Unruly: The Ridiculous History of England's Kings and Queens
February 6, 2024 2:55 PM - Subscribe

A tale of power, glory, and gore from Arthur to Elizabeth 1 by David Mitchell

From the publisher:
Taking us back to King Arthur (spoiler: he didn’t exist), Mitchell tells the founding story of post-Roman England up to the reign of Elizabeth I (spoiler: she dies). It’s a tale of narcissists, inadequate self-control, middle-management insurrection, uncivil wars, and a few Cnuts, as the English evolved from having their crops stolen by the thug with the largest armed gang to bowing and paying taxes to a divinely anointed king.

How this happened, who it happened to, and why the hell it matters are all questions that Mitchell answers with brilliance, wit, and the full erudition of a man who once studied history—and won’t let it off the hook for the mess it’s made.

A funny book that takes history seriously, Unruly is for anyone who has ever wondered how the British monarchy came to be—and who is to blame.

Unruly by David Mitchell in which he interviews himself: "Everyone gave up trying to argue with David Mitchell, so now he has to do it with himself"
and King Arthur didn't exist and boy the Welsh have a right to be pissed.
posted by winesong (10 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I saw George Carlin perform when he (and I) were young; for a couple days later I found it very hard not to go into "didja ever notice...." mode.
This is worse. I'm finding it damn near impossible not to use phrases like "massively entertaining" and "top grade ranting" and construct an elaborate metaphor about historical sundaes involving chunky chewy facts, sweet gooey sarcasm and sprinkles of pointed reminders on the general pig headedness of people with power.

The central premise is that the main source of English, and British, national pride derives from an identity aligned with a feeling of continuity in the monarchy and system of government, rather than of place/language/customs as in other countries. He then proceeds to illustrate this with details about how much of the country has been ruled by people who didn't speak the common language, didn't live there sometimes or most of the time, and mostly wanted to keep fighting with France for territory some other king frittered away. There's loads of other fun stuff, and my only complaints are that many early paragraphs end with a joke (you can hear him hitting the punchline) and the last few chapters seem skimpy compared with the wealth of information elsewhere.
posted by winesong at 3:03 PM on February 6

Shepherd and I received this for Christmas from his sister! We are huge fans of David Mitchell--he ranks as one of our top dream dinner guests--and look forward to digging into this.
posted by Kitteh at 3:11 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed this book. Little disappointing that it stopped where it did, though I understand the reasoning. Would have liked to see him take on the Georges.

I will say that maybe it is better enjoyed in small doses. It is _very_ David Mitchell and his voice comes through very strongly.
A good book for a commute but not for a long plane ride.
posted by madajb at 10:08 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]

There needs to be a disambiguation tag for authors named David Mitchell. They're both great but very different from each other.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:14 AM on February 7 [3 favorites]

Which David Mitchell is this -- the writer or the funny guy?
posted by wenestvedt at 7:55 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]

Funny guy.
posted by Kitteh at 8:02 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]

I'm sure this is witty and hilarious, but I'm probably not going to watch it.
Due to a personal character flaw.
What is the proper High English phraseology for "I am afraid I shant be in attendance; on account of how much I covet your wife, sir." ?
posted by bartleby at 10:04 AM on February 7 [5 favorites]

Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I have put it on hold at my library! I very much enjoyed the video promo.
posted by pymsical at 11:36 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]

Hold added! And he reads the audiobook himself, which is nice.
posted by janell at 8:41 AM on February 9

It’s curious to realize that Mitchell hasn’t written a popular history before, because he has a very deft touch, in a way that calls to mind Bill Bryson. Here’s Mitchell talking about the Battle of Hastings:
It’s impossible to know how the battle played out because it happened a long time ago and nobody videoed it. Someone tapestried it, though. Most of our sense of how it went comes from that massive tapestry. The Bayeux Tapestry: you may have heard of it. If you’ve only heard of one tapestry, it’ll be the one. If you’ve heard of two, I don’t know what the other one will be because personally I’ve only heard of one.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:08 AM on February 10 [2 favorites]

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