History in an Hour: Henry VIII’s Wivcs by Julie Wheeler
History in an Hour: 1066 by Kaye Jones
Published by HarperCollins UK
History in an Hour is a series of short ebooks and audiobooks. I would call them novellas, except there’s that thing where they are nonfiction. Each title is 40 pages or so and they serve as a quick overview to the subject at hand. Obviously scholars of the given topic are going to think they left things out (cue the guy leaving reviews at online book sites that they left out X obscure fact), but they are not meant to be the be all and end all of any topic. Also, they are slightly UK-centric, so if you’re looking at big topics like a World War, etc., you might find a bit of selection bias.
I bought a few of these when they were on sale awhile back and have been occasionally reading them between longer works. I started with Henry VIII’s Wives, as I know a fair amount about them, having read widely in fiction and nonfiction on the topic. Wheeler certainly hit all the salient points. Henry VIII’s Wives would make a wonderful crash course for someone who wanted to brush up on the basics before reading something more in depth set in the time period.
For my second History in an Hour book, I decided to go to the complete opposite end of the spectrum and read 1066. I do know that 1066 is the date the William the Conqueror and the Normans conquered England, and I could probably have muttered something to you about the Battle of Hastings, but I had no idea about the why or the how. To be completely honest, I’m still a bit confused, primarily because 1066 was a much more complicated year than I knew. It makes sense now that internal strife allowed for the external conquest, but it hadn’t ever occurred to me before. 1066 does include a timeline of pertinent events in the back, which was a helpful review after having read it, although it might have helped me more had it been in the front to prime my brain for all that it was about to receive (and so I could have referred back to it more easily).
Based on these two titles, it seems that History in an Hour is at its very best as a refresher course for the basics and perhaps also as an initial foray into a topic about which you know nothing. I will definitely read more of these titles.