On This Day in History Sh!t Went Down


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October 10, 2023 | ISBN 9780593794005

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About the Book

The hilarious, irreverent guide to world history you never knew you needed, featuring 366 profanity-filled tales of triumph and terror, science and stupidity, courage and cowardice

Those who cannot remember the past . . . need a history teacher who says “f*ck” a lot.

Nazis are bad. The worst kind of bad. There are no very fine people among them. If you disagree, you won’t like this book.

Still here? Cool. You are about to receive an education unlike any you’ve previously experienced. In this uproarious and informative tour from ancient times to the modern day and everything in between,  James Fell, the self-proclaimed “sweary historian,” reveals a past replete with deeds both noble and despicable. Throughout the book, he provides insightful analysis of all the sh!t that went down. Behold!

• In 1927, actress Mae West was sent to jail for “corrupting the morals of youth” with her first Broadway play, titled Sex. She served the time and followed up with a play about homosexuality.
• In 1419, church reformers in Prague, vexed over their leader having been burned at the stake, defenestrated city leaders from a high window. They died, because those kinds of Czechs don’t bounce.
• If you were in the province of Shaanxi in China on January 23, 1556, then it sucked to be you. It wasn’t the biggest earthquake ever, but it was the deadliest day in history.
• In 362 B.C.E., a battle between Greek city states debilitated both sides, making the region ripe for conquering by Phillip of Macedon—aka Alex the Great’s dad—and spelling the end of Greek democracy.
• In 1343, the husband of noblewoman Jeanne de Clisson was unjustly executed by the king of France. Furious, Jeanne became a pirate, selling all her possessions to fund a fleet and exact revenge.
• During World War II, three Dutch teens used their beauty to lure Nazis into the forest with the promise of a good time, then out came the guns and BLAM! They sent them off to Nazi hell.

If reading history doesn’t make you want to swear like a mom with a red-wine hangover walking barefoot through a LEGO-filled living room, then you’re not reading the right history. Across the ages, over 100 billion humans have lived and died. Some were motivated by greed, others by generosity. Many dedicated themselves to the art of killing, while others were focused on curing. There have been grave mistakes, and moments of greatness. And that is why . . . sh!t happens. Every day.
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On This Day in History Sh!t Went Down


Does a bear shit in the woods? Duh. Does a horse shit in the house? If you don’t want it stolen by mutineers during the American Revolution and the best place to hide said horse is in a second-floor bedroom, then yeah, the horse shits in your house. This, in part, is the story of Tempe Wick.

Tempe was a woman, not a horse. The horse’s name was Colonel. Anyf***ingway, mutiny.

The Pennsylvania Line Mutiny began on January 1, 1781, among Continental Army soldiers. If you’re American, those were the good guys. Regardless, they were pissed about not getting paid for being shot at by those tea-drinking asswipes in the red coats.

The Pennsylvania soldiers were treated like shit. In addition to no pay, the housing conditions were deplorable. Even General George Washington agreed. Literally, their rights were being violated; the state of Pennsylvania disregarded their terms of enlistment. So, they mutinied in Morristown, New Jersey, shooting one of their captains in the process, and headed for Philadelphia on New Year’s Day. Yes, alcohol was involved.

Why Philadelphia? Because that’s where the Continental Congress was located. They intended to confront the assembled Founding Fathers and other rich white dudes and say hey motherf***ers army life sucks make it suck less please. For anyone paying attention on January 6, 2021, such banging on the doors of Congress may seem eerily familiar. Except not really. Unlike the deranged followers of Tangerine Palpatine, the 1781 mutineers had no intention of actually harming any members of Congress.

So, a horse shits in a house. The mutineers raided supplies for their journey, including horses. Tempe Wick, age twentytwo, lived in Jockey Hollow, New Jersey. Her father recently deceased, she cared for her sick mother and mentally ill brother. Her mother’s health took a downward turn, and Tempe rode Colonel to fetch the doctor. Along the way, three mutineers intercepted her and said give us that f***ing horse. She said okay, asking the soldier holding Colonel’s bridle to help her dismount. Chivalry not being dead, he said sure and the moment he let go of the bridle she said, “Psych!” and kicked Colonel into a gallop.

January 1, 1781

The soldiers knew where she lived, so putting Colonel in the barn wouldn’t suffice. She led the equine upstairs and had him stand on a feather mattress to muffle his hooves, hiding him there for three weeks. Three weeks? That’s a whole mess of horseshit. Fortunately, the soldiers never thought to search the second floor and she got to keep the family quadruped.

And the mutineers? The British said hey come fight for us we’ll pay you. They said we’re mutineers not traitor traitors, so get fornicated. Then the Pennsylvania government cut a deal with the mutineers in midJanuary that brought an end to the crisis. Inspired by this, the New Jersey Line mutinied days later and Washington said not this bullshit again and crushed the mutiny by force.

Lotta crazy shit happened in Spain in 1492. The crown financed Columbus raping a continent, they kicked out the Jews, and they also finally kicked out the Muslims. I say “finally” because they had been fighting since the Muslims invaded the region over seven centuries earlier. The Spanish victory was deemed a reconquering of their own territory. That’s why they called it the Reconquista.

January 2, 1492

By 711, a mere century after it had begun, Islam had spread across North Africa and crossed the Strait of Gibraltar to invade the Iberian Peninsula. How did it spread so far so fast? The same way many religions spread, not through peaceful explanation of the revelations of the prophet but by the sword. Convert, or die.

At the time of the Muslim conquest, the region that would come to be known as Spain and Portugal was a divided Visigoth kingdom that could not mount a unified defense against Muslim invaders, and over the next fifteen years the invaders conquered most of the peninsula, with the exception of the northwest corner. And it was from that corner the Reconquista launched, pretty much right away, but wow was it slow going.

Almost eight motherf***ing centuries of fighting to take back the territory, which of course involved the forcible conversion of Muslims (and Jews) to Christianity. On January 2, 1492, the Emirate of Granada in the southeast of Spain, the final Muslim stronghold on the peninsula, surrendered to the Christian forces.

The interesting thing is that during the Islamic occupation of Spain, the invaders had been pretty tolerant of other religions, and many Christians and Jews and Muslims lived side by side, mostly in peace. Muslims had little tolerance for polytheists because ONE GOD! But since Jews and Christians are monotheists (mostly), you could keep those faiths if you were willing to pay extra taxes for the privilege.

But as the reconquest moved south, the tolerance for anything not Christian was paltry, and this included Jews. A few months after the surrender at Granada, there was a decree that any Jews remaining in the country had to convert to Christianity or get the f*** out. And many did convert, but others refused. Approximately 100,000 Jews were expelled, and thousands died during their flight.

They say no one expects the Spanish Inquisition, but they kinda telegraphed that shit.

The focus of this story takes place a decade previous, but I must begin by saying that the end of the shogunate in Japan deserved a better Hollywood telling than Tom Cruise as a white savior for a lost cause in The Last Samurai. Watching that movie, I kind of wanted the samurai to lose. And lose they did, because they brought knives to a gunfight. They were really big and very sharp knives, but the guys fighting for the Meiji Empire had rapid-firing rifles. Some putz with a few weeks’ rifle training can kill the shit out of almost anyone who’s spent their life studying the blade, so long as they keep their distance.

Now to our story. In 1600, after winning the Battle of Sekigahara, the Tokugawa Shogunate came to rule Japan by ending the period of civil wars that had lasted over a century. One of the first things they did was kick out all the dirty foreigners, especially the Christians trying to convert their population. Thus began a period of over two centuries of peace, prosperity, and isolation from Western influences.

By the mid-nineteenth century, the shogunate was in decline, and in 1853 the American navy showed up to negotiate a treaty to open the country to trade. The Japanese took one look at how technologically advanced these foreign ships were and went oh f*** we need to get some of that. And so, there was a revolution to overthrow the isolationist factions of the shogunate and restore imperial rule in Japan and open the country to foreign technology so it wouldn’t be colonized by countries with far superior weaponry.

About the Author

James Fell
JAMES FELL is the author the syndicated column "In-Your-Face Fitness" for the Chicago Tribune and Tribune Newspapers and interviews celebrities about their fitness regimens for the Los Angeles Times. He is senior fitness columnist for Chatelaine.com and AskMen.com. He has published more than a hundred articles with AOL as the "Fit Family Guy." He lives in Calgary, Alberta, where he also works as a fitness consultant. www.bodyforwife.com. More by James Fell
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Random House Publishing Group