The book is precisely what it says it is: A distinctly dotty sort of a book which contains many and varied pieces of historical facts and information.
The book is separated into 31 different sections. Although the last section is a disclaimer which points out several key facts, such as an item in the book that is, in fact, a fiction, not a faction (sorry...) and there is also a very handy index, too.
What do we learn from Horrible Histories the Mad Miscellany? That the Romans used entire packs of attack dogs, which were dressed in canine suits of armour and then let off to do battle. Now, I must admit, I hadn't known that!
There's a section on gruesome games. It also helpfully points out why Romans called foreigners barbarians. Which I think I'd heard before, but can't swear to it.
It gives a page to the Roman gladiators, with each different type of gladiator illustrated with a very helpful line drawing. For those of us who believed that a 'gladiator is a gladiator' the news that there were, in point of fact, twelve different types or classes of gladiators might come as something of a surprise!
Pirates and their parrots also get their own section, as do some rather remarkable pirate flags. Some like those of Calico Jack and Henry Every both being variations on the traditional skull and crossbones, looked rather menacing, whilst others (Black Beard, for one) looked faintly risible, to be honest.
Also included is a remarkable set of rules by which pirates lived. Apparently the musicians on pirate ships were allowed Sundays as a day of rest. (Who knew pirate ships had musicians?)
There are also sections on historical hangings, murders and assassinations including the somewhat unsporting way that the Vikings dealt with Edmund, King of England. Although not mentioned in the book, I believe they performed the Blood Eagle on him. (Just check it out on Google...)
There's also duels that were deadly or dull, or sometimes both, and duels involving duelling women.
Historically greedy people are listed and seems to include mostly Roman Emperors. Funny, that!
There's also a section on medical matters including the cure for the common cold from the Middle Ages which called for mustard and onions to be inserted in the nose.
There's also a section of historically interesting rhymes including one about the Kaiser, and one about the murderer Mary Ann Cotton.
The book costs £9.99 from the Scholastic Press (ISBN 0-439-96803-8).