Thursday 8 March 2012

Gorgeous Georgians

Nothing like a sick morning in bed to get a bit of reading done. My son and I have been watching the totally fabulous tv series based on these books recently, so of course I was curious about the books. This was perfect fare for a morning of dozing and feeling not quite right.

It's always quite astonishing what seems completely sensible when you actually think about it for the first time. I don't think that I've ever pondered what the Georgian moniker actually meant, turns out that it is the period of time ruled over by the Four Georges in England, 1714-1837. D'Oh. 

It's hard to keep away from the tv show!

Gorgeous Georgians doesn't pretend to be an all inclusive history of the Georgian era. Rather it is a mixture of the gross, funny and scatological maximally designed to appeal to primary school aged children. And there is nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all. And so here is a random collection of interesting facts. 

Cricket was legalised in 1748. Why was it illegal, and needing legalisation? That isn't explained. But I could have been saved from many summers of torture if it had remained illegal. 

The fans so fashionable with ladies could be used to hide rotting teeth or bad breath, as well as for signalling messages. 

Poaching fish was punishable by death. 

Silk beauty spots helped to hide smallpox scars. 

Mallow flowers and mashed up snails is a great cure for ague (fevers and rigors). Squashed fish eyes is a great cure for toothache. If you have cancer you should drink a libation of sugar, nutmeg, woodlice powder mixed with your own urine.

Godfrey's Cordial ( a mixture of opium, treacle, water and spices) was used to quieten many crying orphans at night, (and used commonly by working class families), many of these poor children never woke up. Of course, child mortality was dreadful, one in three didn't live to 15

False teeth were fashioned out of tusks or pottery. Or if you were rich, dentists could take a tooth out of a poor child to replace your rotten tooth. 

The Georgians used hot houses to grow fruits such as grapes, peaches and pineapples. There was a new fashion to eat fruit raw!  More astonishing to realise that until the Georgian era noone in the world enjoyed toast or sandwiches!

There were a number of intriguing mentions of Daniel Defoe. Besides famously writing Robinson Crusoe (which I'm excited to be reading in the next few months), he formulated a seven class hierarchy of British society. 

These were certainly fascinating times. Times that make you glad to live now, no matter what our more modern problems. I guess I'm still slightly surprised that these books are so wildly popular with kids. But they are. I'm very glad that they are- I think the whole Horrible Histories phenomenon is fantastic. And it's about to get bigger. I remember how history was taught at school. Awful. They finally have made history fun for all of us.


Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Hi louise,

Sorry to hear that you are not feeling too good, nothing serious I hope?

The 'Horrible Histories' series are an amazing set of books aren't they? They are pitched just right for their target audience and cover all the salient facts about a subject, without becoming too heavy and boring.

I volunteer in a charity shop and we had the complete set handed in the other day. I have to admit that I sneakd a look at a few of them before putting them out for sale and couldn't believe how informative they were, even for me (long forgotten history lessons notwithstanding!). They were only on the shelves for a matter of hours before they were purchased as a complete set, by a regular customer and her young son, who was 'over the moon' with them.

Anything which encourages children to read (especially boys, who generally seem allergic to books)is fine by me.

Take care and I hope that you are back on form soon,


Louise said...

I'm fine thanks Yvonne. Well over that one at least, and now have my son's cold- it's a week for it it seems! I can't imagine how thrilled that young boy would be to get a whole set! I'd be ecstatic too. I'm looking forward to reading more. And I agree, it's great that boys have options like this to get them reading more. My son isn't all that interested in reading the books at the moment, although he pesters me every day to watch an episode of the tv show. But he's reading a series of dragon stories, so that's fine.

Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

Your reviews are both informative and detailed -- how is it that I have never heard of this series. I will check with an 8-yr old and the 10-yr old to see if they are aware of these and order one of the books to get them started.

Thanks for the reply on The Hunger Games.


Louise said...

Thanks so much Genie. I'm sure your 8 and 10 year olds would love it- they're in the prime target age group for sure. There is a vast series of these books now. Many are about English or European history, but there are also some dealing with ancient history and the Americas too if that is more their thing. Wiki has a page about the books, and list what looks to be all of them. Something for everyone! I'd love to hear what they think of them. (And the TV show is fabulous- I can't get the songs out of my head- I never thought that I'd know and remember how the wives of Henry the VIIIth died)

Dr. Mieke said...

The "Horrible Histories" are indeed wonderful. They certainly inspired my teenagers, and instilled in them a love of studying history. As Tess my daughter said, "It makes learning about history really cool". She has chosen modern history as an elective for her HSC now.

Lady In Read said...

this series of books sounds great.. i had not heard about them before.. will surely have a look at them