Horrible Histories Website Poster Image

Horrible Histories

Edgy, goofy history site pushes product over past.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids will learn about historical characters and events. They can practice storytelling skills with the Story Maker tool; e-cards provide some communication practice. Brief quizzes let kids set the difficulty level. Kids should enjoy the zany historical tidbits. But for a site based on an educational book series and show, Horrible Histories really doesn't offer much era-based info. Games and quizzes often don't explain corresponding historical events, and four sections showcase books, a magazine, and other products -- which is too bad, because the Horrible Histories army figurines aren't nearly as interesting as the wars they fought in. With a little more focus on actual history, Horrible Histories has the potential to be a solid (but still silly!) resource for kids. 

Positive messages

The site presents historical facts in a fun, creative way.

Violence & scariness

A few games include somewhat violent yet not too graphic content. In one, kids exchange arrows with soldiers but draw no blood. In another, a character is beheaded if you don't guess a word correctly, but the actual act isn't shown.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Language

Kids can enter anything into the site's ecards, but the Story Maker tool only lets them choose from predetermined words. Users can't post finished stories or cards on the site, so kids shouldn't be exposed to bad language.

Consumerism

The Buy section sells DVDs, games, and other items. Other sections heavily promote books and show-related toys.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that kids don't register or enter any personal information to play games on this history-centric site, which is based on the BBC Horrible Histories show and the Scholastic book series. It's a goofy, grisly take on historical events and people, such as the Terrifying Tudors and Ruthless Romans. The site features a Villain of the Week, games, printables, and other fun stuff, but kids may get distracted by the many links to purchase books, DVDs, and other Horrible Histories products. 

What's it about?

The bestselling Horrible Histories book series has an irreverent take on the standard historical subjects -- it refers to past civilizations as the Awful Egyptians and Terrible Tudors. The subsequent TV show, which has aired on BBC's kids' channel since 2009, depicts key events in comedic sketches. Similarly, daily history facts, villain profiles, and other Horrible Histories website items poke gentle fun at past events. Much of the site is dedicated to showing promotion-related appearances and products. However, it also includes history quizzes, downloadable wallpaper, and more than half a dozen games.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

HORRIBLE HISTORIES has a lot of potential. The site's daily historical facts and weekly villain bios provide a quick, funny -- and, most importantly, interesting -- look at key historical figures and events. Its games are generally fun to play. And the one TV show scene that's readily available on the site, which pokes fun at witch hunters, does a good job of providing historical background and humor without going overboard or being mean.

Unfortunately, Horrible Histories isn't jam-packed with those kinds of resources. Kids should pick up some interesting historical facts to enhance what they're learning in school. But the site seems very focused on promoting the Horrible Histories book series, toys, and other products, and it misses some key opportunities to explain and illustrate past civilizations and events. Site quizzes, for example, would be more effective if they offered information on why answers are right or wrong. Site games could focus more on the era and events they seem based on and a bit less on making kids laugh. (Do users really need to see someone sitting on a toilet -- and see how faulty the related sewage system is?) 

Kids may enjoy playing a few of the games and checking out the history factoids. But, without additional details, they might not get any sense of how the events mentioned on the site fit into history as a whole -- which would be horrible indeed. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why learning about history is important. Can your child identify a few key events that helped people make significant social or economic changes in the U.S.?

  • Talk about how much time you should spend online each day, even if you're looking at educational sites that can help you learn about topics you study in school.

  • Discuss how life during one of the time periods that Horrible Histories has covered differs from now. What would your child's day be like in that era?

Website details

Subjects:Language & Reading: reading, storytelling
Social Studies: events, historical figures, history
Skills:Thinking & Reasoning: logic, part-whole relationships, strategy
Self-Direction: academic development, personal growth
Genre:Educational
Topics:History, Pirates

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