Historian and bibliophile Elizabeth P. Archibald loves perusing old textbooks, pamphlets, and etiquette books. They can be as funny as they are informative. Some of the advice is still incredibly relevant today, but other tips are so ridiculous and far-fetched they have you laughing out loud. Archibald has been sharing the most amusing ones in her blog, Ask The Past, which has now become a book.
Ask The Past has tips on how to get rid of bed bugs (sprinkle bed with gunpowder and let smoulder), how to avoid pregnancy (tie some weasel testicals or goat innards around your neck), how to tell if someone is dead (apply lightly roasted onion to his nostrils), and lots more. Each piece of advice is accompanied by Archibald's snarky commentary, which is often funnier and doubles the entertainment.
My only problem is with the lack of organization. The tips follow a random sequence. A 18th century tip on medicine may be followed by a Medieval one on how to dance without losing your codpiece. This randomness works very well in blogs, but books should be better organized. I would have loved to see the tips divided by topics and listed in chronological order. That way, the reader could easily jump to the section she is most interested in and see how knowledge about the subject has evolved throughout the centuries.
Even so, Ask The Past is well-worth a read. It'll have you in stitched from behinning to the end. And if you know someone who thinks history can't be funny, give her a copy. You may just convert her and turn her into a history geek.
Ask the Past: Pertinent and Impertinent Advice from Yesteryear is full of hilarious advice from our ancestors. Although it is badly organized, it'll have you laughing out loud from beginnng to end.