Book review: ‘Fake History’ is

Book review: ‘Fake History’ is a no-nonsense look at the real thing

In his new book, ‘Fake History: Ten Great Lies and How They Shaped the World’, journalist Otto English tackles 10 great lies from history and unpacks how modern beliefs about the past have been shaped.

Book review: ‘Fake History’ is
  • Lincoln believed that all men were equal;
  • Hitler was a failed artist; and
  • The good old days were good.

These are just some of the widely-held beliefs that British author and journalist Otto English (the pen name of Andrew Scott) tackles in his latest book, Fake History: Ten Great Lies and How They Shaped the World. English invites readers to travel back into history — but this is not a tour you would have been on before.

From the battlefields of World War 2, to the “discovery” of America, English takes a magnifying glass to history and our modern-day beliefs, examining how they were shaped and changed over time to become the “great stories” we know them as today.

Not your average history book

What sets Fake History apart from other works in this non-fiction field, is that the author does not merely point out the lies in the things that we hold as truths about the past, but he examines how these beliefs have been formed over time. He outlines the many intricate channels that some of history’s “great stories” have travelled through and which hands helped shape them.

With dry humour and a refreshingly casual style, English unpacks a very complex phenomenon – history and storytelling. Fake History is a standout in 2021 non-fiction and we can all learn something new in its pages, even the avid historians among us.

‘Fake History’: Memorable quotes

Statues are not harmless artifacts. They deliberately contrive to shore up narratives that attribute all of history and its deeds to a carefully selected group of mostly male individuals.

Our ancestors were born out of chaos and into chaos. Humans have a need for order and logic and reassurance amid the anarchy of the universe and the terrifying randomness of it all. We see patterns of animals and ploughs in the night sky -where there are none. Many pray in times of need. So, like us, they sought to impose order on the things they could not understand and created gods and spirits.

In short, the “dominant narrative” of history has, for the last thousand years at least, been dictated by the “dominant people” and that means that it has been written by white males, about white males, for white males.

It is important to remember that the history of the world is not simply one of “great men” but of the very many more supposedly ordinary people. The majority. The individuals whose lives got tangled up in the power games of politicians, emperors, and kings. The nameless soldiers on the fields of Culloden or Waterloo. The victims of the Irish and Bengal famines. The Mongol horsemen of Genghis Khan’s army. I have dubbed them the “pawns of history”, the people who have been reduced to extras in the “big events”. The millions who, throughout time, were obliged to sweat, toil and suffer as a result of – or for- the ambitions of others.


Journalist and author Otto English takes apart ten of the greatest lies from history and shows how our present continues to be twisted and manipulated by the fabrications of the past.

Much of what we assume to be true or are encouraged to believe to be true is simply wrong. Whether propagated by politicians and think tanks, populists or the media, the family tales of childhood or your Facebook friend’s feed – fake history is everywhere and it impacts, ever more, on our modern world.

This book dismantles the lazy and pernicious tropes of the past as Otto English sets out to redress the balance and reclaim truth from those who seek to pervert it.

Fake History will expose everything you weren’t told in school and reveal why you weren’t taught it.


Otto English is the pen name of author and journalist Andrew Scott. From 2010, Scott began writing and tweeting about politics and history, gaining attention for his itinerant blog. He moved into journalism and has since written for Politico, the Independent, New Statesman, Daily Mail and many other publications.

He has always been fascinated by the writing of history and the creation of political narratives, and has spoken about them on BBC News, BBC Radio 4 and LBC.

Fake History is published by Welbeck Publishing and is available at Exclusive Books for R297.