7 questions on British history

7 questions on British history

British history will be placed at the heart of a back-to-basics national curriculum in English schools, Education Secretary Michael Gove has told the Conservative Party conference, with help from TV historian Simon Schama. Test yourself on the country's past.



Michael Gove laments that history lessons are but a "cursory run-through" of Henry VIII and Hitler. The Tudor king is best known for his six wives and splitting the English Church from Rome (his passion for one fuelled his desire for the latter). Click the arrow for the question.

Henry with Anne Boleyn

1.) Multiple Choice Question

This is a portrait of one of his wives, Jane Seymour. Her fate?

Jane Seymour (Getty Images)
  1. Divorced
  2. Beheaded
  3. Died
  4. Survived

2.) Multiple Choice Question

As well as English being exported around the globe, it's a language that's absorbed words from neighbours and invaders. "Both", "same", "give", "take" - common words which came from the...

Two dictionaries (AP photo)
  1. Romans
  2. Celts
  3. Vikings
  4. Normans

3.) Missing Word Question

I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, * and sweat

  1. spirit
  2. tears
  3. courage

4.) Multiple Choice Question

One of the most famous dates in English history is 1066, when the Normans overthrew the Anglo-Saxon rulers. Which effectively became England's first colony under the Normans?

Replica of Norman-era boat
  1. Scotland
  2. Wales
  3. Ireland

5.) Multiple Choice Question

This depicts the murder of Spencer Perceval in 1812, the only British prime minister to be assassinated. Shot by whom?

Pervecal shot in House of Commons
  1. Disgruntled businessman
  2. Escapee from mental asylum
  3. Disgruntled opposition MP

6.) Multiple Choice Question

In 1800, when the fastest means of transport was a galloping horse and people largely stayed close to where they were born and brought up, clocks in London were set 10 minutes faster than in Bristol, 120 miles to the west.

Horse race, 1800 (Getty Images)
  1. True
  2. False

7.) Multiple Choice Question

In 2007 Churchill, Gandhi and Martin Luther King were taken off a list of key figures to mention in history lessons (not that this procludes teachers from covering them). On the list is Olaudah Equiano. Who?

  1. Anti-slavery campaigner
  2. Previously unsung nurse in Crimean War
  3. Black author painted by Gainsborough


This is Olaudah Equiano. He, and fellow freed slaves Quabna Ottobah Cugoano and Mary Prince, published books describing their experiences and exposing the harsh reality of slavery which opened the public eye to its inhumanity.

Equiano (Getty Images)


  1. She died two weeks after giving birth to Edward VI, Henry's only legitimate male heir. On his deathbed, three wives later, Henry asked to be buried next to her.
  2. These date from when the Vikings came a-calling periodically from 787 until the 11th Century. More than 1,500 place names in England have Scandinavian origins, particularly in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire - the -by in Rugby and Grimsby means farm or town.
  3. It's tears - the full quote is "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat". This is, of course, in reference to the fight against Hitler.
  4. It's Ireland. In 1155, the Pope had asked Henry II to invade it to clean up what was reported to be lax Christianity. Only the Anglo-Norman lords recruited to help were in an ugly mood after losing a war with the Welsh princes, and after he was installed as "protector", set about getting the colony they'd wanted in Wales.
  5. Perceval was shot by bankrupt Liverpool broker John Bellingham.
  6. It's true. But it was the dawn of the rail age, which effectively reduced distances and the rapidly expanding population became more mobile.
  7. Olaudah Equiano was an anti-slavery campaigner. Born in Benin, he was a slave who bought his freedom from a Quaker master. Mary Seacole was a Jamaican nurse in the Crimea. And author/composer Ignatius Sancho, born on a slave ship, was a literary sensation in the 18th Century, and sat for Gainsborough.

Your Score

0 - 3 : Beheaded

4 - 6 : Divorced

7 - 7 : Survived

Thursday 7 October is BBC Four's History Night. To delve into key events from Britain's past, explore the BBC History website - with links below relevant to the questions in this quiz.

For past quizzes including our weekly news quiz, 7 days 7 questions, expand the grey drop-down below - also available on the Magazine page (and scroll down). You can also do this quiz on your mobile device.

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