Country United Kingdom
Published in English October 16, 1930
Publisher Methuen Publishing
Page count 172
Media type Print
Originally published 1930
Illustrator John Reynolds
|Original title 1066 and All That: A Memorable History of England, comprising all the parts you can remember, including 103 Good Things, 5 Bad Kings and 2 Genuine Dates|
Similar Horse Nonsense, Our Island Story, The History of England, The Battle of Hastings 1066, Paper Promises: Debt - Mo
1066 and All That: A Memorable History of England, comprising all the parts you can remember, including 103 Good Things, 5 Bad Kings and 2 Genuine Dates is a tongue-in-cheek reworking of the history of England. Written by W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman and illustrated by John Reynolds, it first appeared serially in Punch magazine, and was published in book form by Methuen & Co. Ltd. in 1930.
The book is a parody of the style of history teaching in English schools at the time, in particular of Our Island Story. It purports to contain "all the History you can remember", and, in sixty-two chapters, covers the history of England from Roman times through 1066 "and all that", up to the end of World War I, at which time "America was thus clearly Top Nation, and history came to a ." The book is full of examples of half-remembered and mixed-up facts.
Although the subtitle states that the book comprises "103 Good Things, 5 Bad Kings and 2 Genuine Dates", the book's preface mentions that originally four dates were planned, but last-minute research revealed that two of them were not memorable. The two dates that are referenced in the book are 1066, the date of the Battle of Hastings and the Norman invasion of Britain (Chapter XI), and 55 BC, the date of the first Roman invasion of Britain under Julius Caesar (Chapter I). However, when the date of the Roman invasion is given, it is immediately followed by the date that Caesar was "compelled to invade Britain again the following year (54 BC, not 56, owing to the peculiar Roman method of counting)". Despite the confusion of dates the Roman Conquest is the first of 103 historical events in the book characterised as a Good Thing, "since the Britons were only natives at that time".
Chapter II begins "that long succession of Waves of which History is chiefly composed", the first of which, here, is composed of Ostrogoths, Visigoths, mere Goths, Vandals, and Huns. Later examples are the 'Wave of Saints', who include the Venomous Bead (Chapter III); 'Waves of Pretenders', usually divided into smaller waves of two: an Old Pretender and a Young Pretender (Chapter XXX); plus the 'Wave of Beards' in the Elizabethan era (Chapter XXXIII).
According to Sellar and Yeatman, in English history kings are either 'Good' or 'Bad'. The first 'Good King' is the confusingly differentiated King Arthur/Alfred (Chapter V). Bad kings include King John, who when he came to the throne showed how much he deserved this epithet when he "lost his temper and flung himself on the floor, foaming at the mouth and biting the rushes" (Chapter XVIII). The death of Henry I from "a surfeit of palfreys" (recorded in other historical works as a "surfeit of lampreys", Chapter XIII) proves to be a paradigmatic case of the deaths of later monarchs through a surfeit of over-eating or other causes. Other memorable monarchs include the Split King (Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2) and Broody Mary.
Memorable events in English history include the Disillusion of the Monasteries (Chapter XXXI); the struggle between the Cavaliers (characterised as "Wrong but Wromantic") and the Roundheads (characterised as "Right but Repulsive") in the English Civil War (Chapter XXXV); and The Industrial Revelation (Chapter XLIX).
The book also contains five joke 'Test Papers' interspersed among the chapters, which contain nonsense instructions including the famous "Do not on any account attempt to write on both sides of the paper at once" (Test Paper V) and "Do not attempt to answer more than one question at a time" (Test Paper I) and such unanswerable questions as "How far did the Lords Repellent drive Henry III into the arms of Pedro the Cruel? (Protractors may not be used.)" (Test Paper II).
In 1935, the musical comedy 1066—and all that: A Musical Comedy based on that Memorable History by Sellar and Yeatman was produced. The book and lyrics were by Reginald Arkell; the music was composed by Alfred Reynolds. It was revived at the Palace Theatre, London, in 1945.
The narrative for the musical is based on the idea of an Everyman character, the Common Man, who is visiting a waxworks museum. He experiences some of the major events and characters of British history, starting with the Romans. "What good did history ever do me?" moans the Common Man. While his wife and son traipse round the waxworks, he dreams the waxworks come to life, singing and dancing and recalling the events and characters first met in dry-as-dust school lessons that are most likely to stick, however imperfectly, in an everyman-school-student's mind: Alfred burning the cakes; Canute inventing sea bathing; King John losing his washing, and Henry VI marrying VIII wives - or vice versa. From the Roman Conquest to the Modern Era of automobiles.
A chorus of Roman soldiers sing about "Going home", and being "on the road that leads to Rome. / We've been to Gaul, we've been to Spain / And now we're going home again / Rome, sweet home". Later a chorus of monks sing about the horrors of meatless Friday meals in the abbey. A Puritan and a Cavalier sing a jaunty, flirting ditty, and so on.
At the end, the Common Man is run down by a passing taxi, and the Finale reprises the "Going home" song with suitably modified lyrics.
Works inspired by 1066
1066 and All That inspired Paul Manning's 1984 and All That, dealing with the subsequent history of Britain and the rest of the world up to 1984, and written in the same style, with similar prose, illustrations and tests. ("What caused the Wall Street Crash? Speculate wildly.") The title also echoes George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Ned Sherrin and Neil Shand wrote a sequel 1956 and All That, with the subtitle a memorable history of England since the war to end all wars (Two).
Scoular Anderson has written a humorous history of Scotland in two volumes: 1314 and All That and 1745 and All That. Although the titles reflect Sellar and Yeatman's work, the style of writing and illustration is very different.
In 2005 Craig Brown released 1966 and All That, which copied the book's style (including elements like the end of chapter tests), recounting the remainder of the twentieth century. In 2006 the book was adapted for BBC Radio 4 in four parts.
Richard Armour's book It All Started With Columbus (1953, revised 1961) treats the history of the United States, from 1492 to the presidency of John Fitzgerald Kennedy , in a manner that owes a great deal to Sellar and Yeatman ("Ferdinand and Isabella refused to believe the world was round, even when Columbus showed them an egg"). Acknowledging the debt, Armour dedicated his book to Sellar and Yeatman.
Dave Barry's 1989 book Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States is another treatment of American history reminiscent of 1066 and All That, though Sellar and Yeatman are not acknowledged. ("The first major president to be elected after the War of 1812 was President Monroe Doctrine, who became famous by developing the policy for which he is named.")
Matthew Sturgis' book 1992 and All This (Macmillan, 1991) is a "humorous look at Europe in preparation for 1992 when Britain officially becomes part of the Continent. Much of the humour focuses on the differences between the British and the Europeans."
Malcolm Knox's 2009 book 1788 Words or Less gives a Sellar and Yeatman-esque twist to the history of Australia.