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Thank you so much to Hank Green for helping me out with this ABH! And thank you to Michael Aranda for lending his wonderful sound design skills to this episode :)

Also, check out our other collab, "A Brief History Of Homestar Runner" over on the Vlogbrothers channel (AAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!)


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Ryder Burgin
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Hello and welcome to another episode of a brief history. Today's episode: Harry Potter. Ready? Set? Go!

Somewhere between Manchester and London 1990 a train gets delayed. On this train, 25-year-old Joanne Rowling is surprised to have a young, black-haired, visually impaired wizard boy fall onto her lap. She proceeded to spend the next four hours frustrated at her lack of writing implements, day dreaming about wizard school. Soon after, she began writing what would eventually become Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Nearly six years later in 1995, Joanne completes this manuscript and sends it to the Christopher Little Agency because she liked the name. Bryan Evans, the manager of the slush pile at the agency, picked up Rowling's submission because, according to her, she liked the folder. It made her laugh, so she slipped it into the pile of stuff that the eponymous Mr. Little would read during his lunch. He decided that they'd rep (?) this young lady and her wizard book, and four days later she had an agent. 

And then nine rejections in maybe he started regretting it. Publishers said that it was classist and that no one went to boarding schools and young adult's fiction should be realistic, dangit! But, Barry Cunningham at Bloomsbury showed some interest, and, according to his memory, paid two thousand pounds for the British rights to a book that would eventually go on to sell over a hundred million copies. They printed five hundred hardcovers of the first addition, thinking that maybe eventually the book would earn out that two thousand pound advance. If you have one of those five hundred hardcover first editions, you might want to head over to eBay because it's worth over forty thousand dollars. 

But that's still a ways off in our story. Jo's real success came after Christopher Little convinced her not to sell the American rights right away, but instead to do everything she could do to scrape by while waiting for the book to get some traction in the UK. Needless to say, it worked and after a year of waiting, they sold the book to Scholastic for over one hundred thousand dollars. Arthur Levine at Scholastic thought it would earn out this amount in about ten years. And yet that money took quite a lot of time to come in. While she worked on the second book in the series, Chamber of Secrets, Rowling was still living in a one bedroom apartment. Her only income for that year was an eight thousand pound grant from the Scottish arts council. 

In 1997, Philosopher's Stone won the prestigious Smarties prize for children's literature; by the end of 1998, it had sold over seventy thousand copies in the UK, and Chamber of Secrets had debuted at number one on the British best-seller list--the first children's book ever to do that in the UK. Now remember, it's common for books to come out at different times in different countries, and that was the case for Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban. 1999 became the true tipping point of the series, as fans in the US started paying outrageous prices for companies to ship them copies of Chamber, which actually came out in the UK before Philosopher's stone came out in the US under the name Sorcerer's stone. 

So Scholastic went a little nuts trying to figure out what to do and what they did was speed up the release. So, during 1999, there were three releases: Prisoner of Azkaban in the UK, and Chamber of Secrets and Azkaban in the US. Everything was set for the first international simultaneous release of the fourth book, Goblet of Fire in the year 2000. By this time, the internet had reached critical mass, Harry Potter become a phenomenon and the publishers set a midnight release date at 3:45 PM so that kids would have time to get in line but wouldn't have to stay up past their bedtimes. The news cameras got their shots of the kids lined up around the block for the book and Harry Potter was secured as a cultural phenomenon that if you hadn't read, you had at least heard about. 

Goblet of Fire's release literally broke the New York Times bestseller list. It's hard to imagine this, but before Harry Potter, only on e kid's book had ever been on the list--Charlotte's Web, which was there for three weeks more than fifty years ago. By the time Goblet of Fire came out, Sorcerer's Stone had been on the list for eighty weeks and the three sequels were also taking up valuable spots, so when they came out the New York Times split the list eight ways so that Rowling wouldn't have 40% of it all to herself.

Since its debut in 1997, the Harry Potter series has become one of the most popular and successful book series in history, selling over 450 million copies across all seven books as of July 2013. It wasn't only a great achievement for a single book; it was a great achievement for children's books in general, which since Harry Potter changed the landscape, have been some of the most popular books in the world.

And from here you probably know the story: Chris Columbus is secured to make the first of a series of Harry Potter movies, Order of the Phoenix has a 6.4 million copy first printing, a record that was only broken by Half-Blood Prince with a 10.8 million copy first printing, a record that was then only broken and still held by the 12 million copy first printing of the Deathly Hallows. The movies have grossed over 9 billion dollars, and the books have sold more than 450 million copies. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is the fourth best selling nuvel. Nuvel? Nuvel?!? Did I really just say nuvel? Of ever!

And of course, books and movies would be a terrible place to stop. Most movies get action figures, lunch boxes, posters, and t-shirts, but rarely do they get their own theme parks, conventions, musical genres, and massive interactive websites. Rowling has gone on to write several more successful novels outside of the wizarding world, but as we have all hoped, she is returning with a series of screen plays revolving around the live of Newt Scamander, the fictitious author of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a short humorous textbook that Rowling wrote for charity. It and its companion book, Quidditch through the ages, have raised over 17 million pounds for the aid organization comic relief. 

Harry Potter isn't just a franchise; it became a world-wide phenomenon, a cultural movement that has completely changed people's lives no matter their age. It's the kind of thing that only happens once a generation or even once in a lifetime: a story so epic and fantastical and yet so down to earth and relatable. From the books and the films to the countless songs and fan fictions, Harry Potter serves a true testament to how even the tiniest spark of imagination can lead to something amazing. And twenty four years after that train ride to London, it seems that the Boy Who Lived will never die. Thanks for watching, guys. DFTBA.

Thanks for watching a brief history of Harry Potter with Ryder Burgen (?) and me, Hank Green. You can watch a bunch of other brief history videos here at the foot of a ferret YouTube channel including the brief history of me and my brother, the Vlogbrothers. Or you can go watch the brief history of Homestar Runner video that Ryder and I just did on the Vlogbrothers. Or, if you're super bored, you can find more of me on Vlogbrothers and Sci Show and crash course and games with hank. Thanks for watching. DFTBA. 

Okay, I think that that's everything. Uhh... Okay. Yeah. All right. Let's hope that that's everything. Let me know if you need anything else. Thank you..okay good byyyyye.