As a kid, I was a huge Horrible Histories fan; we had all the books and I was probably really annoying at school, as I liked to regale people with INTERESTING FACTS. Luckily, once the TV series started, I could watch that instead (don’t let the fact it’s a CBBC show put you off- it’s very funny.The first two series are on Netflix. You’re welcome.)
Greg Jenner, the writer of A Million Years in a Day , works on the Horrible Histories show (you may also know him from the Inside Versailles bit after, well, ‘Versailles’) and the book does read a bit like a grown up version of the Horrible Histories books. Witty and knowledgeable, it’s a very enjoyable book and an easy read.
The premise is simple: Jenner takes the reader through a ‘typical’ Saturday; each section of the day, from waking up to bedtime, is explored through the rituals that have marked it throughout history. It’s a fantastically vast journey, taking us from the Stone Age to the 20th Century and from China, to the Romans, to America and via Islamic cultures. Everything from toilet etiquette to meal times is covered and it’s an astonishing task to have put all this together in a fun, readable way. As a primer for domestic history, it’s great.