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The History Boys

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  7,395 ratings  ·  314 reviews
An unruly bunch of bright, funny sixth-form boys in pursuit of sex, sport and a place at university. A maverick English teacher at odds with the young and shrewd supply teacher. A headmaster obsessed with results; a history teacher who thinks he's a fool.

In Alan Bennett's classic play, staff room rivalry and the anarchy of adolescence provoke insistent questions about hist
Paperback, 109 pages
Published June 17th 2004 by Faber Faber (first published 2004)
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Community Reviews

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4.07  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,395 ratings  ·  314 reviews

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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
Jun 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: plays
Bennett at his best: witty, erudite and controversial.

This play is set in the 1980s in a boys’ grammar school (no fees to pay, but students have to pass exams to gain admission) 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 int
Joey Woolfardis
[First read: 7th March, 2014
Second read: 22nd August, 2015]

"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."

The BBC did a programme celebrating 50 years of the National Theatre in 2013 and The History Boys was one of them. It was a
Jun 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 11, 2008 rated it did not like it
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 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Stef Smulders
Jun 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: did-not-finish
Not lucky with this one: ebook lacks the direction instructions and in the filmscript the scenes are extremely short, not suitable to be read as a story without the staging. Gave up.
Aug 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: plays
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
Oct 29, 2014 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
Jul 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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,
Apr 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Dane Cobain
Apr 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Despite the fact that I’ve read a few Alan Bennett books before, this one is the first of his plays. That’s kind of weird to me because I predominantly know of him as a playwright, but this one was worth the wait. Bennett just has a knack for writing great dialogue and so plays are the perfect medium for him to write in, and some of the lines almost reminded me of Oscar Wilde.

All in all then, this was a fun little read that I sped right through.
Sep 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
The play is a great read for many reasons and all of them deeply resonated with me. Most important was the devotion to the importance of language (centered on the "dictionary" boy role of Posner) and music and ideas, more clearly emphasized in the play than in the screenplay for the film (also written by Bennett).

The play contrasts 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
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
Ned Gill
Jan 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 //
Jul 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I love reading plays. This was wonderfully written.
Roger Brunyate
Jun 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sui-generis, history
Play of Ideas

Although I work in the theater, I read this play with no thought of staging it, or even imagining it staged. It is just a pure play of ideas—brilliant, intriguing, often funny ideas—jostling together in a kind of imaginary space, with very little of the mechanics of stage-directions and settings. Indeed, although I am sure that Nicholas Hytner's original staging at Britain's National Theatre and again on Broadway must have been brilliant, the description of it in the foreword sound
Oct 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think it's cheating to count this as "reading" but it's such a treat to listen to, and I do want to hit my reading goal so....

R.I.P. Richard Griffiths, who brings so much to this audio recording. Everyone's great obviously, as was the film (and the live performance surely was) but Hector's longing is so much more palpable in this version.
'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
Jul 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer-reads
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 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Kathryn Green
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
Pollapollina Books
3 stelle perché mi piace come scrive Bennett e ci sono alcuni spunti interessanti. Ma non amo particolarmente leggere i testi teatrali, forse perché faccio fatica a seguirli e quindi mi è sembrato che mancasse un po' di sostanza.
Barry Turner
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
I am a late arrival at the platform containing one of the most hyped plays of modern times. Alan Bennett, lugubrious Yorkie, has been feted like some kind of colossus of literature for this tale of 80s grammar school sixth-formers aspiring to the silver spires of Oxford or Cambridge.  Perhaps because I was not caught up in the critical storm of approval for the theatre production, and later movie,  that I can take a more dispassionate view. One thing struck me immediately as discordant - the set ...more
Emma Getz
Dec 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: theatre
I just randomly picked up this play after finding it at a book sale and I have to say it really, really is not what I expected.

As a history major, though, I appreciated one of the main ideas communicated through the work. That is, historians, and for that matter many types of academics and journalists, separate themselves so much from history itself that it becomes a job, a game, a means to an end or a profit/reward. There is a huge pressure to deliver a "hot take," a new perspective that will c
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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
“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.” 3578 likes
“How do I define history? It's just one fucking thing after another” 154 likes
More quotes…