People Think History Is Boring and Irrelevant to Their Lives.
Those People May Have Been Asleep Since 2019.
Meet Annette Laing, PhD, and Non-Boring History
We live in strange times. Well, blimey, what else is new?
You may like history. You may hate it. You may not be sure. You may have got here by accident while looking for a newsletter on quilting, or samurai warfare. Who knows? You’re here now.
Well, hello there! My kind of person! I’m Annette Laing. I’m a renegade ex-professor of history (tenured, and quit, not fired, thank you), and Brit in the US. As I will never tire of telling you, this does NOT mean I know everything. because that sort of cult leadery claim is very unHistorian. Historians, like all real experts, are fond of pointing out what we don’t know. Which makes credibility tricky. But there’s a lesson in that.
Non-Boring History is not history. It’s history, translated. I am an actual historian who once trained as a journalist, and that, as it happens, matters. A lot.
Non-Boring History is important history you will be glad to know exists, retold as chatty writing with jokes! No footnotes, but I have academic historians breathing down my neck.
I write in American English with some clarifications in British English, AND the other way round. I aim what I write at US and UK audiences, but I warmly welcome any reader who find what I write enjoyable and useful. This is your chance to see the world differently, to understand, take joy in, and value things that never made sense before, or that you never even noticed.
Real history, the stuff professors write for each other, and the way that historians think, are fabulous, but hard to access. At Non-Boring History, I interpret it all for real people like you. I walk you through academic history. You’ll meet the actual people who write it. You’ll learn to “read” and enjoy museums, as we visit a vast range of museums and historic sites in places you never thought of going yourself, like Nebraska, unless you live in Nebraska, in which case, I am so sorry.
And you will start to notice the world coming into focus. Like learning to read a new language.
At Non-Boring History, you may discover why you think what you think, no matter what that is, and maybe change your mind. You will discover interests you never knew you had. And you’ll have a good laugh. Can’t beat that.
How Non-Boring History Works
I write quite a few free posts, but this isn’t just random free stuff. It’s not a cult, either. It’s sort of in between.
Become a Nonnie (paid subscriber), and you get access to everything at Non-Boring History. Every email I send links to a post on the NBH site, where it’s housed in one of several collections:
TALES: Annette Tells Tales. These long-form posts are the heart of what I do. Here’s where I rewrite historians’ often boring prose, as well as original documents, into something normal people actually want to read.
ALOUD: Non-Boring History Aloud. Podcasts of Annette Tells Tales posts, for Nonnies on the go.
ROAD: Annette on the Road. Join me virtually as I travel in the US and UK. I’m often accompanied by my non-historian, real-person spouse (He Who Shall Not Be Named On The Internets, or HWSNBNOTI, pronounced Hoosen Benoti), who represents normal non-historian people like you.
BITS: Bits of History. Random items from my personal collection of junque, erm, anti-kews, um, collectibles, and how they’re not so random.
THROWBACKS. Writing and experiences from a life lived in archives, classrooms, and museums.
NEW! HISTORY & MEMORY: How real people (i.e. not academic historians) think about the past has changed over time. Historians like to study this, and I like to report on what they discover. We call it History and Memory. And let me tell you, this will rock your world.
Nonnies also support me as I reach out to as many people as I can with enjoyable, thinky pieces that exercise readers’ brains without too much pain. I can’t do this without Nonnies (paid subscribers), so join us if you’re able!
Here’s what readers like you (US, UK, and beyond) have to say:
I am so captivated by the stories and love Annette’s sense of humor!
The variety of topics covered has been really great.
I love it. I like the humor, the down to earth method, and the asides. Annette, your personality sells it for me, as much as the learning.
I always learn something unexpected when I read your articles. I also introduced my daughter to NBH for use during homeschooling her son.
The depth of storytelling is excellent -- provides both context and character.
I think it's opened up my horizons. As a British person, I've only ever studied British history; I've really enjoyed the information that NBH has provided about the US, and the links with British history.
Your content has allowed me to realize people are not so much all good or all bad. Things can be grey.
It has allowed me to have great conversations with other readers and to think more deeply about the past.
And From Historians:
I'm glad you enjoyed Doomsayers, and I think you did a fantastic job of capturing its spirit (in accessible prose) —Dr. Susan Juster, Rhys Isaac Collegiate Professor at the University of Michigan.
If you love history but find popular history uninteresting, focusing as it usually does on biographies of famous people and wars, and a lot of academic history inaccessible or even boring (it usually is), then you will love Annette Laing's Non-Boring History. With a discerning eye for interesting scholarship and a quirky, distinctive voice, Annette breaks down exciting scholarship, usually from academic presses, that curious general readers will almost inevitably miss. Check it out! —Dr. Daniel Kilbride, Professor of History and Director, Honors Program, John Carroll University.
Your Guide Is Friendly!
And that guide is me! Me, I tell you! Didn’t see that coming, did you?
My sense of humor survived my being a history professor. Thrill, as I lead you through a big variety of subjects and ideas, hacking away at the academic jungle to reveal its treasures, like a short female Indy!
My qualifications? I’m not just another person who plays a historian, and that matters. I am a proper historian. I was formerly a tenured professor of early American history and the Atlantic World at Georgia Southern University, where I taught classes in early American, transatlantic, and public history, and unlikely though this may sound, was also a member of the Africana Studies faculty. And while I’m a one-hit wonder as a historian, my modest career was a doozy: I changed how my academic colleagues thought about African-American religion (among other things).
And I can entertain the most unlikely audiences with history. I’m the author of historical time-travel novels for ages 9 and up ( also read by lots of adults who won’t admit to it), and take in-person and Zoom Non-Boring History programs to students and teachers across America, from Georgia to California.
What does this mean for you as a discerning adult reader?
It means I take seriously that you don’t have time to be bored. I entertain you. I have years of engaging hungover freshmen at 8 a.m. under my belt. I can amuse a hundred nine year olds at once with history. I have spoken to teenagers dozens of times, and lived to tell the tale. You are much easier to engage.
At Non-Boring History, I write for adults who are mostly in the US and UK. But EVERYONE is welcome: regardless of whether you are (insert any identity thingy of your choice here) or not. NBH is non-partisan, and very definitely non-shouty, although everyone eventually gets teased a bit. This is why historians are not invited to parties.
We don’t do debates, not even in the comments. This is all about entertaining reading, relaxation, and (okay, yes) thinking. But not the painful kind of thinking.
Non-Boring History is often fun, but it ain’t fluff: If anything, the standard textbook narrative that people think is history often is fluff. There’s another thing we’ll explore along the way.
And at Non-Boring History, you pick and choose what you want to read, and when.
Sign up on the paid plan, and you get (typically) two emails a week. Sign up for free if you just want to try out NBH. Then, when you’re ready . . .
Join Us (and do consider becoming a Nonnie!)
Yes, you can sign up free. And you get this.
Learn how real historians think, why that’s incredibly important, and how you can pick up those skills while being entertained, not instructed.
Discover your interests in history, and how any subject that academic historians deal with (not just wars and presidents) can open up how you think about everything. This isn’t about trying to “know” everything.
Accompany me to museums of all kinds (virtually, and maybe one day in real life!), and learn how I approach them as a historian, and why that can be pretty funny.
Become a Nonnie!
I strongly encourage you to take the plunge. Nonnies are paid members of Non-Boring History, and, as a Nonnie, you get this:
FULL ACCESS to my collection of Non-Boring History posts at NBH on a wide variety of subjects in US and UK history, and on historical thinking.
Come behind the scenes for fascinating takes and photos with posts just for Nonnies
Take pride in knowing you support my unique outreach to a world that needs serious history (not just factoids) more than ever.
Comment, and meet me and others in the Nonnie Community, full of interesting and fun folks from all walks of life.