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The History Boys

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  4,775 ratings  ·  189 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 January 1st 2004)
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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
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
Sep 11, 2008 Tom rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  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
May 06, 2012 Cheryl rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cheryl by: Cait
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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 1 of 5 stars
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
'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
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'
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
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
Pete daPixie
First published and premiered in 2004, Alan Bennett's play 'The History Boys' inherits much from the authors own experiences of his school days in Leeds and Oxbridge. The character of Posner in this play portrays many features of the sixteen year old Bennett.
A short read, with a play barely more than one hundred pages, I can never say that a cold script reading compares anything like a stage performance. Even so, Alan Bennett's effeminacy and his delicate parochial phraseology never fails to mak
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
I suppose I really went into History Boys envisioning something like Dead Poet's Society. Other than the setting, the boys' boarding school with an unusual teacher, the directions taken in the two works are very different. The History Boys involves a group of boys from a less than prepossessing prep school being coached for scholarship entrance exams into Cambridge or Oxford. It describes the warring styles of two unconventional teachers, their old mentor who teaches them whatever he thinks they ...more
Will Gillham
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
I am glad to hear this play won a Tony Award. I listened to a great audio production by BBC Radio with Richard Griffiths as Hector. He's brilliant.
This play hits upon many topics interesting to me: importance of art & literature, goals of education, human weakness, truth vs. appearances, persona vs. identity. Bennett's wit is very sharp and his insights thought-provoking.
A favorite quote from the play:
"How do I define history? It's just one f***ing thing after another."
I really don't know what to say about this one. There are some heavy subjects being handled in this book (mostly homosexuality and teacher molestation of students), but some of the lines were really witty and funny. Now, I didn't go to a boy's school in England in the 80s- I went to a co-ed public high school in Wisconsin, USA, in the early 2000s (2006-2010), so I can't necessarily relate. But all the characters pretty much felt the same, and the lack of stage direction made this a great play to ...more
Education, Literature, the North, wisecracks, comedy in French, WHAT'S NOT TO LIKE?

Would love to teach this for IB. Genre study? Could link to other texts via Class? Education?

As an aside, it was strange to read this in the current Operation Yewtree/Notarise climate of hysteria and come across exchanges like this:

Dakin: Are we scarred for life, do you think?
Scripps: We must hope so. Perhaps it will turn me into Proust.

Also, a quote for the classroom wall:

Timms: I don't see how we can understand
Ayu Palar
Finally I found the script of History Boys in Bangkok. I gotta say that the script isn't very rich on stage directions, even though the dialogues are witty and quite entertaining. Due to the lack of stage directions, I had to imagine extra hard about the setting when an act takes place. Yet if you're concerned about education, this play is worth-reading. It'll enlighten your mind and heart.
Alice Percival
I read this book for a part of my GCSE English exam, I don't think I would have otherwise chosen to read this, but to my surprise I really enjoyed the thought-provoking story of the boys trying to get a place at Oxbridge universities.
My favourite character was Hector, because I just wish I could be half the the poet he was! I like that he comes out with brilliant and thoughtful quotes at any time during the play. I also really like Dakins character because he discusses his conquest with Fiona am
Dan Jacobson
An inquisitive, hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking ode to his own college days, Bennett's play 'The History Boys' sets up an argument in which we attempt to define the meaning of a good education. Being an Oxbridge applicant myself, I am currently surrounded by those partaking in various activities for the sole purpose of a university place. One could, like myself, be unashamedly naive and think that a place will be offered to someone showing passion and talent for the subject, rather than so ...more
This is the worst thing I have read in a long time. It deal with so many issues that still relevant in the school system, but it seems that the writer just wrote in certain thing for audience gratification. I would never recommend this book to anyone.
I found the banter between the characters amusing particularly between Dakin and Scripps. However despite enjoying the banter I felt the plot lacked in comparison.

This quote "Pass the parcel. That's sometimes all you can do. Take it, feel it and pass it on. Not for me, not for you, but for someone, somewhere, one day. Pass it on, boys. That's the game I want you to learn. Pass it on." in particular resonated with me. I like this quote because I feel as though it encapsulates the underlying mess
The perfect encapsulation of the joy, the value and the importance of education for all.
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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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“How do I define history? It's just one fucking thing after another"
- Rudge”
“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.” 70 likes
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