History in Review
The Not-So-Nude Ride of Lady Godiva
& Other Morsels of Misinformation from the History Books
By David Haviland
Jeremy P. Tarcher/ Penguin, New York: 2012. 317 pages.
Reviewed by Harry S. Chou - July 16, 2012
Read a history book - for fun? You've got to be crazy. Or do you? The Not-So-Nude Ride of Lady Godiva is not your typical history book, and while I am one of those weird people that happen to read history books for fun, a lot of people do not. The main reason most people do not enjoy history is that they have been brainwashed by one or more boring teachers and ofttimes equally boring books, and they believe that history itself is boring. This is a blatant untruth, and in The Not-So-Nude Ride of Lady Godiva, David Haviland puts the fun back into history with this trivia packed guide that highlights some 'morsels of misinformation' that have made it into far too many history books. He also highlights some of the proverbial questions that many people might not even been aware that they want answers to, such as "How did the people of Easter Island manage to build the giant Maoi heads when their island was so devoid of resources?" (The short answer is, it was not always as it is today. Once the island was covered with a rich tropical forest that was denuded over time...)
The information in this handy little guide to history's foibles is organized into handy chapters with such descriptive titles as "Bygone Blunders" and "Spiritual Stumbles." Within each chapter you will find a host of short essays that begin with a question, and then Haviland goes on to answer the question. For example, 'Did a chauffeur's wrong turn lead to World War I?' According to Haviland the answer is yes. On the way to a hospital to visit those wounded in an early terrorist attack, the car carrying Archduke Franz Ferdinand "...took a wrong turn, and so Ferdinand's driver reversed into an alley, to turn around. There, the car happened by chance to pull up alongside one of the terrorist..." In short order the terrorist, Gavrilo Princip, pulled out a gun and shot the archduke, setting off a series of events that would lead to the outbreak of World War I. Along the way Haviland also answers questions such as "Why was the Trojan horse, called the Trojan horse?," "How was Robert the Bruce inspired by a spider?," "How did a U.S. President inspire one of the world's best-loved toys?," "Which king had himself tortured for fun?," and of course, "What was the 'loose box'?" For those that don't know, the loose box was an area set aside for the seating of King Edward VII's numerous mistresses during his coronation ceremony. And not to be forgotten, the infamous ride of Lady Godiva is also covered, along with far too many other incidences to mention.
The long and short of it is, The Not-So-Nude Ride of Lady Godiva is a jolly fun read that will delight even those who think that history is nothing more than a giant yawn. After reading this book, you'll discover that there is a lot more to history than dates and memorization. The sections are short and pithy and are ideal for simply skipping around and reading any topic that happens to strike your fancy, or you can read it straight through. Either way, you are in for a treat. Not only will you find The Not-So-Nude Ride of Lady Godiva to be an entertaining book, but also a painlessly educational one as well!
England's Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton, by Kate Williams.
A popular history of one of the most famous women in eighteenth century England, who is perhaps best remembered as the very public mistress of Admiral Horatio Nelson.
King Arthur: The Truth Behind the Legend, by Rodney Castleden.
Did King Arthur really exist? If Castleden is correct, the answer is yes. In this intriguing book, the author presents an overview of the historical and archeological evidence which indicates that the legends surrounding King Arthur are based upon actual historical events and personages.
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