The History Boys
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The History Boys

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  3,817 ratings  ·  161 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, enlighten
...more
play, 109 pages
Published June 17th 2004 by Faber and Faber Limited
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Manny
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...more
Cecily
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...more
Tom
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...more
Mghulett
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
Cheryl
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...more
El
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
James
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
Tony
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...more
Tung
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
Eretrece
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...more
stephanie
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,...more
Núria
'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
Skip
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...more
Alexandra Middleton
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'...more
Leigh
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...more
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...more
Skip
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
Maurinejt
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
Bridget
I have a sort of quiet affection for this play that sneaks up on me whenever I read it. Complex, witty and strangely melancholy, it really made me think, as well as laugh at society. What amazes me the most is how little plot there appears to be on the surface - the boys sit in a classroom and get taught how to get into Oxbridge. When I first started the book that seemed to be all there was to it. But afterwards, there comes a realisation that the attempts of the boys to enter university is actu...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...more
Jonathan
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."
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...more
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
Kari
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.
Ceilidh
The perfect encapsulation of the joy, the value and the importance of education for all.
Cody
"History...it's just one fucking thing after another."
HNC Library
This play was read by Ryan Hutton & Laura Ellis for the Engish studies and reviewed as part of the Six Book Challenge.
Here is what Laura has to say:
"This book I am analysing in my English class and although it is a very humourous book I can't help but be shocked about the risque topics involved in a school environment. From locked doors to groping boys on a bike ride home, the boundary between student and teacher are tested to the limit. An interesting read, but not one of my ususal taste in...more
Sophie G
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Angélique
3 1/2 Stars. I can't recall what made me interested in this play a few years ago, nor can I explain exactly what I have gained from it now that I've read it...but there is definitely something touching and soul-trembling about this play. It connects with something beyond cognition and verbalization so that one encounters the play on two levels--one concerned with the reality which the play represents and the other concerned with the emotional current which gently prods reality forward--much as t...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Red
  • Assassins
  • The Invention of Love
  • Take Me Out: A Play
  • In the Next Room, or the vibrator play
  • The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?
  • The Seafarer
  • I Am My Own Wife
  • Bent
  • Closer
  • The Pillowman
  • Rabbit Hole
  • Spring Awakening
  • Ruined
  • Cloud 9
  • Metamorphoses
  • Three Plays: Gruesome Playground Injuries / Animals Out of Paper / Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
  • Stop Kiss
11781
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
More about Alan Bennett...
The Uncommon Reader Smut The Clothes They Stood Up In Talking Heads Untold Stories

Share This Book

“How do I define history? It's just one fucking thing after another"
- Rudge”
93 likes
“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.” 38 likes
More quotes…