Imagine knowing the entire list of British monarchs by heart at age 10. Imagine knowing about cavemen courting rituals or what soldiers ate during World War I. Imagine becoming so invested in the life of the infamous King Richard III of England that you joined the Richard III Society, a group dedicated to finding his bones and solving the mystery of what happened to his nephews over 500 years ago.
“Horrible Histories” is a British TV show whose goal is to teach children history in a fun, engaging and memorable way. So memorable that, even a decade later, I still remember quirky facts and obscure knowledge directly from the show and the book series. Here are just a few reasons why everyone should watch “Horrible Histories.”
“Horrible Histories” is, first and foremost, a show about learning. It’s based on a book series by Terry Deary, which is chock full of fun, interesting, factually accurate anecdotes that students wouldn’t normally learn in class. In fact, the mission statement of the series is “history with the nasty bits left in.” If that isn’t enticing to curious children and adults alike, then nothing is.
For example, even in the first episode, the show comes out swinging with all the ingredients of a great “Horrible Histories” scene. It begins with the “Rotten Romans,” because all the scenes are headed by a funny and alliterative title that also matches with its own book.
In a humorous comedy sketch, the characters teach the audience that gladiator games were first started as entertainment at funerals. Then, when the losing gladiator died, they could have another funeral fight, and they wouldn’t even have to move. Efficient, isn’t it? Of course, the scene ends with one of the characters comically being knocked into the open grave by another gladiator fight. The Romans didn’t care much for safety practices.
But anyone can research the history of gladiator fighting. So what “Horrible Histories” does best is teaching their audience what they didn’t even know they were curious about. I bet you’ve never asked yourself what women did for fashion during the rationing of World War II. “Horrible Histories,” through a fake infomercial, advertises the use of TNT as hair dye for factory workers.
While it would make users’ hair nice and bright, exposure to TNT was rather problematic. And fashion was actually important for optics during World War II, because it showed the enemy that your economy was thriving. “Horrible Histories” is full of fun and obscure facts like these.