Is snobbery bringing down history?

Recently there’s been an amazing spate of really popularised history media. From the (hysterical!) Cunk on Britain, to Drunk History, and a full on rampage of Philippa Greggory spin offs.

There’s just one thing; none of the above count as history. Well so we’re told…

But I have a question. What makes those, so different to this: 

Horrible Histories.gif
The Amazing, Horrible Histories

Guys, I think the only difference might be that Horrible Histories is made for a children and the others are made for an adult audience. When you think about it, that’s kind of messed up…

Now, I love Horrible Histories, it was my gateway drug into history. As a child I spent hours in my local library in a fort made from every Horrible History on the shelf. And now another generation is still discovering how amazing history is through the funny, irreverent and yet oh so informative, Horrible History books, TV programme and plays. Isn’t that just the best?

So why the hell aren’t we allowing adults the same thing?

See, most adults don’t touch history after they leave school. And that’s not because they hate history, it’s because it stopped being fun and became boring.

boring gif
Said 80% of people over the age of 18

For a really long time, history’s had a bit of a rep for being stuffy and elitist. Reserved only for those who wear tweed, have an AP accent and know what a Motte and Bailey is (side note- great name for a detective duo btw) 

So for a lot of people, it can seem like if you’re not down for some hardcore documentary action on medieval literature, followed up by a 1000 page (not counting the footnotes) door-stopper on obscure Tudor royals, then history isn’t really here for you.

Now, if you work in or love history, you know thats not true. BUT, lets face facts, its a public image we’re going to have to fight to change.

So why then, when somebody comes along and tries to tackle this and make history super accessible and fun, we don’t jump for joy, but immediately pick it apart?

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Seriously, why I ask you! WHY!

Now, full disclosure: I used to be a nitpicker 

A while ago I worked in a Tudor Palace (natch) and pretty much every day I’d hear visitors excitedly talking about how being there was just like being in a real life episode of the Tudors or stepping into a Philippa Gregory book.

And whenever this happened I’d do the worlds biggest eye roll.

The Tudors? The Other Boleyn Girl? Pfffft, I mean come on, really; it’s dumbed down and totally inaccurate, not exactly ‘proper history’.

But then I realised: without The Other Boleyn Girl, or The Tudors, those people wouldn’t be there at all.

Just like Horrible Histories had been my gateway to history, this was theirs.

These weren’t frivolous bits of fluffs, they were helping people discover a love for history and a want to delve further into it; that’s AMAZING! 

by jove, shes got it .gif
Seriously though, this show has put so many people onto history!!

Oh, and you know what, when I actually checked out The Tudors and Philips Gregory for myself (because obvs I’d been judging without having tried them) I realised they were incredible pieces of historic entertainment.

See, just like we need magnificently researched academic papers, books and documentaries, we also need entertainment. Not just to help spark peoples historic imaginations, but also because what’s life without a little fun!

Oh, and for those who are screaming: But what about the historical accuracy, won’t someone think of the historical accuracy!?! 

Have a little faith in peoples ability to understand the text in front of them.

When watching something like, Drunk History, people know to take things with a grain of salt, because it’s not a documentary.

So have no fear, nobody thinks Harriet Tubman actually said this:

Harriet Tubman.gif
But it would have been great if she did

So, next time you see a romping period drama, historical novel, hilarious history sketch show or *ahem* a slightly sweary history blog, don’t just overlook it at first glance.

And, if it’s not your cup of tea, thats totally fine, do you and enjoy the style of history that you enjoy. Just remember, history can be a lot of things to a lot of people, we just need to let people enjoy it.

What do you think? Hit us up in the comments, Twitter or Facebook

6 thoughts on “Is snobbery bringing down history?”

  1. I haven’t had time to look at Cunk’s show, I was going to, I must play catch up. I have to admit to ignoring every historical drama and going straight for documentaries, but I don’t think that I’m elitist, it’s personal taste – I can’t vouch for others, though. I love a bit of Blackadder and there was a similar argument doing the rounds when I was at uni about that. I’m all for it as it sparks an interest.
    Oh and I love your irreverent and super cool blog that I could never pull off! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree. History should be for everyone, however you get into it.
    I love your blog. I’ve learnt so much from it and it’s encouraged me to read up on some bits of history, especially the suffragists. Carry on doing what you do, it’s truly brilliant!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree… whatever the means, whether by hook or by crook (or in this case, academia versus pop culture), if the end result is that people are inspired to learn more about history, then it is all good.

    BTW: You are spot on with your suggestion that Motte and Bailey would be a great name for a detective duo. Perhaps you will pen their adventures someday?


  4. I snort laughed my way through ALL of Cunk on Britain last night and it was fab!! I agree 100%, and am going to steal the phrase “Horrible Histories was my gateway drug to history”. Might just *have* to spent my weekend rewatching that genius (I still haven’t got Charles II’s song out of my head).

    Liked by 1 person

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