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Is 'Horrible Histories' suitable for adults?

By Paul Lay | Posted 20th June 2011, 8:57
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A scene from Horrible Histories (BBC)It’s been a while since I was nine years of age, but from what I remember, I think I would have liked Horrible Histories. The television series, based on Terry Deary’s enormously successful accounts of past gore, has won awards and a large, loyal audience on CBBC, the specialist children’s channel.

One can see why. Apart from the emphasis on violence and bodily functions, which children love, there are neat, witty little raps on Charles II (‘the king who brought back partying’) and an especially valuable rapid round up of the Civil Wars, an event all but ignored in Britain’s schools. Yet in its wisdom the BBC has now decided that Horrible Histories is deserving of an adult audience (or should that be kidult?) and is broadcasting selected highlights of the programme early on Sunday evenings on BBC1. Stephen Fry is the highly original choice of presenter.

Two things worry me about this. First, does the BBC really think that a children’s history programme is suitable for adults? Second, is the British adult population so ignorant of history that a series aimed at nine year olds can supplement their meagre knowledge? The frightening thing is that both these conclusions may be correct.


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