The book is a parody of the Whiggish 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 fifty-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 ." (This last chapter is titled "A Bad Thing"; the final pun even requires the English term "full stop", rather than the ...
The book is a parody of the Whiggish 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 fifty-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 ." (This last chapter is titled "A Bad Thing"; the final pun even requires the English term "full stop", rather than the American "period", to work.) It is based on the idea that history is what you can remember and is full of examples of half-remembered 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 mention of the fact 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).
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).
Walter Carruthers Sellar (27 December 1898 – 11 June 1951) was a Scottish humourist who wrote for Punch. He is best known for the 1930 book 1066 and All That, a tongue-in-cheek guide to "all the history you can remember," which he wrote together with R. J. Yeatman.
Robert Julian Yeatman (15 July 1897 – 13 July 1968) was a British humorist who wrote for Punch. He is best known for the book 1066 and All That, 1930, ISBN 0-413-77270-5), a tongue-in-cheek guide to "all the history you can remember", which he wrote with W. C. Sellar.
He was born in Oporto, the principal city and port of northern Portugal, where his father was a wine merchant, a family business connected with Taylor's Port. Yeatman had won the Military Cross in World War I before going to Oriel College, Oxford where he met Sellar. He went into advertising and became advertising manager for Kodak Ltd.
When asked to convert his BA from Oxford into an MA, Yeatman could not find the fee owing to debt, and hence he is recorded in 1066 and All That as "Failed MA, etc., Oxon".