Book Review: “The Peasants’ Revolting Lives” by Terry Deary

51351965When we study history, we tend to focus on the lives of the elite and the royalty because their lives are well documented. However, there was a large majority of the population who tends to be forgotten in the annals of the past. They are the lower classes who were the backbone of society for centuries, the people who we would call peasants. Now, if we know so much about the higher echelons of society, we must ask ourselves what was life like for those who had almost nothing in life. How did they work? When they did speak out about injustices through revolutions, how were they received? How did they worship? How were they educated? How did they relax after long days of back-breaking labor? Where did they live? These questions and more are answered in Terry Deary’s latest book, “The Peasants’ Revolting Lives”.

I would like to thank Pen and Sword Books for sending me a copy of this book. I had read the first book in this series, “The Peasants’ Revolting Crimes” and I thoroughly enjoyed it. When I heard that he had a sequel book coming out, I knew that I had to read it.

Like his previous book, Deary chooses to highlight the often unbelievable tales of the peasants, emphasizing that they are the true heroes of history. He explores numerous stories from several centuries; the malevolent medieval times, the tumultuous Tudors, and the greedy Georgians tend to be heavily focused upon, especially the evils of the Industrial Revolution. To explore so many different centuries shows Deary’s advanced knowledge of the past, which is quite extraordinary, especially when he combines his casual writing style with his wonderful wit to make this book so engaging.

Most of these tales are rather dark as they often tell the numerous ways peasants died while doing everyday activities. While dying is part of the story, I think it was valuable that Deary balanced it out with how they tried to make the best of a bad situation. His chapter on different revolts that peasants led and their causes was quite fascinating as it shows the peasants in a quasi- leadership role. Deary also lightened the mood a bit when he did a history of football (or what we Americans call soccer) and cricket. I didn’t know much about this version of football so sadly some of his jokes about the subject fell a bit flat for me.

Since I do know a bit about the medieval and Tudor times, the stories about peasants during those times was a tad repetitive for me. However, I did learn a copious amount about the Georgians and those who survived the Industrial Revolution. We tend to think about the Industrial Revolution as a glorious improvement in society, but for those who worked, it was full of hazards to one’s health around every corner.

Overall, I thought this book was good but not as good as the first one. There were some spelling errors, repetitions of facts that I already knew, and some of the humor felt a bit flat for me. However, this is just my opinion. I think that Deary’s writing style is for a younger audience, so if you are searching for a hard-hitting history book, this is not the book for you. However, if you want a casual read where the peasants and their many escapades from the past are highlighted, I would suggest you read, “The Peasants’ Revolting Lives” by Terry Deary.

Book Review: “A Year in the Life of Medieval England” by Toni Mount

27109857The medieval era was one of the most turbulent times in all of English history, full of family feuds, gruesome wars, and so many twists and turns. We tend to focus on the big stories, but, it was not just about the royalty and the nobility, there were also lower classes whose lives went on in the background. What was everyday life like for both the rich and the poor? What ceremonies and recipes did they use? What were wills and court cases like? These questions and more are explored in Toni Mount’s delightful book, “A Year in the Life of Medieval England”.

I would like to thank Amberley Publishing for sending me a copy of this book. This book looked really intriguing and I really wanted to read a book covering medieval England.

This book was an absolute joy to read. Mount’s book is like a diary, it documents every day of the year with new facts and events. From January 1st to December 31st, Mount dives into the lives of both the rich and the poor alike. Unlike normal diaries, Mount does not stay with one specific year. Instead, she includes events from 1066 all the way through 1500 to give a full view of what life was like in Medieval England. I normally do not like it when a book jumps around chronologically, yet it worked rather well in this book.

From William the Conqueror to King Henry VII and every king in between, Mount explores the lives of the monarchy, highs, and lows. Coronations, battles, births, and deaths, with numerous treaties in-between. Naturally, there were a lot more members of the lower classes than the royal houses, but Mount chose a handful of their colorful stories to include in this book. What is wonderful is that you truly understand what they might have been going through since Mount has transcribed letters, lawsuits and wills so that the readers can get that window into the past.

What I really loved about this book was that Mount was able to include a plethora of facts while keeping the writing style comprehensive so that even a novice can understand. Mount does site each of her sources at the end of each passage for convenience, but it also acts as a stepping stone for those who want to do their own independent research. Of course, with any dive into a new area of study, there will be terms that might be unfamiliar to new students, but Mount takes the time to define these terms.

From Plantagenets to peasants, the stories of Medieval England come back to life in this rather handy companion book for inspiring medievalists. An easy and thought-provoking read that anyone who is interested in Medieval England would be delighted to have in their own collections. If you want a book that explores what medieval people, both rich and poor, experienced in a year, I highly recommend you read, “A Year in the Life of Medieval England” by Toni Mount.

Book Review: “The Peasants’ Revolting…Crimes” by Terry Deary

47135242In history, we tend to look at people based on their class. There are the upper class (royalty and nobility), the middle class, and the underclasses (peasants). Most of the focus tends to be on the deeds of the upper and middle classes, yet the underclasses had there own struggles, some of which resulted in them committing crimes. What was life like for the criminals of the underclasses? What type of crimes did they commit and what sort of punishments did they suffer once they were caught? Terry Deary decided to explore the crimes of the British peasants throughout history, in his own humorous way, in his latest book, “The Peasants’ Revolting….Crimes”.

I would like to thank Pen and Sword Books for sending me a copy of this book. The description sounded really intriguing and I had never read a book by Terry Deary, so I decided to give it a try.

For those who are not familiar with Terry Deary, he is the author of a popular UK book series for kids about history called, “Horrible Histories”, a funny look at the past to get kids interested in historical figures. I will admit that I had heard people mention “Horrible Histories” and the video series, but I was not sure what to expect when it came to Deary’s writing style. I don’t normally read humourous history books because I love diving large biographies that contain minute details of the lives of historical figures, but I found myself enjoying this entertaining, yet rather unusual, history book.

This book was a delight to dive into. Deary breaks down his book by exploring the underclasses, from the nefarious Normans and the terrible Tudors to the vivacious Victorians and everyone in between. He included tales of arsonists, murderers, pirates, hooligans, beggars, rioters, and more to give readers a full view of crimes committed by those who were part of the underclasses. The topics that Deary discusses in this book can be rather dark and macabre, but it doesn’t have a dark tone to it. Instead, Deary infuses his own sense of humor that makes reading about these horrific crimes enjoyable. There were points while I was reading that I actually laughed out loud, but other points the humor did fall flat for me because it dealt with elements of living in the UK that I didn’t understand.

Deary does jump around a lot when it comes to the chronological order of this book, which did bother me a tad bit because I do prefer reading a historical book in chronological order. Yet Deary does get away with this since it is a book that acts like a comedy sketch instead of a serious study in the crimes of the underclasses. What I did wish Deary would have included in his book is a list of resources on the crimes that he mentioned so that those who were curious could look into the trials themselves, to help promote independent historical studies of the subjects.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Deary combined the study of history with humor to create a light-hearted and fun experience for anyone interested in history. Every once in awhile, it is good to take a break from serious historical studies and read something for fun. If you want a nice, casual read that explores the lives and crimes of peasants, I highly recommend you read, “The Peasants’ Revolting…Crimes” by Terry Deary.