Meet Annette Laing, PhD, and Non-Boring History

A Warm Welcome from Non-Boring House!

Photo: Annette Laing, 2018.

Yes, it’s gonna be bumpy at first, but hold on! Why, yes, that is me, Dr. Annette Laing, on board a covered wagon! I was somewhere in Wyoming about to start a long journey in the summer heat on the Oregon/California Trail. Yes, I did develop a sore bum in the process, thanks for asking. Did I mention the driver was 18 and had two weeks experience with the reins? This uncomfortable and mildly terrifying experience is one of many things I do to translate US and UK history for busy normal people. Like you!

Here’s what readers (US, UK, and beyond) have to say about Annette Laing and Non-Boring History:

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.

Meet Annette Laing, PhD, and Non-Boring History

Annette Laing
Dr. Annette Laing (for it is she)

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 Amish quilting, or samurai warfare. Who knows? You’re here now.

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. Academic historians, like all real experts, are fond of pointing out what we don’t know. Which makes credibility tricky.

But there you go, that’s the kind of whoa moment that NBH will bring you. And I do promise that if you keep reading, you’ll start to see how useful this kind of thinking is.

Now, let’s be clear. Non-Boring History is not history. It’s history, translated. It’s history taught in the most offbeat way you can imagine. 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 for quality control, I have academic historians breathing down my neck, along with a crack team of Gnomes here at Non-Boring House, but more about that later.

This is your chance to see the world differently, to understand, to take joy in, and to value things that never made sense before, or that you never even noticed.

At Non-Boring History, we’ll dance 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 your views, and maybe change your mind, no matter your views. You will discover interests you never knew you had. And you’ll have a good laugh. Can’t beat that. It looks like foolishness, and sometimes it is, but in Shakespeare’s plays, the Fool had all the best lines, so there.

And since Non-Boring History is housed on the Substack platform, it’s not just emails. It’s a website. Click the title of every email I send (STRONGLY RECOMMENDED) and you’ll be whisked to the site to see the most up-to-date version, more photos, and a gentle reading background that’s easier on the eyes.

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Quick Lowdown: How Non-Boring History Works

Every email is also a post at Non-Boring History, the site. Each post is in one of these categories:

  • TALES: Annette Tells Tales. These (typically) long-form posts are the heart of what I do. Here’s where I rewrite often boring prose, much of it produced by actual academic historians, as well as original documents, into stories normal people like you 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 from the comfort of your home 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, um, antique collectibles, and how they’re not so random.

  • THROWBACKS: Writing and experiences from a life lived in archives, classrooms, and museums.

  • NON-BORING HISTORY: The latest news from Non-Boring House, and any other post that doesn’t fit with the other categories.

Why Go Paid? Become a Nonnie

Non-Boring History is a kind of stealth course in history by a real historian and former tenured professor of history, not just random clickbait by some rando. It costs to produce, my work and time have value, and it’s absurd to pretend otherwise.

As a Nonnie, a paid subscriber to Non-Boring History, you get all this for pennies a day:

  • Every part of every post: No paywalls.

  • FULL ACCESS to my collection of more than 200 currentNon-Boring History posts on a wide variety of subjects in US and UK history, and on historical thinking.

  • Behind the scenes looks at fascinating ideas, stories, places and people with exclusive posts just for Nonnies

  • Take pride in supporting 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.

  • On a fixed income? Teacher? Student? Tell me (in short) what comes between you and Nonniedom, and I’ll help if I can.

More About Annette and NBH

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 was a worker in the trenches of academia, and a one-hit wonder as a historian, my modest career was a doozy: I changed how my colleagues in the profession thought about African-American religion (among other things).

Since then, I have reinvented myself as a public historian, doing grassroots work with the public. I have long experience entertaining 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.

Annette Laing with students
Downton Style! Annette with teen fans in South Carolina IMAGE: Annette Laing, 2022

What does this mean for you as a discerning reader?

It means I take seriously that you don’t have time to be bored. I entertain you. At Non-Boring History, I write for adults who are mostly based in the US and UK. But EVERYONE is welcome: regardless of where you are, and 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 assume is history is fluff. That’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.

This isn’t just random trivia. This isn’t boring. This is history, taught without, you know, actual teaching.

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Join renegade historian and Brit in the US Dr. Annette Laing on her witty history mystery tour. Substack Featured Newsletter.

People

Historian (PhD), Published Scholar, Renegade Professor, Author, The Snipesville Chronicles series. Brit in the US, Missionary for History, Bringing People Together over the Past, In The Present. Not a posh person. AnnetteLaing.com