King Arthur Is Real But Winston Churchill Is Made Up?

This just in: A recent poll of British teenagers showed that while 65% believed that King Arthur was real, 23% believed that Winston Churchill was entirely made up!

Also, notable figures like Robin Hood (51%), Sherlock Holmes (58%), and Eleanor Rigby (47%) were considered real, while a large number thought Richard The Lionheart (47%), and Florence Nightingale (23%) are made up.

Read the article for yourself at Telegraph.co.uk.

Why are so many ignorant of real history? The poll also revealed that 77% never read history books, and 61% changed channels when historical programs came on television.

Sadly, I doubt that Americans would fare any better.

Now one gripe I have with this survey is that some of the “fictional” characters, like King Arthur, are possibly based on historical people. Embellishments have happened over time, making the original truth obscure, but that does not mean that there is no original truth. And it does not mean that there was no original person (or persons) that the legends were based on.

As an author writing a book about King Arthur, this does make me concerned. That is one of the reasons that I am working on my King Arthur website at KingArthur.org.uk. My goal with this website it to promote knowledge of King Arthur, both legendary and historical, and the difference between the two.

Maybe I can be part of helping to reverse that trend!

Anyway … there is a bit of King Arthur trivia for you which at least shows his popularity.

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4 thoughts on “King Arthur Is Real But Winston Churchill Is Made Up?

  • Robert, so does that mean that 77% of British teenagers believe Churchill is real?

    While I agree that is a disturbing statistic I do wonder how much immigration influences the amount of history about a nation in it’s general population.

    We’re quickly turning into a bit of a global society. How do you suppose that will affect things like this in the future?

  • Chris,

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a very insightful comment. I had not thought about immigration and its affect on the survey. Certainly there has been a lot of immigration to Britain, and that alone might explain the results.

    Education is not just what is taught in the schools, but it is what is passed on by parents. If a child’s parents come from another culture, then it would be normal (and good) for them to be teaching their home country’s cultural traditions and history rather than their adopted host country.

    I react two different ways on this. Part of me says, “Then that just underscores how much harder the public schools need to be teaching history,” but another part of me says, “By whose definition?” There has been a lot of historical revisionism that has taken place, and this brings up the issue of who is in charge of our children’s education.

    As a homeschool parent, it would be obvious where I fall in that spectrum! My wife and I are ultimately the ones responsible to make sure our kids know accurate history, and I think that would apply to anyone, homeschooling or not.

    But that puts people who have moved to another country in a bind, because the parents might not know their host country’s history. That would be a big challenge. It is hard enough to move to another country.

    I don’t know, maybe this survey speaks more about the power of media and how glued in to the television this generation has become. Teachers have a tough job.

    Great point, Chris!

  • I found your site via the Stephen Lawhead forums (I’m Acrux there).

    I came across this survey and had a similar reaction to yours, especially with regard to the confluence of the real, fictional, and mythological people mentioned in the survey.

    I think that’s overall a minor point, however. Without knowing the study methodology, or seeing all the data, it does seem strange that the “real” and “false” people are nearly reversed in the survey responses. Quite strange. I think what you say above about the power of media is dead-on. Maybe we just ultra-Hollywoodize historical people and events so that they become household names? ;)

    (By the way, it’s nice to find a kindred spirit!)

  • Ryan,

    Thanks for visiting! I really enjoy the Stephen Lawhead forums … I discovered them a long time ago but didn’t join until just recently. Lots of kindred spirits there, and glad you found me!!

    It was odd that they used “opposite” percentages, which made me have to make a mental flip-flop to figure out what they were saying. However, in some way it makes sense since they were both “incredulity” percentages, so they were comparable.

    I wonder how I would do on a survey like that? Hopefully better, but I’m always amazed at the holes in my own knowledge. I think it wasn’t until I was 20 that I figured out how “Wednesday” was spelled!

    -Robert

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