1066 and All That.

By Walter Carruthers Sellar & Robert Julian Yeatman

Printed: 2014

Publisher: The Folio Society. London

Edition: Twelfth edition

Dimensions 15 × 21 × 2 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 15 x 21 x 2

Condition: As new  (See explanation of ratings)

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In a fitted box. Brown paper schoolbook style binding with black ink title on the spine and front board. Large ink splotch on the back board.

F.B.A. provides an in-depth photographic presentation of this item to stimulate your feel and touch. More traditional book descriptions are immediately available.

1066 and All That: A Memorable History of England, Comprising All the Parts You Can Remember, Including 103 Good Things, 5 Bad Kings and 2 Genuine Dates is a tongue-in-cheek reworking of the history of England. Written by W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman and illustrated by John Reynolds, it first appeared serially in Punch magazine, and was published in book form by Methuen & Co. Ltd. in 1930.

The book is a parody of the style of history teaching in English schools at the time, in particular of Our Island Story.  It purports to contain “all the History you can remember”, and, in sixty-two chapters, covers the history of England from Roman times through 1066 “and all that”, up to the end of World War I, at which time “America was thus clearly Top Nation, and history came to a .”. The book is full of examples of half-remembered and mixed-up facts.

Although the subtitle states that the book comprises “103 Good Things, 5 Bad Kings and 2 Genuine Dates”, the book’s preface mentions that originally four dates were planned, but last-minute research revealed that two of them were not memorable. The two dates that are referenced in the book are 1066, the date of the Battle of Hastings and the Norman conquest of England (Chapter XI), and 55 BC, the date of the first Roman invasion of Britain under Julius Caesar (Chapter I). However, when the date of the Roman invasion is given, it is immediately followed by the date that Caesar was “compelled to invade Britain again the following year (54 BC, not 56, owing to the peculiar Roman method of counting)”. Despite the confusion of dates the Roman Conquest is the first of 103 historical events in the book characterised as a Good Thing, “since the Britons were only natives at that time”.

Chapter II begins “that long succession of Waves of which History is chiefly composed”, the first of which, here, is composed of Ostrogoths, Visigoths, mere Goths, Vandals, and Huns. Later examples are the “Wave of Saints”, who include the Venomous Bead (Chapter III); “Waves of Pretenders”, usually divided into smaller waves of two: an Old Pretender and a Young Pretender (Chapter XXX); plus the “Wave of Beards” in the Elizabethan era (Chapter XXXIII).

According to Sellar and Yeatman, in English history kings are either “Good” or “Bad”. The first “Good King” is the confusingly differentiated King Arthur/Alfred (Chapter V). Bad kings include King John, who when he came to the throne showed how much he deserved this epithet when he “lost his temper and flung himself on the floor, foaming at the mouth and biting the rushes” (Chapter XVIII). The death of Henry I from “a surfeit of palfreys” (recorded in other historical works as a “surfeit of lampreys”, Chapter XIII) proves to be a paradigmatic case of the deaths of later monarchs through a surfeit of over-eating or other causes (so, for example, in Chapter XVII, Richard the Lion Heart dies “of a surfeit of Saladins”). Other memorable monarchs include the Split King (Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2) and Broody Mary.

Memorable events in English history include the Disillusion of the Monasteries (Chapter XXXI); the struggle between the Cavaliers (characterised as “Wrong but Wromantic”) and the Roundheads (characterised as “Right but Repulsive”) in the English Civil War (Chapter XXXV); and The Industrial Revelation (Chapter XLIX).

The book also contains five joke “Test Papers” interspersed among the chapters, which contain nonsense instructions including the famous “Do not on any account attempt to write on both sides of the paper at once” (Test Paper V), and “Do not attempt to answer more than one question at a time” (Test Paper I) and such unanswerable questions as “How far did the Lords Repellent drive Henry III into the arms of Pedro the Cruel? (Protractors may not be used.)” (Test Paper II).

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