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Horrible Histories

Terry Deary’s problem with non-fiction books is, "they're written by experts who wouldn't know a child if it jumped up and bit them on the kneecap." Deary says, "I was asked to write a joke book. I decided to do a historical one. I discovered that the facts were more interesting than the jokes. So we came up with a new genre: a fact book stuffed with jokes." And so Horrible Histories was born, shining a comedic spotlight on the disgusting, dreadful and gory moments throughout history. The book series has sold more than 20 million copies and has been adapted for television and film, where it has won numerous BAFTA awards.

Have a peek at the Horrible Histories website and the Horrible Histories YouTube channel.

Weird and wonderful food

One thing we have in common with humans throughout history is food. From the Ancient Romans to food rationing during World War Two, learn about and cook the food people have eaten throughout history.

Five diets throughout history:

Weird Food Facts:

  1. Back in the early 1800’s tomato ketchup was sold as medicine. One doctor claimed it could treat diarrhoea, indigestion and jaundice and even turned the popular sauce into a pill.
  2. One expensive delicacy of China is Bird’s nest soup which is made from rare bird’s nests created from the saliva of small swiftlets. They have been used in China for over four centuries.
  3. Humans share 60% of our DNA with bananas! 
  4. Figs are not fruit, they are actually inverted flowers with a special pollination process that requires wasps instead of bees. Female wasps enter into male figs (which we don’t eat) and lay eggs, and then the baby wasps tunnel out. However, sometimes a female wasp accidentally attempts to enter a female fig, causing her to die, decompose, and then get eaten by anyone who chooses to chomp down on a fig.
  5. A quarter of the world's hazelnuts are used to make Nutella!
  6. Alexander the Great used to dye his hair with the spice, saffron to appear godlier. When he died, his coffin was filled with beeswax and honey to preserve his body.
  7. Grapes will explode in the microwave.
  8. Eating cheese after a meal slows tooth decay and eating crackers will decay your teeth faster than sugar.

Cook like they did:

Historic games

Games have been played throughout all of history. They are an important part of all cultures around the world and are one of the oldest forms of human social interaction. Many of the games we play today are actually a result of the games played in ancient times. One of the oldest board games still played today is Backgammon. It was invented around 3000BC, which is 5020 years ago!

  • Chess – Where did chess come from? Most historians trace the games’ origins back to 550AD in India. In its earliest form, the game was known as Chaturanga. This translates as 'the four divisions', meaning infantry, cavalry, elephantry, and chariotry. As chess spread across the globe, the rules and board pieces were slowly altered and eventually the game and these four pieces evolved, giving us the pawn, knight, bishop, and rook and the game as we know it today.
  • Hide and Seek – This was very popular with children as you didn’t need anything to play, so it could be played by children from any social class.
  • Kids in ancient Greece played with YoYo’s and it is considered the second-oldest toy in history, after dolls. The very first depiction of a yo-yo was found on an ancient Greek vase from 440BC, where a boy can be seen playing with the toy. Learn how to make your own or watch the World’s Best YoYo champion to see modern-day tricks with this historic toy.

Top five things to borrow

Interested in peculiar, funny and gross facts about history? 

Prefer to learn by watching?

Did you love the Historic Games section? 

Top five things to stream on Kanopy

Parental discretion is recommended.

  • History of the Ancient World: A Global Perspective While most of us never stop to think about it, ancient civilizations are with us in almost everything we do. Examine the ancient world's greatest civilizations and how they affect our world today. 
  • King Arthur: History and Legend The saga of King Arthur and his court is the most enduringly popular mythic tradition of Western civilization. Delve into the historical mystery behind the figure of Arthur, and discover these epic tales. 
  • The Big History of Civilizations The history of human civilization is an astonishing story of migration, innovation, and social development. Over 200,000 years, humans have populated the planet, adapted to environmental challenges, experimented with systems of government, and left such a strong mark on the earth that scientists now refer to our era as the Anthropocene--the era of humanity.
  • The Roman Empire: From Augustus to the Fall of Rome Trace the history of the Roman Empire from its foundation to its Golden Age in the 2nd century C.E. through ever-worsening crises and its ultimate disintegration.
  • Turning Points in Modern History This series takes you on a far-reaching journey around the globe to shed light on how two dozen of the top discoveries, inventions, political upheavals, and ideas since 1400 have shaped the modern world. These 24 episodes start in the early 15th century and finish in the age of social media to reveal astounding threads that weave through the centuries.  

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