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Meet Annette, and Learn What Non-Boring History Offers YOU!

Hello, and Welcome!

Hello there! Why, yes, that is me, Annette, on board a covered wagon. I was about to start a long journey in the summer heat on the Oregon/California Trail somewhere in Wyoming. Yes, I did develop a sore bum in the process. Did I mention the driver was 18 and had two whole weeks of experience? This uncomfortable and mildly terrifying experience is one of many things I do to translate history for busy normal people. Like you! Photo: Annette Laing, 2018.

Is This You?

  • You read historical fiction, and you would like to read actual history, but every book you pick up is boring (and you’re not wrong, btw).

  • You enjoyed 12 Years a Slave or Downton Abbey, Roots or Outlander, but now what?

  • You’re painfully aware that your history education sucked.

  • You want serious history written in a shamelessly entertaining way, not too long, and you’re not too proud to admit it. Go on, admit it!

  • You want to know about people, not just wars, politics, presidents.

  • You’re curious about American and/or British history, and want it explained in a way you can understand and enjoy.

I’m Annette Laing. I'm a real historian, Brit in the US, mom, keen cook, and a missionary for history who loves to chat, especially with non-academics (aka normal people). Join me and the Nonnies (the Non-Boring History community of people like you) for posts, podcasts, and other relaxed opportunities to discover how the past can bring us together.

Already hooked? Great! Right here, right now:

Not convinced but haven’t yet run away screaming? Good! Go on, have a bit of a scroll.

Bio: My Serious Cred

When we’re talking history, though, you should know who your tour guide is. I’m a shambolic little woman who is right at home in the aisles of Target and the supermarket, and who gets bad service in shops. Also me, though:

  • Former tenured professor in the history department and member of the Africana studies program at Georgia Southern University. No, I wasn't fired. I quit.

  • PhD in Early American and British history.

  • BA in journalism. Award-winning campus newspaper editor, reporter, and opinionator. Walter Cronkite once gave me a hug and peck on the cheek, which, to a young journo, was a bit like a papal blessing.

  • As a historian, I’m best known for an article on 18th century African-American religion (title on request, because it’s long and boring). It hit the historical big time! That means professors might talk to me at history conferences after they glance at my nametag, and graduate students (some of them, anyway) bow down before me. Bwahahaha. I have even spoken at Cambridge University, which I promise was waaaay less scary than it sounds.

  • Non-Boring History focuses on what I know best: American and British history, how they mesh, and how they affect us today. I have a particular interest in African-American history. I emphasize real life stories about real people that will get you thinking about RIGHT NOW.

  • In 2008, I told Georgia Southern University to shove it, because I had more important things to do. Like Non-Boring History!

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You Want More?? OK:

  • Fifteen years teaching hungover freshmen, typically at 8 a.m.

  • The past two decades, I've been entertaining kids and young teens around the US, especially in the rural South. Normal people having a mid-life crisis buy a Maserati. I started creating children’s programs. But hey. My work with kids quickly drew national attention.

Annette with 4th graders
With 4th graders and their questions at Austell Elementary in Atlanta, after presenting Gone West, a program about the 1849 California Gold Rush. 4th graders have more intellectual curiosity than most adults. I'm trying to tell you your kids are smarter than you are. Photo: © Annette Laing, 2020
  • Author, The Snipesville Chronicles, historical time-travel novels. I thought I was writing for kids, but turns out that adults are big fans too.

  • Presenter to teachers around the US, via Zoom and in person.

  • Presenter to community groups in Wisconsin, and anywhere else I can fit in while on the road.

  • I am not posh, although I can play posh on TV. I'm an overeducated lower middle-class Scot who grew up in a working-class town in England. I have lived for extended periods in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Atlanta, a small town in rural Georgia called Statesboro, and now Madison, Wisconsin. I still spend a lot of time Down South, and speak fluent Georgian: Hey, y'all! How's your mama ‘n them? And I've also returned to the UK every year for more than 20 years, not just to visit, but to tour historic sites around the country, and to stay in touch with Brits in the present.

  • In short, I’m a missionary for history for everyone, and that includes you! I promise not to turn up on your doorstep with a pile of books.

Join Non-Boring History, and you Join the Nonnies!

Join me and the Nonnies, the Non-Boring History community, as we discover and explore fun, moving, and often mind-blowing stories that connect past to present.

Hanging out with two of the thousands of usually normal British folks who gather each year for a weekend in Haworth, Yorkshire, where they cosplay WWII. Seriously, great fun. Photo: © Annette Laing, 2018

Even though I'm writing for you as a journalist, I am a historian. And my first question about any work on the past is always Who Cares? I don't tell you stuff just to tell you stuff. That would be boring and clickbaity. I try to be neither of these things.

At Non-Boring History, I have a transparently personal take on the past.

I'm working to demo why fun deep dives into history, not just the usual textbook stuff, and getting some insight into the weird ways in which historians think, would really help us out of the shouty mess we’re in right now.

Not that historians don't argue. Heck, I once listened to one suggest to a packed auditorium at a national conference that her colleague's brain had been kidnapped by space aliens, while he sat scowling next to her {sharp intake of breath from grad students}. But I won't be arguing here. As was once said of Thomas Jefferson, with whom I have nothing else in common, I'm a scholar, not a debater.

Non-Boring History isn't history. It’s a gateway to getting you interested in history, especially the history you never got at school.

BUT I bring the ethics of history and good, old-fashioned journalism to what I do. I pay close attention to evidence, investigate doubt, embrace complexity and empathy, play Devil’s advocate, consider my own biases, keep an open mind and refuse to accept something untrue just to be polite. This is also why I don’t get invited to parties.

Do I get things wrong, covering so many subjects? Of course I do! That's why I revisit my posts, and make corrections. I also invite academic historians and other experts to let me know if they see a problem. Then I'll fix it, and show you how and why it happened.

STILL want to know more about me? Good grief. Here is my website (soon to be updated thanks to a Dane Artists Need Grant (DANG!) from the lovely people at Dane Arts in Madison, WI): AnnetteLaing.com

How To Use Non-Boring History for YOU

  • Subscribe on the annual or monthly paid plan, and Non-Boring History arrives twice (sometimes three) times a week in your inbox. Don’t feel you have to read everything. Just open up an email, give it a glance, and see what appeals. Give me a chance to introduce you to a variety of subjects, many of which are unfamiliar, and none of which are unimportant.

  • Don’t have time to read an email right away? No worries. My posts are stored on the Non-Boring History site, for whenever you have a spare moment. And it’s searchable.

  • Think my work is wonderful? I love you already. Consider subscribing as a Founder Member, and earn my undying gratitude.

  • Not ready to join Non-Boring History yet? Add your email to the list, and you’ll get one of this week’s posts to tempt you.

  • This is it! Come join us!

By the Way . . . Introducing Non-Boring History Your Way

Each post is assigned to a section that tells you what kind of post it is. Find that you aren’t as interested in one kind of post? Easily unsubscribe from it in your Substack account:

Sections include:

  • TALES: Annette Tells Tales

    These are the heart of what I do. I rewrite original documents or summarize dry prose into something you actually want to read! Try a Gold Rush diary rewritten for now, or the story of Rosa Parks told completely differently than you expect.

    ROAD: Annette on the Road

    Photos, videos, museum visits, and personal stories from my travels, especially in the US and UK.

  • ALOUD: Non-Boring History Aloud. Podcasts of Tales posts.

Go on! Give Non-Boring History a Spin!

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