Ditch Professor Binns’s Class and Have a Blast from the Past with Harry Potter and History

In its latest installment in the History and Pop Culture Series, Wiley Publishing has just released Harry Potter and History, edited by Pace University Professor (and friend of this blog) Dr. Nancy Reagin, who also edited Twilight and History. It’s a wonderful collection written by historians from a diverse array of backgrounds covering topics from the real life Nicolas Flamel to the parallels between events in real human history and the history created by J.K. Rowling for her wizarding world.
There is something for every reader in this collection. Though I highly recommend reading the book from beginning to end (its organization follows a chronological structure in keeping with the historical timeline), one can jump in at nearly any point and enjoy a thoughtful, readable chapter (of a manageable length) that cleverly weaves in a strong knowledge of the Hogwarts adventures with fascinating and insightful historical analysis. Both readers with a strong background in history and those who are lucky to know their Goblin Wars from the Wars of the Roses will find the chapters engaging and approachable, but also stocked with rich treasure troves of information. Though I thoroughly enjoyed and learned from every chapter, my personal favorites were M.G Dupree’s analysis of the use of ancient languages in the wizarding world; Birgit Weidl’s two essays on historical uses of “magical” items like love potions and bezoars and on real-life oppression of “witches”; Nancy Reagin’s comparison of the Death Eaters and the Nazis (“I hate those guys!”); Susan’s Hall’s work on Hogwarts as a British boarding school and on class conflict in the wizarding world; and the excellent wrap-up essay in which Anne Rubenstein looks at historians and history-making as represented by Rowling.

Readers will learn not only about elements of history they may have never caught while dozing in history class, but will also discover new depths to the adventures of the boy wizard to enrich our reading of his story and to add to the appreciation of Rowling’s work in shaping the series.

Other useful tools include excellent notes with each chapter, leading the eager Hermione-types to further scholarly exploration, and a lovely timeline matching up seminal events in the Muggle world with those in the wizarding world. There is also a handy index, since many of the people and events crop up in various essays (that Nicholas Flamel! He really was around forever!), and the delightful biographies of the contributors, a Wiley staple.

Overall, this is a book no Harry Potter reader or history-lover should be without, and if there is someone on your Christmas list who is both a history-lover and a Harry fan, then you need to send your owl off right now with your order to Flourish and Blotts!


  1. Thanks for pointing this book out Elizabeth. Definitly going to get a copy.

  2. Melanie Lee says

    This book came out just in time for me to give it to my niece for her college graduation. She’s a Harry Potter buff–she owns all seven novels in hardcover!–and she studied to teach American History. I only got a chance to skim over the book before I gave it to her in June, but the timeline comparing Wizarding history and Muggle history looked fascinating!

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