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The History Boys

4.07  ·  Rating Details ·  6,119 Ratings  ·  234 Reviews
“A play of depth as well as dazzle, intensely moving as well as thought-provoking and funny.” The Daily Telegraph

An unruly bunch of bright, funny sixth-form (or senior) boys in a British boys’ school are, as such boys will be, in pursuit of sex, sport, and a place at a good university, generally in that order. In all their efforts, they are helped and hindered, enlighte
play, 109 pages
Published June 17th 2004 by Faber and Faber Limited (first published 2004)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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IRWIN: So, what do we think of The History Boys then?

RUDGE: It's a classroom drama, sir. Set in Yorkshire during the early 80s. Features a clash between two different styles of teaching, embodied by the two contrasting teachers, Mr. Hector and Mr. Irwin, who...

IRWIN: Yes, yes, yes, everyone will write that. I am results-focussed, Mr. Hector teaches you the true value of culture. Perfect if you want to get into Bristol. Ideal for Sheffield. Someone else?

SCRIPPS: It's got witty and inventive dialo
May 06, 2013 Cecily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays
Bennett at his best: witty, erudite and controversial.

This play is set in the 1980s in a boys’ grammar (selective state) school where a new head is determined to get some of his brighter history pupils into prestigious Oxford and Cambridge colleges via additional lessons by three very different teachers: Hector, Irwin and also Mrs Lintott. Hector has been there for years; Irwin is young and brought in specially to help with Oxbridge exams and interviews; Mrs Lintott is a somewhat motherly figure
Saoirse Sterling
First read: 7th March, 2014
Second read: 22nd August, 2015

You can read my full review of The History Boys on my site XLeptodactylous.

"The best moments in reading are when you come across something — a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things — that you'd thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you've never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it's as if a hand has come out and taken yours." - Hector.
Sep 11, 2008 Tom rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nobody, really.
Recommended to Tom by: a bunch of typically clueless NYC and London drama critics.
Utterly useless play. The occasional "witty" line, but the whole thing felt very self-serving, self-congratulatory, and mechanical. And this pile of self-consciously Teddibly Intellectual Claptrap won the Tony for Best Play over Martin McDonagh's magnificent LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE.

The reviews I've read seem to think the play is a sort of battle of wills between Hector and another teacher for the souls of a group of boys doing an intensive cram session for their college boards. Hector supposedl
Apr 25, 2016 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie☯
From BBC Radio 4 Extra:
Adapted for radio by Richard Wortley from Nicholas Hytner's National Theatre production. More than three decades on from Forty Years On, Alan Bennett turns his attention once more to education, encompassing both the tussles of staffroom rivalry and the anarchy of adolescence.

Hector ...... Richard Griffiths
Irwin ...... Geoffrey Streatfeild
Mrs Lintott ...... Frances de la Tour
The Headmaster ...... Clive Merrison
Crowther ...... Samuel Anderson
Posner ...... Samuel Barnett
May 06, 2012 Cheryl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cheryl by: Cait Poytress
A wonderful, witty play. A group of eight teenage boys are in their final year of school, preparing to take scholarship examinations for university. Oxford or Cambridge admission is the big prize. Their teachers have different ideas about the role of education which seem competitive but are complementary.

The boys and teachers verbally joust and show off throughout the play as they struggle to find what they think will be the best way to succeed at the exams. Should they learn to be showmen of h
Sep 06, 2016 Sookie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays, 2016
Alan Bennett's dialogues have layers. Bennett uses poets, writers and artists as a subtle influencing factors to bring home a larger point. Auden is heavily quoted and acts as a metaphor for Hector's lifestyle. One of his pupils, Timms, quotes Auden and uses it outside the context to explain Hector's behavior to Irwin. Its clever and plays out as fantastic inside joke among the boys.

The boys stand on the edge that separates adolescence and adulthood. With college exams and interviews around the
Nov 02, 2014 Greg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Subjunctive history, discussing that gets five star alone. I have to get myself a copy of the book and read it at my own pace. There is a lot covered in this play. At first, listening to the first disc, I didn't get into it, but then I concentrated on the dialogue and not the voices. I wonder if this play would translate to other countries. Plays, essays, films, or novels that are set in school usually evokes an unpleasant feeling for me, (To Sir With Love being an exception.)

The History Boys ha
Oct 07, 2009 Mghulett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read this play at least twelve times. Same with the movie. It's a play about a group of high school boys that are in the Oxford/Cambridge group (they have the highest grades and are eligible for these two colleges.) Through out their senior year they must cram in not only facts about history, culture, and literature but they are given a new teacher who teaches them how to spice up their essays. There are many twists in the story but i'm not going to reveal them... I think that EVERYONE shou ...more
Jul 13, 2007 stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
because i am an intellectual snob, and because i am a sucker for british accents, and because i LOVE history, and because i went to an all-girls school that decidedly wanted to get everyone into the ivies, i must admit i'm a little bit of a biased reader.

(basic plot of the play: everyone is trying to get into oxford, and are therefore studying for their major exams in history. sex plays a large role - or, really, rather, lust.)

however, i also must admit i found some of the characters annoying,
Dec 24, 2015 Lynda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love reading plays. This was wonderfully written.
Some plays just are better when seen performed on the stage. Sometimes just reading a play loses something in the... well, translation. I have a feeling The History Boys is one of those. I'll bet on stage it's pretty interesting. I hear there's a movie from a few years ago that probably is worth watching. (This is all not to be confused with The Emperor's Club, the 2002 movie with Kevin Kline. I can't explain why but I seriously thought it might be based on this play. It was not. Silly rabbit! W ...more
Feb 08, 2009 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The award-winning play by Alan Bennett is a great read. More devoted to the influence of words (the "dictionary" boy role of Posner) and music than the later screenplay, the play emphasizes the differing perspectives on education of the two lead teachers (Hector and Irwin). Without the need to "open up" demanded by film Bennett focuses on the schoolroom and uses subtle effects to effect his dramatic purpose. One aspect of the play that stands out is the multiple narrators throughout the drama. H ...more
Ned Gill
Oct 15, 2016 Ned Gill rated it it was amazing
Shelves: faves, plays
Well that was tragic. Tragically good and soul destroying at least my fav Scripps didn't die because he is my role model.
// END //
May 18, 2015 Wontons rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first came across this play in its last form, as a film adaptation around 2009. By then, I was kicking myself for having missed the original West End production (though I'm not sure I would've been able to fly to New York in 2006, as much as I'd like to think of myself as a socialite with expendable income coming out of my ears). Luckily, I found a BBC radio dramatization, which, upon later reading the play, I learned was much closer to the stage production than the film. Don't get me wrong; I ...more
Jan 30, 2014 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
THE HISTORY BOYS. (2004). Alan Bennett. ****.
This play by Bennett brings us into the lives of eight boys enrolled in a British boarding school. They are all in sixth form, equivalent to our U.S. senior class. They are being prepped for admission to colleges in Oxford or Cambridge, although none of them is a likely candidate. They are all exposed to at least two different methods of being taught history. One method is a free-ranging technique, where the event is less important than the method of
'The History Boys' es una obra ambientada en el Sheffield de principios de los años 80 y los protagonistas son un grupo de adolescentes que se tienen que preparar para hacer un examen para poder entrar en Oxford o Cambridge. Es verdad que estos jovencitos parten de unas personalidades arquetípicas, pero consiguen ser únicos y reales gracias a los diálogos (frescos, rapidísimos y vivos). Es una obra sobre crecer, enamorarse, dejar atrás la adolescencia, intentar construir tu personalidad... Es un ...more
May 24, 2015 Sacha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this is one of my favourite films and so i was wary when i bought the play. i know this is the original text and the film came after but it's the film i've seen so many times and i didn't know what differences there would be. obviously there were differences because a story told on a stage with very little props can't be told in the same way as a film but i like both versions. there were a couple of scenes in the play that weren't in the film and vice versa and the ending was slightly different. ...more
HECTOR: Uncoffined is a typical Hardy usage. It’s a compound adjective, formed by putting “un” in front of the noun or verb, of course. Unkissed, unrejoicing, unconfessed, unembraced—it’s a turn of phrase that brings with it a sense of not sharing, being out if it, whether because of diffidence or shyness, but holding back, not being in the swim of it. Can you see that?

POSNER: Yes, sir. I felt that a bit.

HECTOR: The best moments in reading are when you come across something, a thought, a feeling
Feb 06, 2008 Skip rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gay-fiction
Alan Bennett's fascinating play (which was made into a well-received motion picture starring the original cast from the West End and Tony Award-winning Broadway stage productions) about a group of English high school students studying for their Oxbridge entrance examinations, and how they are tutored by two different professors who possess contrasting teaching styles. Absolutely joyful, exuberant and bittersweet at the same time, the examination of their relationships with their tutors and each ...more
Will Gillham
Apr 18, 2013 Will Gillham rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How a writer can cram so much wit, intelligence, and culture into one play astounds me.

Reading this during my A-Levels (whilst studying History) it completely reflects upon the absurdity, pressure, and confusion one feels at the turning point in your life: "If they like me and they want to take me because I'm dull and ordinary ... I may not know much about Jean-Paul Sartre, but I've got a handicap of four."

This is a play that can spark debates and conversations as lively as those found in the te
Uttara Srinivasan
4.5 stars

Plays are supposed to be avenues for playwrights to use painted words, archaic grammar, leaps of creative liberty and long soliloquys to (well, vent mostly) showcase their supremacy over the language, their understanding of “acting” without the distractions of description. The only other play I read this year didn’t help much either; made things worse if possible (yes, JKR I am still fuming). To add to all this, even as you try to wrap your head around mostly abstract dialogue, comes a
Kathryn Green
Mar 26, 2016 Kathryn Green rated it liked it
2.5 stars - This play was quite good. I liked the underlying messages about teaching and politics and the final message at the end. I didn't find it that funny but i'm looking forward to studying this one
Apr 25, 2016 Bettie☯ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners

Description: An unruly bunch of bright, funny sixth-form (or senior) boys in a British boys' school are, as such boys will be, in pursuit of sex, sport, and a place at a good university, generally in that order. In all their efforts, they are helped and hindered, enlightened and bemused, by a maverick English teacher who seeks to broaden their horizons in sometimes undefined ways, and a young history teacher who questions the methods, as well as the aim, o
Nicola Hall
I love The History Boys ... I've seen it on Stage, I went to the cinema several times to see the film and have nearly worn out my dvd I've watched it that much!!

So when Read Harder came along and one of the challenges was Read a Play - I jumped at the chance to read a play I loved in stage and movie form!! I hadn't read it before as I find Plays to be confusing and I can't really keep the players straight in my head ... Even if they are sitting there at the side of the page. It's something to do
Jan 18, 2008 Tung rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
Winner of the Tony Award for Best Play in 2006, along with a host of other Tonys, this play focuses on eight students at a London school preparing for the British national entrance exams for Cambridge and Oxford (and other secondary schools), and two of their teachers: Hector is their English/General Studies teacher who inspires the boys to memorize and recite classic literature for the sake of pure knowledge rather than for the purpose of prepping for any one test; Irwin is their newly-hired Hi ...more
Jul 02, 2013 Eretrece rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: people interested in history, literature or education
Recommended to Eretrece by: my granny
The History Boys by Alan Bennett is by no means a bad play. Or at least that is what I have to assume due to other people's ratings. But personally, I did not enjoy reading it for the following reasons:

1. There were quite a lot of characters who were all introduced relatively soon, making it hard for me to tell them apart.

2. The play contained a lot of references to history as well as literature that I could not understand.

3. Somewhere near the beginning there was a scene in French, which I coul
Jun 19, 2007 Skip rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great play. I've only read it. I'd love to see a stage production.
Imagine, an education that actually gives people an experience and challenges them...
But it definitely had some classic lines such as this scene when Hector and Mrs. Lintott are discussing H. fondling he boys' balls.
Mrs. Lintott: A grope is a grope. It's not the annunciation.
(That's hilarious.)

Or the scene when Hector and Posner are reading Thomas Hardy.
Hector: The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a
Dull. Mind-numbingly dull.
After three months of AS English Literature, I have come to the conclusion that I am, in fact, stupid. This just seemed like a pretentious load of bull to me, honestly. The five pages of French really was uncalled for, even though I managed to grasp most of it, a translation in the footnotes might have been helpful.
I spent way too much time attempting to trudge through the dreary introduction before finally progressing to the actual play, but I'm sorry to say it didn'
Jul 17, 2007 Letitia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
While I must acknowledge the brilliant writing structure of this story, I was appalled at the way the plot unraveled. With subtlety, amusement, and a gentle understanding of humanity, we are somehow led into a world where pedophilia is no longer the horrendous crime it well deserves to be categorized as. Teachers fondling their students are treated with amusement and a degree of tenderness and sympathy. Relationships that, if they appear on stage at all, should only be portrayed as the worst per ...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

Alan Bennett is an English author and Tony Award-winning playwright. Bennett's first stage play, Forty Years On, was produced in 1968. Many television, stage and radio plays followed, along with screenplays, short stories, novellas, a large body of non-fictional prose and broadcasting, and many appearances as
More about Alan Bennett...

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“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.” 3192 likes
“How do I define history? It's just one fucking thing after another” 133 likes
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