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Summary

Why is Italy called Italy? How old is curry? Which people from history would best pull off a casino heist? Who was the richest person of all time? When was the first Monday? What were history's weirdest medical procedures that actually worked? How much horse manure was splattered on the streets of Tudor London? How fast was the medieval Chinese postal system? What did The Flintstones get right about the Stone Age? Who gets to name historical eras, and what will ours be called in 100 years' time? How do we know how people sounded in the past? How old is sign language?

In Ask a Historian, the author, BBC podcaster and public historian Greg Jenner provides answers to things you always wondered about but didn't know who to ask. Responding to 50 genuine questions from the public, Greg whisks you off on an entertaining tour through the ages, revealing the best and most surprising stories, facts and historical characters from the past. Bouncing through a wide range of subjects - from ancient jokebooks, African empires and bizarre tales of medicinal cannibalism, to the invention of meringues, mirrors and menstrual pads - Ask a Historian spans the Stone Age to the Swinging Sixties and offers up a deliciously amusing and informative smorgasbord of historical curiosities, devoured one morsel at a time. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2021 Greg Jenner (P)2021 Orion Publishing Group

Critic reviews

"Jenner uses all the questions you never dared to ask about history as an excellent excuse to rummage around in some funny, fascinating, and downright peculiar corners of the past. Every page contains delights, and you will be illuminated and entertained in equal measure." (Lindsey Fitzharris, author of The Butchering Art)

"If history informs our future, Greg Jenner is one of the best informants out there. He is a natural story-teller, conveying complex ideas and events with pep, verve, and wit. For anyone who regularly asks the question 'Why?', this book is for you." (Susie Dent, author of Word Perfect

What listeners say about Ask a Historian

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Really entertaining

This is an excellent informative, well written and researched book. I love Greg’s history podcast and regularly listen on long dog walks. I thought this would be ideal to continue my tradition, but it was so entertaining that I ended up listening to it all day. I prefer books read by the author on the whole, and his enthusiasm for the subject shines through the narration. Please don’t be put off by the review regarding bad language, there’s not much and it is in context. Recommend 100%.

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Spoiled my casual swearing

I was looking forward to it this book enormously. But within minutes the grating sounds of contemporary swearing punctuated the text. It sounded like grandpa trying to be 'down with the kids' but it was simply embarrassing in the effort to be cool. Why historians of this 'New' generation think it's great to swear or use mockney and other devices to curry favour, rather than just tell us what is already fascinating without the addition of thier 'personality' I just don't know! safe to say this book is off my Christmas list for my god-children.

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  • 04-04-22

Beautifully written, meticulously researched

I absolutely love this book. It's really carefully researched and I've learnt so much but it's also written in a very accessible and engaging way. Beautifully done, thank you Greg, please keep writing (and reading out) your books!

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It’s ok

The narrator keeps referring to himself and how funny he is, he’s not. It was ok. I bought it for the history so it was my mistake. The humour is “Mildly Whacky” and not my cup of tea. It’s a shame because there of lots of really good, interesting and unusual subjects.

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Funny and interesting

This is not your average history book! It is very interesting, well told and the author has a great sense of humour. It’s a tantalising snippet of lots of different parts of history.

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Loved the style!

Loved that it was in a conversational style! felt like you were just having a really interesting chat. Lots of fascinating answers too!

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Fab

Loved it. Greg's podcasts are also brilliant. A thoroughly engaging, funny and interesting listen. Highly recommend.

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smorgasbord of historical treats

excellent and diverse romp through various historical questions and conundrums. perfect accompaniment to a long car journey if you're a nerd like me

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Brilliant!

Interesting and funny as always. I hoped that the book would be as good as his podcast and I wasn't disappointed.

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A brilliant book

Warm, intimate and a lot of fun.
Jenner’s work is brilliant and this is one of his best.
I cherished all of it. Have bought it as a kindle book after the audiobook so that I can go back to some bits with ease.
Highly recommended.

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  • Matthew K Wendelken
  • 24-03-22

best bonus content ever!

I never laughed so much during a history book. It keeps you engaged you don't want to "put it down"

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  • JRTT
  • 21-02-22

More like “Ask a British Historian”

I’m not sure why I felt this book would have been broader in perspective to what it was - a British and largely western, largely Christian view of answers related to world history. (in some instances I felt there was a too much Bible referencing, but then I did well to consider that perhaps, I was NOT the targeted audience). While I did find certain topics enjoyable and learned more than a few things, the vast majority of them felt rather clichéd. The answer on the Windrush generation for example, felt pretty hollow when many Caribbean people would have experienced the social narratives of those generations through West Indian literature - Samuel Selvon’s Lonely Londoners and George Lamming’s The Emigrants come to mind. But in fairness to Mr Jenner, it is a historian being asked and whoever heard of literature being reliable sources of history? The bonus material at the end was pretty jarring with all the laughter and chatting and then a somewhat predictable take with lack of diversity and an episode of retelling which made me reflect “oh, so THAT’S how the British Museum did it so nonchalantly; take a little something here, a little something there”. A fair performance but not something I would listen to again.

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  • Tara K. Morrison
  • 07-02-22

Well worth a listen

If you like history that goes down rabbit holes and you prefer British accents, you’ll love this. You can feel the scholarly backbone while laughing at the humor. Would appreciate more references to how we know what we know, but otherwise a gem. Bonus content hugely entertaining and informative.