An example for the use of "potted history":

The potted history of P-values, at least when told by certain sorts of Bayesians, is that they were an invention of R. A. Fisher that set scientific inference on the wrong basis for the better part of a century. For instance, Nate Silver spends a whole chapter on this potted history in his recent book.


1 Answer 1


A potted history is brief, a quick summary. Potted meat is meat, usually not of the highest quality, processed and preserved in a tin. The expression is often used in a derogatory way, as it is in your example.

Let's see... yes, Merriam Webster gives as an example quote under "potted":

briefly and superficially summarized- a dull, pedestrian potted history — Times Literary Supplement

But, if you were to say, for example, "In the interest of time, I'll just give a potted history of this...", there would be no negative connotation.

This does not correspond to the American "canned", which carries the strong connotation of artificial and stale. "Canned history" would be understood and humorous, but it is not an idiom. In American, "the cliff-notes version" is often used, from a well-known series of booklets for students of brief, condensed summaries of famous texts. This too is often but not always used in some derogatory sense.

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