, a typist?) we come upon the death of good King William IV, at which time, `Queen Victoria, though asleep at the time and thus in her nightdress, showed great devotion to duty by immediately ascending the throne. In this bold act she was assisted by Lord Melbourne and the Archbishop of Canterbury, who were both properly dressed.'
Each section ends with a term paper covering the historical period in question, with questions such as:
+ Which do you consider were more alike, Caesar or Pompey, or vice versa? (Be brief.)
+ Why do you picture John of Gaunt as a rather emaciated grandee?
+ Ruminate fearlessly on (I) Lord Cardigan, (2) Clapham.
We discover the truth of the Magna Garter (a very great garter indeed--as distinct from that Great Charter mentioned above); that Victoria died in fact of a surfeit of Jamborees; and that when America became the top dog nation, history came to an end.
Hence, as history is at an end, this is the only history book which can claim to be complete.
Enjoy with your tea (not of course to be confused with the compulsory tea-party demanded by George III of all American colonists, who started pouring the tea into Boston Harbour `until they were quite Independent, thus causing the United States'), biscuits, and a good dose of humour!