What history should be in the UK citizenship test?

 
From left to right: Nelson's Clumn, the Queen, poppies, the union flag and Stonehenge

A new version of the UK citizenship test, with a greater focus on history, has been announced by the Home Office. Which events should immigrants be quizzed on?

Most British children learn about Henry VIII and his six wives, the Industrial Revolution and the two world wars.

But there's rarely agreement about what particular events are essential to a well-rounded knowledge of history.

The Home Office has now announced that a new version of the UK citizenship test will have more questions on British culture, history and traditions. The handbook Life in the United Kingdom has been updated.

Who will feature in the new test?

Sir Isaac Newton

The Home Office says key figures will feature in their questions, including:

While some historical information was included in the old handbook, there was less focus on history, the Home Office argues.

"Migrants did not have to show they had an understanding of how modern Britain has evolved. The new book and test will focus on events and people who have contributed to making Britain great," says a spokesman.

But how does learning about key historical moments tie into citizenship?

"History tells us who we are, where we came from and where we are going. It is the adhesive that knits our society together," says Christopher McGovern, director of the History Curriculum Association.

Comparing sample questions from the old and new citizenship tests, McGovern says the old test was too focused on access to welfare provision, such as free prescriptions, free legal advice, free healthcare and free training opportunities.

The new focus on the identity, history and culture of Britain will help migrants to integrate more successfully, he believes.

"Knowledge of the landmarks of British history is fundamental to securing and maintaining an integrated society based on shared values."

McGovern says that landmark historical events such as the location of Stonehenge, or who fought in the Battle of Trafalgar will give those new to the UK a starting point to learn about important periods of history.

"They are the signposts that guide us to a fuller understanding of Britain," he argues.

Some however, argue that multiple choice questions do not give enough context.

Start Quote

Britishness comes with time - you learn to queue and to be able to talk about the weather at length”

End Quote Iain Aitch

Historian and author Neil Storey says the questions are too simplistic and need to include the history of freedom, democracy and mutual respect "that we have prided ourselves on in Britain".

"We cannot have citizenship based upon what I would describe as a trivia test. It is essential to have a basic understanding of our history - good and bad - and the experiences of our nation at peace and war, because it defines who British people are."

The test, Storey adds, is a good start but it is equally important to learn how Britain has got to where it is, and what it has cost men and women to get there.

For example, people should learn about those who lost their lives during WWI and WWII, or the suffragettes who fought for women's rights to vote.

But will questions on a test - be it a school exam or a citizenship test - really encourage those taking it to learn more about the subject matter?

Historian Andrew Roberts believes it will help people appreciate "the long and splendid history of Britain".

Winston Churchill

"Anyone attempting to walk down a street in the UK without having any concept of this country's past is going to have a poorer understanding of life in Britain. These historical questions will help enrich migrants' lives."

But Iain Aitch, author of We're British, Innit, says while learning about history may be useful, it would be more relevant to learn what rhubarb or mushy peas are, as well as pub etiquette - like the custom of ordering a round of drinks in a bar.

"With any test people will learn what they need to. There may only be a small percentage who become interested in history.

"Britishness is something that comes with time. You learn to queue, not complain about your poor lunch and to be able to talk about the weather at length without saying much at all. Some things are nuanced and not really testable," adds Aitch.

New test sample questions* Old test sample questions

Which landmark is a prehistoric monument which still stands in the English county of Wiltshire?

(Stonehenge, Hadrian's Wall, Offa's Dyke or Fountains Abbey)

In the 1980s, the largest immigrant groups were from the West Indies, Ireland, India and Pakistan. TRUE OR FALSE?

What is the name of the admiral who died in a sea battle in 1805 and has a monument in Trafalgar Square, London?

(Cook, Drake, Nelson or Raleigh)

Which TWO of these are names for the Church of England?

(Methodist, Episcopal, Anglican, Presbyterian)

In 1801, a new version of the official flag of the United Kingdom was created. What is it often called?

(The British Standard, the Royal Banner, the St George Cross, the Union Jack)

How many parliamentary constituencies are there?

(464, 564, 646, 664)

Who is the Patron Saint of Scotland?

(St Andrew, St David, St George, St Patrick)

Is the following statement TRUE or FALSE?

Ulster Scots is a dialect which is spoken in Northern Ireland.

What flower is traditionally worn by people on Remembrance Day?

(Poppy, Lily, Daffodil, Iris)

In which year did married women get the right to divorce their husband?

(1837, 1857, 1875, 1882)

*New test taken from a sample of 10 questions provided by the Home Office. The old test taken from a sample from the official practice citizenship test.

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 564.

    Why make it a requirement of entry that people be shoehorned into some misshapen mould of supposed Britishness? Integration need not involve the adoption of some arbitrary set of British cultural norms. This nation is capable of supporting a multitude of distinct cultural identities and ways of life as long as everyone is keen to co-operate and make things work - that is what we need to test.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 563.

    #561. Tut tut surely racist? Who would want to cheer England cricket team on, when they live in England,and enjoy the benefits of living in England?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 562.

    165.Does it ask the applicants if they know that the USSR essentially won the second world war for us...?
    ---------------
    They not only won it, they occupied half of Europe, which was the kind of thing we were worried about when we went to war with Germany. And we helped them do it. They gained an Empire and we lost one. Funny thing, history.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 561.

    What was wrong with Norman Tebbit's cricket test???

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 560.

    557RATIONAL MAN

    Which was the first country to:
    Abolish slavery across the globe and unilaterally enforce the abolition?
    Become industrialised?
    Put the law of man above the law of god?
    Replace a Monarchy with a workable Democracy?
    Produce and adhere to a Citizens Charter?
    Acknowledge the right to Freedom of Speech?
    ===
    Dunno. But go on, gives us another clue.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 559.

    551.Stuart Wilson
    "the sack of York ... No - it'd be the action as committed by King Sweyn of Denmark to assist Northumbrians against the Normans. William didn't like this much and left the area between York/Durham as scorched earth."

    It was the English rebels and their Danish supporters who sacked York in 1069, slaying the Norman garrison.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 558.

    Hopefully the idiots holding our National flag upside down in your photo above wont pass the test and will be deported.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 557.

    Such questions should be about the evolution of British culture, tradition and society. Which was the first country to:
    Abolish slavery across the globe and unilaterally enforce the abolition?
    Become industrialised?
    Put the law of man above the law of god?
    Replace a Monarchy with a workable Democracy?
    Produce and adhere to a Citizens Charter?
    Acknowledge the right to Freedom of Speech?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 556.

    SurelyNot 474
    I want a 'passport' that does not 'Request and require in the name of her majesty' that I am allowed to travel.
    It's a universal right, not some pantomime dames call.

    Travel is not a universal right. Travellers are traipsing on the territories of others and a British passport might help them get in and be safe.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 555.

    I love the question about the poppy. Basically this is saying "we wear a poppy on Remembrance Day so please don't insult us by burning it"

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 554.

    My spouse is an US immigrant.Getting residency in this country is HARD! This test is a tiny piece of the process which costs over £2k in fees & 5 years of your life. The number of forms,appointments & info required is staggering. Each submitted in specific time frames, using the correct forms, in duplicate with supporting documentation. If ANY of that is wrong: no explanation no refunds NO VISA!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 553.

    Why do some people English/Scots/Welsh/Irish etc etc seem to think that because THEY don't think British is their nationality nobody else can have it as theirs? Some like me identify as British first, if the Jamaicans down my road can fly a Union Jack and the Jamaican flag, I can be from Sunderland and still appreciate my fellow Brits in Aberdeen or Wrexham. We are so similar after all.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 552.

    550.Wessex Man
    6 Minutes ago
    Maybe we should ask Cameron about History. After all he thought we were the 'Junior Partner to the USA' in the Battle Of Britian.


    +++

    Has he been watching "Churchill: The Hollywood Years" to get his history lessons?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 551.

    @546.all_about_news
    "Would that be the sack of York that Mel Gibson invented for his "historical" (sic) film Braveheart?"

    No - it'd be the action as committed by King Sweyn of Denmark to assist Northumbrians against the Normans. William didn't like this much and left the area between York/Durham as scorched earth. Quite telling though how York recovered when Bill took the remain of York back.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 550.

    Maybe we should ask Cameron about History. After all he thought we were the 'Junior Partner to the USA' in the Battle Of Britian.

    Also going by some inteviews seen on TV over the years,lots of people have no idea of th e History of the country.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 549.

    545.fuzzy
    541ludwigvb
    533.Stuart Wilson
    ---------------------
    @525.fuzzy
    "By Isaac Newton, I suppose."

    Possibly, but it's hard to differentiate between the two.'
    ---------------------

    I think you're both going off at a tangent!
    ------
    Maybe, but let's not forget the gravity of the situation.
    --------

    I can see the attraction of further comments but think I'll slope off now.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 548.

    I think that it is good there is an effort to speak to the history of these islands and their people but I don't think that knowing the story is as important as wanting to learn it and respect it. I for one would not mind if we simply required people to have certain qualifications and good English skills I would hope that those qualities and a desire to learn the culture would get me in abroad.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 547.

    455.
    Alan Flook
    2 Hours ago

    All citizens should learn which way up to hold the Union flag
    The one in the picture is upside down
    ==============

    I don't give a damn about such petty symbolism, if you want flag reverence emigrate to the USA.

    I'm more concerned about what seems to be a marked tendency for less well educated immigrants to fail and integrate or understand cultural values.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 546.

    544.Stuart Wilson
    "What history should be in the UK citizenship test?"

    "... the sacking of York"

    Would that be the sack of York that Mel Gibson invented for his "historical" (sic) film Braveheart?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 545.

    541ludwigvb

    533.Stuart Wilson
    ------------------------------------------------------------
    @525.fuzzy
    "By Isaac Newton, I suppose."

    Possibly, but it's hard to differentiate between the two.'
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I think you're both going off at a tangent!
    ------
    Maybe, but let's not forget the gravity of the situation.

 

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