Winston Churchill a Myth, Sherlock Holmes Real

Winston Churchill a Myth, Sherlock Holmes Real Like Motown legend Sam Cooke, today’s Brits apparently don’t know much about history.

Britons are losing their grip on reality, according to a poll out Monday which showed that nearly a quarter think Winston Churchill was a myth while the majority reckon Sherlock Holmes was real.

The survey found that 47 percent thought the 12th century English king Richard the Lionheart was a myth. And 23 percent thought World War II prime minister Churchill was made up. The same percentage thought Crimean War nurse Florence Nightingale did not actually exist. Three percent thought Charles Dickens, one of Britain’s most famous writers, is a work of fiction himself. Indian political leader Mahatma Gandhi and Battle of Waterloo victor the Duke of Wellington also appeared in the top 10 of people thought to be myths.

Meanwhile, 58 percent thought Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional detective Holmes actually existed; 33 percent thought the same of W. E. Johns’ fictional pilot and adventurer Biggles.

I suppose that, in our postmodern, poststructural world, one could argue that “myth” and “real” are mere social constructs. Things are “real” only to the extent people perceive them to be.

Mostly, though, we seem to be wasting a lot of money on education given the apparent rate at which the information is “taking.”

Story via Memeorandum. Image via Eric Chase.

FILED UNDER: Education, Public Opinion Polls, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. just me says:

    Looks like this lack of knowledge isn’t just a US thing.

    I think education has really gotten slack in teaching history and lit. and connecting the two together.

  2. In looking at the story, however, it is unclear as to whether this was a scientific poll or not, so I take the results with a grain of salt.

  3. Triumph says:

    The survey found that 47 percent thought the 12th century English king Richard the Lionheart was a myth. And 23 percent thought World War II prime minister Churchill was made up.

    Further reinforcing the stupidity of the British people, nearly 78% of the British public believe in climate change, and 71% feel that the Iraqi invasion was unjustified.

    Its no wonder they have a haggis-eating, Scottish prime minister.

  4. John Burgess says:

    Triumph: And just what’s your problem with haggis? Perfectly delicious food, even if you’re not a Scot.

  5. Cernig says:

    “UKTV Gold surveyed 3,000 people.” Aha.

    A B-list channel for old reruns of sitcoms and soaps runs a survey, no methodology described (was it a phone-in poll?), then it gets reported as serious news by a French news service and Americans jump all over it.

    Is it just me, or have y’all been waiting for an opportunity to jump all over us Brits for our arrogant notion that we know more history than anyone else? Fair enough, we probably deserve some jumping-on. But this is thin justification.

    Regards, C

  6. Tlaloc says:

    I know this may be hard to accept but a lot of this is pretty trivial. Ask yourself how a person;s fundamental understanding of the world is compromised if they mistakenly believe Sherlock Holmes was a real figure? The answer is it isn’t. It’s trivial.

    Even Churchill, by any account a key figure of the 20th century made a contribution to the world that was minor. As long as the person knows generally how WW2 went does it matter if they know specifically what role was played by Churchill, Guerring, Hirohito, MacArthur, and so on?

    So long as they aren’t trying to write definitively on the topic it just doesn’t really matter. Ask yourself how much you know about Tycho Brahe, Rasputin, or Sei Shonagon.

    The world has become a much more complicated place, and by that I mean the sum of human knowledge has doubled and redoubled so many times that not only can no one person be at the forefront of half a dozen sciences, as say Da Vinci was, but it’s nearly impossible to be at the forefront of even a good portion of *one* science or field of study. Far more likely you will be, if reasonably talented, a decent expert on a field so tiny as to be completely unknown by the vast majority of human beings.

    Consequently I find these kind of gotcha trivia quizes to be of limited usefulness. What does it mean if a person doesn’t know squat about Churchill but can derive Bernoulli’s principle?

  7. Cernig says:

    Triumph, why shouldn’t the UK have a Scottish PM?

    Regards, C

  8. kenny says:

    A B-list channel for old reruns of sitcoms and soaps runs a survey, no methodology described (was it a phone-in poll?), then it gets reported as serious news by a French news service and Americans jump all over it.

    Indeed and if you check out the uktv web site, the churchill figure is based on the “nation’s under 20s” but neglects to tell us the age breakdown of these ‘under 20s’.

    Are they asking 10 year olds?

  9. Triumph says:

    Triumph, why shouldn’t the UK have a Scottish PM?

    The Scots barely speak English and they are always more liberal than the English.

  10. Cernig says:

    Triumph, and? It’s called the United Kingdom. England is just one part, not the whole -even if the English reneged on the Act of Union within a year.

    Regards, C

  11. capital L says:

    “I suppose that, in our postmodern, poststructural world, one could argue that “myth” and “real” are mere social constructs. Things are “real” only to the extent people perceive them to be.”

    The line between myth and real has always been blurry. Curse those postmodern ancients and their Homeric fantasies! (they were probably enemies of the CONSTITUTION SOLON’S LAWS to boot)