There are in fact two series’ of books entitled “Horrible Histories.” The less well known one deals with facts about death, and how we have dealt with it (or dealt it out), through the centuries, it also has a book on punishment and one on sickness. They are actually pretty good, full of gory details and interesting facts. They are written for kids aged around eleven to thirteen and are only available in hardback (at least as far as I know).

The more famous (at least in the UK) series is by Terry Deary and contains around thirty volumes, each with appropriate, and often alliterating titles, such as the very first book, published in 1993 “The Terrible Tudors.” They all contain within them small, easily digestible and actually interesting facts and true stories from the relevant time period. They are designed for 9 to 13 year olds, but I, at 16, still read them, and in fact use them for reference when writing history essays. (One good time not to cite your sources.)

The style of the books is an interesting blend of historical essays containing jokes, small bite sized chunks of information, and cartoons. As the titles suggest, they are not boring, and tend to look at the more gruesome aspects of history, the sort of thing you are less likely to have learned in school. They do, however, deal with it in a clean and fun way, which is quite impressive.

The reason for the easy and funny style is that the original book “The Terrible Tudors” was going to be a historical joke book. There was a fad at this time (1993) for children’s themed joke books, and were mostly fairly awful. Terry Deary was writing it and he discovered that the facts were often more funny and interesting than the jokes he was making up. He decided to re-write the book as a history book for children.

A complete list of the books is as follows, (accurate to 26th March 2003):

There are also several compilation books encompassing more than one period.

The series has given birth to several sister series’ as far as I am aware they are as follows:

  • The Knowledge
  • Horrible Science
  • Murderous Maths
  • Foul football
  • As I say these books are well worth reading, and give you a reasonable background knowledge of the subject. They are also very good for educating young children because they do not patronise, which is something which children do not respond well to. In fact, now that I think about it, these books are probably somewhat responsible for my current fascination with history. Read them, enjoy them, and collect them.

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