Youth poll gives Gandalf real role in history

Historical fact is being diluted by Hollywood fiction, with some young people believing that Gandalf the wizard masterminded the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

Historical fact is being diluted by Hollywood fiction, with some young people believing that Gandalf the wizard masterminded the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

Almost half of 16- to 34-year-olds questioned in a BBC poll did not know that Francis Drake led the English fleet against Spain. One in five 16- to 24-year-olds thought it was Columbus, while one in 20 said it was Gandalf, the wizard from Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.

The figures, which were
released to mark the start of Battlefield Britain, a new
BBC series fronted by the
veteran election presenter Peter Snow and his son Dan, were declared "really surprising" by history specialists. Campaigners for a return to a more traditional syllabus branded the results a "disgrace" for the state education system.

Showing the impact of film-making on history, 15 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds thought that when Orangemen march in Northern Ireland on 12 July, they were celebrating victory at Helm's Deep. The battle comes at the end of The Two Towers, the second book in Tolkien's trilogy.

Of the 1,006 adults over 16 who took part in the survey, only half of all age groups knew that the marches mark the Battle of the Boyne, in which the William of Orange defeated the troops of King James II in 1690.

Despite the blanket coverage in the media of the recent 60th anniversary of D-Day, a third of those polled and half of 16- to 34-year-olds did not know that the Battle of Britain took place during the Second World War. Some thought it was part of the Hundred Years War. One in eight thought Anglo-Saxon Britain had been overrun by Napoleon

"Some of the results are really surprising," said Peter Furtado, editor of History Today magazine. "Since the collapse of the grand Whig narrative that Churchill was talking about in A History of the English-Speaking Peoples and which went out of favour with the rise of multi-cultural Britain, it's been very difficult for anybody to construct a large story of Britain. It seemed that Simon Schama did it very well in A History of Britain, but someone really needs to have another try," Mr Furtado said.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in