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How to Behave Badly in Renaissance Britain
Ruth Goodman

Michael O’Mara
5 April 2018/ ISBN 9781782438496
Non Fiction/History

Reviewed by Rachel A Hyde

We all know what shocks or disgusts people in our own time and location, but this enjoyable book takes a look at what people found unpalatable during 1550-1650. Delve in for a good look at a time when it wasn’t considered a good idea to call a man a fool when people believed in curses and thought that quoting Shakespeare was very low class.

History isn’t all battles and dates; Ms. Goodman is adept at making it entertaining and relevant. Although this book is a lot of fun it is also a look at social history and what people found wrong is a good indicator of what they thought right and acceptable. In the introduction the author says why she chose the time; one of great change and upheaval. To give a good example at the beginning of the period puritans were outside society and by the end, they were running it! Individual chapters take a look at topics such as offensive speech, violence, bad habits, rude gestures and the human body. Many of our own taboos were around then but many more have been consigned to the dustbin of history along with the social customs that accompanied them. Differing attitudes to women, religion, foreigners, dress, and politics all contributed to people finding things shocking, comical or the mark of the socially inferior. You don’t need to be very knowledgeable about this time to get a lot out of this book either. Ms. Goodman explains the context of all the topics she addresses and she writes in an easy-to-read, lively style that brings the topic to life. If you want to know what it was like to live during this period in the UK and how to follow society’s rules (or break them) you can find it all in here. A lot of fun, and like all the best history books shows that people in the past were as real as people today

Reviewed 2017