Fun. Took a while to read because when I read for too long in one sitting the names and facts started to run together (information overload). Best partaken of in bits. Good bathroom book, or something a college freshman should read to enliven their History class discussions. I glossed over some parts about American history and scandals of American presidents, however, because, well, I didn't care. But the rest is good reading. The chapters on Medicine and Sex, I imagine, would be great supplementary material to books like "Stiff" and "Bonk". I wish I'd also jotted down more of the quotable quotes, but I'm too lazy to go back in and dig them out.
Some recent ones:
"Egyptian queens were buried four thousand years ago with all the objects they would need in the afterlife, such as clothes, combs, and... dildos."
On the flourishing of culture and the arts in Athens: "Before we all get weepy over how democracy stimulates the arts, let’s remember Orson Welles’s line in The Third Man: 'In Italy for
thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed—they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, five
hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce… ? The cuckoo clock.'"
"When Napoleon’s personal artifacts were put on auction October 30, 1969, at Christie’s in London, included on the roster was one 'mummifed tendon', loudly whispered by British publicists to be
Napoleon’s penis. Some war wounds never heal."
A lot of other funny ones, but also a lot of examples of how cruel and stupid people can be (Salem witch trials, slavery). You can read this and walk away with new insights, such as, on why the Victorians might have found spanking/flogging kinky. "This punishment inflicted [by the Anglican schoolmasters who ran Britain's most prestigious schools, such as Eton and Harrow] upon impressionable bottoms led to a booming sadomasochistic subculture in Victorian England, complete with flagellant brothels. [...] A gentleman, perhaps remembering his school days, pays to be switched, nettled, and flogged."
Will make for interesting dinner party small talk, at least.