HomeArtsDan Snow - 'HistoryHit Miscellany' review

Dan Snow – ‘HistoryHit Miscellany’ review

Who said, “History is a set of lies agreed upon”? It was Napoleon Bonaparte, as you may have known. The French Emperor, contrary to contemporary English propaganda, was not especially diminutive for a man of his time. That I didn’t know before reading ‘HistoryHit Miscellany’. The book is introduced by Dan Snow, the popular historian and presenter of the podcast ‘History Hit’. The miscellany provides nearly three hundred pages of ‘facts, figures and fascinating finds’ as the subtitle promises.

‘HistoryHit Miscellany’ is exactly the kind of book you need if you’re looking for a bluffer’s guide to history. It will help you to brush up on your knowledge of the entirety of human civilisation. For interesting facts to break the ice at dinner parties or to impress a date with your depth of reading, the book will provide no shortage of talking points. Each easily-digestible page has splendid historical facts that can be committed to memory. Outside of a miscellany, where else would you find a list of all of the US Presidents who were assassinated or survived assassination attempts? Where does the name of Barry Hines’ classic novel ‘A Kestrel For A Knave’ come from? In which other kind of book could you learn both about the fall of the Roman Empire and about the world’s first recorded speeding ticket (spaced only a few pages apart)?

The book doesn’t just stick to modern or Western history. There are fun facts about the Feathered Serpent and the Iranian Revolution of 1979 as well as much else besides. As a whistle-stop tour through the history of human endeavour, ‘HistoryHit Miscellany’ offers insights into the achievements of civilisations from every corner of the globe and from every major epoch, touching on every system of government from monarchs to emperors via parliamentarians and Communist leaders. No topic takes up more than around two pages, and such focus is devoted only to truly exceptional subjects rich with anecdote such as Winston Churchill.

‘HistoryHit Miscellany’ will undoubtedly appeal to history buffs, especially those who digest the entertaining ‘History Hit’ podcasts. The book also aims to make history interesting, accessible and digestible to a lay audience. For those who prefer a deep dive into particular ages or civilisations, ‘HistoryHit Miscellany’ may provide only an amuse bouche to satisfy their hunger for knowledge. But the intention of the book is to leave the reader dizzy with fascinating facts. Not even the best-read historian can specialise in more than one or two disciplines. Even those who specialise may discover new and interesting facts. I studied Classical Civilisation and had no idea which Romans were responsible for the largest battle, which took place in 197. Those who prefer visuals to facts and figures can enjoy an infographic of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow in 1812.

The book will make a great gift for the history buff in your friendship circle, or the colleague who likes to impress with their recherché knowledge of historical happenings. It will also appeal to the legion of Dan Snow’s fans and podcast listeners who would like a load of facts and figures in one place. I would have loved there to have been an index, as I read a load of interesting facts that I then couldn’t find again, but it’s a small gripe. As a diversion and a place to dive in to find an interesting fact, ‘HistoryHit Miscellany’ is likely to hit the spot.

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Publication date: 28th September 2023 Buy ‘HistoryHit Miscellany’

Greg Jameson
Greg Jameson
Book editor, with an interest in cult TV.

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Who said, "History is a set of lies agreed upon"? It was Napoleon Bonaparte, as you may have known. The French Emperor, contrary to contemporary English propaganda, was not especially diminutive for a man of his time. That I didn't know before reading 'HistoryHit...Dan Snow - 'HistoryHit Miscellany' review