Book Review: Harry Potter and History (Wiley Pop Culture and History) by Nancy R. Reagin

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A guide to the history behind the world of Harry Potter just in time for the last Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part II)

Harry Potter lives in a world that is both magical and historical. Hogwarts pupils ride an old-fashioned steam train to school, notes are taken on parchment with quill pens, and Muggle legends come to life in the form of werewolves, witches, and magical spells. This book is the first to explore the real history in which Harry’s world is rooted.

Did you know that bezoars and mandrakes were fashionable luxury items for centuries? Find out how Europeans first developed the potions, spells, and charms taught at Hogwarts, from Avada Kedavra to love charms. Learn how the European prosecution of witches led to the Statute of Secrecy, meet the real Nicholas Flamel, see how the Malfoys stack up against Muggle English aristocrats, and compare the history of the wizarding world to real-life history.

Gives you the historical backdrop to Harry Potter’s world Covers topics ranging from how real British boarding schools compare to Hogwarts to how parchment, quills, and scrolls used in the wizarding world were made Includes a timeline comparing the history of the wizarding world to Muggle “real” history

Filled with fascinating facts and background, Harry Potter and History is an essential companion for every Harry Potter fan.

I had this on my TBR for a few years and decided to read it for the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter. I have been on a Harry Potter kick for most of the year. I did a “reread” by listening to the audiobooks and Harry Potter: A History of Magic. I also went to the exhibit at The New York Historical Society. And I started listening to the podcast Harry Potter and the Sacred Text.

I have stated before that reading non-fiction and reading history is not my cup of tea (I prefer watching shows about history), but I have read Twilight and History, also edited by Nancy R. Reagin, and I liked that.

Before I get into all the cool new things I learned from these essays I have a bone to pick with Susan Hall in her essay “Marx, Magic, and Muggles: Class Conflict in Harry Potter’s World.” On page 288 she compares the Gaunt family with the Durbeyfield family from Tess of the D’Urbervilles. While I totally agree with the comparisons between the two families she COMPLETELYdescribes the plot of Tess of the D’Urbervilles INACCURATELY! Tess is not “seduced” by Alec D’Urberville. She was raped. She doesn’t hang for the murder of her “lover”. He raped her! WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK, SUSAN HALL!?

Also, on the same page is another inaccuracy she made when she said the Weasleys spend money they don’t have on extravagant trips. They won that trip to Egypt! Did you even read the books?

Now that I got that off my chest, and sorry for the use of the F word but I feel in this issue it was justified, onto the rest of the review which is positive.

There were topics that I already had learned about from Harry Potter: A History of Magic, such as potions and witch-hunts, but this collection goes more into topics of class conflict, politics & government, women’s civil rights, aristocracy, boarding schools, and werewolves.

I learned more about the Spanish Inquisition in this book than I did when I was in school.

One essay also goes into why most spells are in Latin and goes into the origins of the Unforgivable Curses and the term “hocus pocus.” Which I found fascinating.

A few other cool things I learned:
– There really were secret magic schools!
– There was an Emperor who was not of nobel birth named Severus.
– Lupin’s werewolf affliction is an analogy for HIV/AIDS.

Some of the essays dragged on a bit and I found myself skimming sometimes. At one point I put the book down completely to listen to The Shining. The good thing about that is that there is no plot to this book to remember. You can easily pick it up and pick whichever essay you feel like reading about.

It’s a good read for anyone who is really interested in history and is a die hard Harry Potter fan.

4 out of 5 O.W.L.S.

 

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One thought on “Book Review: Harry Potter and History (Wiley Pop Culture and History) by Nancy R. Reagin

  1. Pingback: 2018 Book Challenge | Stephanie

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