Horrible Histories


Another article I haven’t had a chance to read (so it must get tidied away in the desktop cleanout), but which looks good:

“Much of our knowledge of history is gained outside of formal education, through reading, watching documentaries, and visiting museums and sites of historic interest. Historical themes are particularly well represented in children’s non-fiction publishing. This article is concerned with one of the most successful and influential history series to emerge over the last 20 years: Terry Deary’s Horrible Histories. It focuses on the pedagogic style of the series, as reflected in an informal mode of address, irreverent sense of humor and preoccupation with the “gory” aspects of life in the past. The humor of the series, it will be argued, derives from a number of traditions, ranging from children’s comics to political cartoons. While word play and scatology are key elements of the series’ appeal, humor is also used to provide social commentary on issues such as poverty, class divisions, and the attitudes of the rich and powerful toward the poor. At the same time the series’ focus on the “gory” aspects of human existence may appeal to a certain perception which (research suggests) many children already have: that life in the past was strange and generally very unpleasant.” (p.69)

Ref: Margaret Scanlon (2011): History Beyond the Academy: Humor and Horror in Children’s History Books, New Review of Children’s Literature and Librarianship, 16:2, 69-91


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