05 September 2005

Worst Jobs In History (Spire/Channel4, 2004)

Tony Robinson, perhaps best known for his role as Baldrick in the Blackadder Series, hosts this vivid series about some truly awful jobs throughout Britain's history from the Roman and Anglo-Saxon times through to the Victorian Age.

Most of the jobs which Robinson highlights in the Worst Jobs in History are either smelly and dirty or put the worker directly in harms way either through risk of death or injury or risk of disease. Consider for example the wode dyer, responsible for dying wool and cloth with wode to produce a deep indigo colour. The problem (aside from blue hands) was the stench of the wode as it was steeping; the smell was so strong that Queen Elizabeth decreed the dyers could not live within 5 miles of any royal residence.

Robinson draws the viewer in by actually performing some of the jobs himself, or at least parts of the jobs, and describing the smell of some of the stinkiest jobs in great detail. Along the way the viewer not only learns about the social history of the British people but also the origin of words and phrases like "toady" and "pin money" which survive today.

Some of the jobs are also a bit grizzly (executioner, violin-string maker, mill-scavenger) and parental discretion may be in order. Otherwise, the series is highly recommended for older children (over 12) and adults.

Buy the book: Worst Jobs In History: The Most Unenviable Jobs Of The Last Two Thousand Years

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