1066 And All That is another true comedy classic. The title itself has entered into the public consciousness although the authors are fairly obscure. In the tradition of Three Men in a Boat and Diary of a Nobody, it was written by fairly amateur humourists, and like that last book, portions of this book were published in the canceled and still lamented Punch magazine.
Most of the references in the book that the humour depends on will be obscure to anyone who doesn’t have much knowledge of British history, although it also pays off for people who have forgotten more than they remembered. In fact, this is exactly the stance that the writers have taken, and it is billed as “All the history you can remember” on the back cover. It makes historical and literary references to “The Venomous Bead (the writer of the Rosary)”, the “Boer Woer”, and “Henry the IV: A Split King” (who abdicated his throne for Henry IV Part II)”, as well as making schoolboy evaluations as to whether a king was a Good King or a Bad King, and when Britain was and was not “Top Nation”. At the end of each chapter there are Test Papers with such questions as “4a. What makes you think that Henry the VIII had VIII wives? Was it worth it?” and “12. What Price Glory?”
It’s a book to dip in and out of, rather than read right the way through in one sitting since I don’t think I have ever come across a book that had as many jokes per page as this one, and you can return to it again and again. I keep it on the shelf with my history books and turn to it when I need a pick-me-up.