Book Review – How To Behave Badly In Renasissance Britain

Hello hello and welcome or welcome back to my little bookish corner of the internet. Today I’m sharing my review of the historical non-fiction, How To Behave Badly In Renasissance Britain, also sold in America as How To Behave Badly In Elizabethan England.

From royalty to peasantry, every age has its bad eggs, those who break all the rules and rub everyone up the wrong way. But their niggling, anti-social and irritating ways not only tell us about what upset people, but also what mattered to them, how their society functioned and what kind of world they lived in.

In this brilliantly nitty-gritty exploration of real life in the Tudor and Stuart age, you will discover:
– how to choose the perfect insult, whether it be draggletail, varlet, flap, saucy fellow, strumpet, ninny-hammer or stinkard
– why quoting Shakespeare was very poor form
– the politics behind men kissing each other on the lips
– why flashing the inside of your hat could repulse someone
– the best way to mock accents, preachers, soldiers and pretty much everything else besides
Ruth Goodman draws upon advice books and manuals, court cases and sermons, drama and imagery to outline bad behaviour from the gauche to the galling, the subtle to the outrageous. It is a celebration of drunkards, scolds, harridans and cross dressers in a time when calling a man a fool could get someone killed, and cursing wasn’t just rude, it worked!

Following on with my recent theme of witty historical reads, this popped up as an Audible suggestion, and grabbed me immediately. It was such good fun, and was incredibly well narrated, really bringing insults and sweary phrases to life.

Between my combined love of history and social anthropology, books like this were just written for me. The dedication with which Ruth Goodman has gone about putting together this history of rudeness is obvious, and the examples jump off the page. Some you’ll remember for a very long time, sometimes unwillingly…!

As well as focusing on how to misbehave, Goodman touches on the topics that relate to the parts of history we’ve become detached from, such as how periods were dealt with before modern periods products, the fact that baths weren’t a recular occurance, and that most people only owned a handful of outfits. That it would be the gossip of the market if you were seen wearing a new dress, for example, when we so easily fall into habits of fast fashion, was fascinating. Goodman manages to state these differences without judgement aimed at anyone, simply providing the education with a side of amusement.

Thanks for stopping by today for this review today. There’s some more non-fiction reviews coming up soon after a big history binge recently!

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