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One in the Eye for Harold: Why Everything You Thought You Knew About History is Wrong, By Phil Mason

Paperback reviews of the week

Phil Mason's book sets out to debunk a few historical myths. The American Civil War wasn't really about slavery. Dodge City was eminently safe. The motto "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité" was coined only after the French Revolution had happened.

The kilt was invented by an Englishman. The Philistines had nothing against high culture. And the Vikings? They were quite dull. So too, sadly, is this book, despite the odd enlightening fact. There is great scope for humour and fun in debunking "Bad History" – as anyone who has heard the klaxon sound on Alan Davies during QI will know – but Mason's writing ("the past shapes the environment we, the current edition of humanity, temporarily occupy") is terribly stuffy.