back to article Brits can't distinguish history from the TV listings

Chronologically-challenged Brits think that Robin Hood, Biggles and Sherlock Holmes were real people while questioning whether the likes of Winston Churchill, Montgomery of Alamein and Mahatma Gandhi ever walked this Earth. The shocking findings were uncovered by British TV station UKTV Gold, which is funny, as anyone who …


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  1. Chris Phillips

    That's a lot of 47's!

    was there a sale on 47's when this analysis was done? I smell cod-statistics... very fishy!

  2. Andy

    Who did they poll for this?

    I certainly didn't get asked any questions like this. Although, I don't watch any of the dross that is broadcast by any of the TV stations, so I probably don't fit into their metric - having a brain being the biggest disadvatage.

    The duffle coat with the books in the pocket please - no not the Daily Star, the books!

  3. JP
    Paris Hilton


    Having run so many Sharpe repeats, surely ol' Dick would have ranked quite highly in the real-fictional rankings?

    Cracking books, and good films too.

    Paris, 'cause Sharpe would have sacked her.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    History Channel is history

    You've obviously not watched TV recently - the History Channel is history. It has been given the blokish name "Dave", and now broadcasts non-stop Top Gear, Alan Partridge, and Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

  5. Ian Osborne

    Physician, heal thyself...

    I'd love to see the questionnaire which produced these somewhat dubious statistics. As the article mentioned, Dick Turpin was indeed real, not a fictional character as he seems to have been dubbed by the survey. Likewise, Lady Godiva is 100% real. There's no evidence she rode on horseback naked, but that hardly makes her a work of fiction.

    If the survey simply asked 'are these people real or fictional', you could make an excellent case for Robin Hood and King Arthur too, however many fictional myths have grown up around them since.

  6. Chris Hamilton
    Paris Hilton


    That some people doubt the past existence of Winston Churchill is terrifying. These people may also question that WWII ever happened or that the rise of the Third Reich was merely "internal German political turmoil".

    PS. UKTV does not operate the History Channel (or Hitler Channel as it has become known). It does however operate the far more interesting and diverse UKTV History.

  7. Alastair Dodd
    Thumb Down

    what idiots did they survey?

    The usual morons who think that Only fools and Horses is the ultimate in original comedy?

  8. Martin Owens

    Sot of

    All comes together in the whole general sort of mish-mash.

    Although you have to feel sad for the plonkers who didn't think Churchil was real, come on he's not been dead 50 years.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re; History Channel is History

    UKTV G2 is now Dave. UKTV HIstory is alive and well on FreevIew channel 12

  10. Fenstar
    Dead Vulture

    The UKTV demographic...

    ...fortunately doesn't account for the intelligence of the whole populace.

    However, it's nice to see Americans having a crack, good on you!

  11. Chris

    Not Dave

    The History Channel isn't Dave, Dave is the bizarrely-rebranded UKTV G2 channel.

    "Dave, where you're never more than an hour away from another episode of QI".

  12. Ian

    You can be real and a myth at the same time, you know

    Most of Florence Nightingale's reputation is mythical, and a lot that is said of Churchill almost has the status of myth. At the distance from here to the first crusade, it's hard to see how Richard I can be anything other than a mythic figure. Richard III probably didn't have a hunched back, either.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    But Robin Hood MUST be real.

    I've seen him on stage, which surely proves it?

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Re: History Channel is History

    Really? Glory be - now I can get back to my endless reruns of The World At War and Time Team. ;-)

  15. Anonymous Coward


    I'm ROFL --

    When a survey shows how dumb the Yanks (seem) to be, everyone chimes in to uphold the results.

    When a survey shows how dumb the Brits (seem) to be, everyone attacks the veracity of the findings!

    Mine's the "turncoat". (:^)

  16. Lickass McClippers

    I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that.

    Back off Dave, they show the World Rally on Sunday nights, and frankly, repeats of TG, QI, Whose Line Is It, etc, etc, make for far better day-time TV than Jeremy Kyle and Trisha..!!

  17. Slaine
    Dead Vulture

    47% is "about half" or 1 in 2

    ... and since less than 1% of the population regularly watches UKTV Gold (97% of statistics, like this one, are made up on the spot) we are most certainly talking about a very thin scraping from the floor of humanity.

    Perhaps the polled all 100 bone fida subscribers, of whom 47 said yeh, 47 said nae and 6 said "will you be my SPECIAL friend"?

    Actually, looking at the umbers... 23, 34, 47... that's damned close to a poll of 11 people. Now, on a more serious note, where is there an IT OR a Paris angle to this story?

  18. Peter Hawkins

    UK TV History

    FYI on Freeview UK TV History (Ch12) is "history".. after 6pm. Then the slot switches to Dave (Ch19).

    Dave is sh*te and I was really getting into the repeats of Secret Army on History, one of my favourites from the 70's, but can't get them after 6pm now.

    Not all repeats are crap, and don't mention Allo Allo ... please!

  19. Gavin McMenemy


    "UKTV G2 is now Dave. UKTV HIstory is alive and well on FreevIew channel 12"

    I have to take issue with this. I use to watch the History channel when it covered lots of great shows. Now it doesn't. All it does is endless repeats about the world wars.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    no suprise here - most people I've met are just stupid.

  21. Johnny FireBlade

    @ Alastair

    "The usual morons who think that Only fools and Horses is the ultimate in original comedy?"

    The very same people who bought that decidedly dodgy smelling perfume off a couple of blokes called Del and Rodney down Peckham market!

  22. Hollerith
    Dead Vulture

    And these are the people...

    That a Nobel prize winner thought should be 'told the plain facts' of research into climate change so that they could 'make their own minds up', based on a conscientious and thoughtful study of the scientific findings.

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

    The dead vulture because I want to die.

  23. oliver Stieber
    Gates Halo


    enough said I think

  24. Chris
    Thumb Down

    Lies, Polls, Statistics

    I seem to recall from other coverage that this was a poll of the under 20s. Now 47% of respondents reckon Eleanor Rigby really? How many do you think have heard the name? Actually I suspect that what actually happened was that the suckers were presented with a list of names and a column marked real and a column marked fictious.

    None of the respondents had heard the name so there was a rough 50-50 split.

  25. Dave
    Paris Hilton

    I was on a course once...

    I was on some touchy-feely make-a-circle-and-think-peaceful-thoughts junior management bollocky-wollocky type thing.

    One of the tasks was to take personality types such as "manipulative" "power-hungry" "dictatorial" and give an example of a person who met these criteria. For that example, 7 people chose "Cat Slater", and me and the other bloke said "Adolf Hitler".

    4 of the other people had never heard of Hitler and 1 remembered him as being something to do with the First World War, "because me Grandad talked about him".

    For the record, I beleive Cat Slater is a soap character, but no idea as to which.

    Paris.... just because.

  26. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: jesus

    What? Are you suggesting He is a fictional character? Blasphemy! etc.

  27. Anonymous Coward


    Obviously a rigorous survey and not at all taken from the cronies and reprobates that happened to be in the pub that slow Friday afternoon.

    Come clean Reg, which of you was one of the many incontinent drinkers at the Slug and Lettuce that paused to drool in the direction of this survey?

  28. Dave
    Thumb Down

    ...the polled populace

    if you make the assumption that most people on el reg have jobs, and that no one here has been polled (or at least admitted to being polled), then you can safely conclude that this poll was performed during working hours.

    if anyone was watching tv between 9-5, and was so busy they phoned/texted in their answers, i'd put money on the respondents being benefit thieves.

    er.. i mean... "long term sick".


    maybe if the last question was 'have you paid any income tax this decade', you'd get a fair idea of the type of people you're polling.

    on second thoughts, if the penultimate question was 'are YOU a mythical person', you'd probably realise why this questionnaire is utter bullshit.

    ... the leather one with the tweed patches. (like homer simpson, i ruined *two* perfectly good jackets)

  29. Paul F
    Thumb Up

    Seems America doesn't have a monopoly of stupid people after all.

    Perhaps it's just Humanity as a whole that's abysmally dim-witted.

  30. Chuck Clark

    Stupidity is catching.

    Pretty stupid for sure. Shows just how bad the educational system has become. In America it is just as bad if not worse. Almost 35% think that the carvings on Mt Rushmore is a natural landmark. DOH!!!!

  31. Luther Blissett

    Government has it in hand

    Which is why today McBroon announced compulsory visits from UK schools to Auschwitz. I don't think it's to boost tourism. Or to instill an appreciation of art and culture.

  32. Matt

    No I think the US beats the UK

    but still it's a bit of a worry.

    Mind you UK TV History is pretty poor and seemingly unable to give a balanced view or to differentiate between speculation and fact.

  33. Solomon Grundy

    Who is Sarah Bee?

    Is she new at ElReg, or has she been there a long time but escaped her handlers and posted comments without authorization?

  34. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Who is Sarah Bee?

    Heh. All of the above.

    I sub-edit, write and make sure you lot all play nice.

  35. The Other Steve


    "then you can safely conclude that this poll was performed during working hours."

    I actually inhabit that mythical utopian nirvana of working from home *, and have done for almost three years now, and I'm not on the TPS list, despite having registered several times, and I can vouchsafe that no pollsters AT ALL have phoned me, ever. There's something suspicious about that. **

    OTOH I usually don't have the TV on during the day, and when I do, the volume is turned down. In case any hippies are reading this, I should point out that my desk faces away from the TV, rendering this a total waste of energy, and I only do it so that your children will have to wander hungry over the barren, plastic bag strewn earth in the dystopian future.

    * Yes, this really means that I don't have to wear pants if I don't want to.

    ** OK, not really. But when I used to work in a 'proper' office, (e.g. one where pants were compulsory) I used to get mithered all the time by people phoning up with annoying surveys.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Worse than UKTV History

    National Geographic Channel.

    As best I can tell it's forever running 'Top Ten Air Crashes' - not a patch on UKTV's offerings of 'Hitler's Gardens'.

  37. Richard Scratcher
    Paris Hilton

    The History Channel? More like UKTV Hitler

    Almost every time I tune into the "Hitler" Channel, it's showing a documentary about WWII. And it's true that history repeats itself.

    As for thinking Gandhi was fictional, Albert Einstein predicted as much:-

    "Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth."

    (Paris, because she's so yesterday.)

  38. Ian


    To be fair, there's a lot more evidence that the likes of Robin Hood and King Arthur did work than there is the contrary.

    Of course they didn't exist in the god-like forms that many stories would have you believe, they weren't exactly super heroes but they likely existed as people important to their time in history.

    It's not unreasonable therefore to suggest you believe they were real people, arguably there is more proof of their existance than there is of any god and the stories are of course even more plausible yet billions of people believe in some diety or another.

    It's likely that people like Osama Bin Laden will become similar legends in a 1000 - 1500 years time to some people in the middle east with little existence as to whether he was really real or not!

  39. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Who is Sarah Bee?

    "I sub-edit, write and make sure you lot all play nice"

    Oh dear. For a sub-editor that's really not good enough. The word you are looking for is 'nicely'. It's a member of the rapidly-disappearing family of adverbs. The majority of them end in -ly, and they describe or modify verbs, advectives and (not many people know this) other adverbs.

    Grammar Police

  40. Mr Chris

    @ Sarah Bee



  41. Morely Dotes

    You people look down on Americans?

    And yet you have business names like Dave, Orange, and 3?

    Pardon me if I find that ludicrous. Or don't; I can't really be bothered about the opinions of that sort of person.

  42. Anonymous Coward

    @ AC/Grammar Police

    "they describe or modify verbs, advectives"


    Surly [sic!] you mean invectives?

    Orthography P'leece

    (The penguin, because they make slipping an art form.)

  43. Tom


    UKTV History... is that the one that only airs until about 6PM now and primarily shows Tenko?

  44. Ian Osborne

    To the other Ian...

    The key question regarding whether Robin Hood and King Arthur existed is whether their legends are based on the activities of one man, or a bringing together of numerous disparate tales, legends and anecdotes, fusing the lives of several individuals (with plenty of blatant myth thrown in) as a single person. Entire books have been written on whether they're 'real' or not. Whichever position you take, it's hardly fair to reduce the question to a couple of tick boxes and laugh at those who answered 'yes'.

    And there's no excuse whatsoever for their considering Dick Turpin and Lady Godiva fictional on the grounds of a couple of made-up anecdotes about them. Presumably they think Richard III disappeared from history on the day Shakespeare lied about him having a hunchback.

  45. TheHempKnight

    @Chris Phillips

    Surely like 64.5% of all statistics it was made up on the spot. 83% if all people could probably recognise that.

  46. Anonymous Coward

    UKTV Hitler

    Didn't that get re-branded as More UKTV Dave Hitler +1?

  47. Eleanor Rigby
    Paris Hilton

    i DO exist

    i DO!

  48. gizmo23


    Actually, no I don't look down on Americans, a lot of them are taller then me.

    And to rise to the Flame Bait, I'll admit I found Dave a bit confusing, but then why is one guy's name more ludicrous than two guys names? Like Morgan Stanley f'r instance.

    We have more than one Orange here in the UK. But then you have Apple.

    And 3 is only one character shorter than 3M.

    3 was originally Hutchison and they went with the 3G phone thing. I remember when it was supposed to be launched (3 Mar 2003 but they missed the unmoveable deadline on that one) I wondered how they'd promote a company that you couldn't search for on the net.

    And while we're on 'ludicrous' names, what about Freddie Mac? Freddie Mac who? Can't even form a decent Scots surname properly!

  49. heystoopid
    Paris Hilton

    So funny

    So funny , that according to this survey many people in the UK cannot tell fantasy from fiction just like their very own gullible and stupid politicians they have chosen to represent them too !

    Ah the 21st century the new age of propaganda has arrived and "idiocracy" is just around the next bend !

    Paris because she has more brains then most of the entire combined batch of 600 or so UK elected politicians that have chosen by lottery to represent us !

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I hate to say this..

    But I'm the sort of person that will deliberately say all manner of fictional characters are real just to fuck up a report like this, and I know I'm not alone. Sorry.

  51. Paul Murray

    So what else is new?

    Yes, most people are pretty bloody stupid. This has always been the case. If you are reasonably bright, sometimes it's had to really grasp just how bloody stupid most people really are, but it's an insight we all come to eventually.

  52. Haku


    I think Mike Judge has been doing a version of "Scrooge", if you look at "Office Space" as "Christmas present" and "Idiocracy" as "Christmas future" it means he still has a "Christmas past" film to do, in that his films are a warning to everyone to stop having meaningless jobs and smarten up (perhaps take more stupid people out of the gene pool, putting sterilising substances in scratch cards & lottery tickets would be a good start).

    P.S. did you get the memo about the TPS reports?

  53. Steve Roper

    @ I hate to say this

    And your objectives in wanting to fuck up others' research projects would be...?

  54. Anonymous Coward

    This just proves...

    ...that the English people I know ARE full of old boots! They are SO keen to point out how they know this and know that. Turns out they are the equivalent of TV turnips!

  55. Tony

    @Stupidity is catching. (and others)

    I believe it was Albert Einstein who said

    "Only 2 things are infinite; the universe and human stupidity. And I'm not certain about the universe"

  56. Spleen

    Re @Morley

    To be fair, Morgan and Stanley were real people: and the business is named after their surnames, not their first names. (Note that if someone has interchangable first and last names, you can't trust them. For an investment bank to be named after *two* people with interchangable first and last names speaks volumes.) Dave is a first name (not a proper name either), and not a real person but a brand. Apparently the idea is that we all know someone named 'Dave'. If you're the sort of cultural vacuum that watches two repeats of Top Gear and thinks "What would I really like to do now? I know, watch another repeat of Top Gear!" then you probably do. I know two Davids, but no Daves.

    (To be clear, I love watching Top Gear. Once. And I might watch a repeat about one year or so after the original. If I watched more than two repeats in succession my brain would probably leap out of my skull and strangle me with its stem.)

  57. Anonymous Coward

    Go out and meet folk, this is no surprise, the world over.

    "And yet you have business names like Dave, Orange, and 3?"

    Err... excuse me, but you're talking about Marketing Departments. Nuff said.

  58. Slaine

    Eleanor Rigby...

    ... died in the church and was buried along with her name. Nobody Came.

    Dear Sarah Bee... isn't that just a posh name for "censor"?

  59. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)


    'Oh dear. For a sub-editor that's really not good enough. The word you are looking for is 'nicely'. It's a member of the rapidly-disappearing family of adverbs. The majority of them end in -ly, and they describe or modify verbs, advectives and (not many people know this) other adverbs.

    Grammar Police'

    Oh dear indeed. Rules, knowing when to break them, etc. I believe 'play nice' is a commonly-used phrase, Mr Police, a bit like 'do the math', although of course that infuriates some pedants. Next time I'll use inverted commas if it please you*. Although, actually, come to think of it, my job isn't to please you... at least, not yet. Anyway, rest assured this grandmother knows only too well how to suck eggs.

    Now, don't make me break into a stream of advective.

    *Don't even start on that one.

  60. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Eleanor Rigby...

    Yeah, that's right. I'm an official censor. I have a lovely grey uniform with shiny buttons and everything. Sometimes the thrill of the power that I have is so great, I have to sit down.

  61. Chris Bradshaw


    If there were just real / ficticious check boxes on the survey, the results are unbelieveable. It would be interesting to have a 'know this' or a 'guessed' checkbox too - some the people who guessed (half of them) got it right and they still ended up at 47 %!!!

    @ Morely Dotes - In the US (mostly in the Southern states, I think) there is a supermarket chain called "Piggly Wiggly". Sorry, but idiots are everywhere (as this survey shows)

  62. David S

    Sarah Bee?

    ...not THE Sarah Bee?

    how the devil are you? Haven't seen you since the demise of TFT...

  63. John Foo

    I For One Welcome Our New Apian Overlady

    'nuff said

    mine's the sting-proof burqa please

  64. Graham Bartlett
    Paris Hilton

    @US vs UK

    Hey, the UK invented inbreeding before Louisiana and Texas boys first thought, "hey, sis is looking hot today..." It's not for nothing that doctors have the phrase "Normal For Norfolk". And have you seen your local "county set" aristos? I rest my case.

    The Paris icon, because we're talking about stupidity and inbreeding.

  65. michael

    @ Sarah Bee

    I allways play nice

    *trys to hide large club behind back*

  66. david

    ms bee

    any relation to eric?

  67. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stupid people

    Don't forget half the population are of below average intelligence!

    That goes double for the USA.

  68. michael

    if fact

    depending on the messer used more than half can be below average intelegence

  69. Anonymous Coward

    @ Sarah Bee

    Don't want to sound offensive, love, but I sub-edit professionally (for a translation firm) and I'll tell you that a lot of the articles around here lately have been particularly sloppy... yes yes deadlines combined with copious amounts of alcohol, we've all heard it before. Get yer act together!

    (Posted anonymously for reasons of self-defence.)

  70. Brian Whittle
    Thumb Down

    sounds like crap to me

    who the hell did they ask, I am sure all of the people I know would be able to peg Winston Churchill as historical not fictional, Did they wander round London asking tourists

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