Are You a UK History Expert?


By: Patrick Hyde

6 Min Quiz

Image: Ramberg / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

The UK has played a pivotal role in world affairs throughout its history. The famous and mysterious Stonehenge appeared as early as 3000 BC, marking the first major event of recorded British history as early as the Bronze Age. Nearly 5,000 years later, the same island that built the rock structure ruled over 458 million people or 1/4th of the world’s entire population.

Today, over 66 million people live in the United Kingdom, a political entity on the British Isles which includes England, Scotland, Whales and Northern Ireland. UK history influenced the world far beyond its own borders, though. From renowned artists like William Shakespeare and Madonna to fearless military commanders like Winston Churchill and William the Lionheart, this island nation’s influence spread far beyond its watery coast. The many significant events of UK history range from heroic feats of courage, such as surviving the Nazi Blitz of London in 1941 to horrendous, like the mass death and chaos surround the partition of colonial India in 1947.

From mysterious druids to the might and domination of the British Empire in the early 20th century, UK history is filled with some of the most fascinating and crucial events that have ever happened. Even now, the world watches as the people of the UK decide whether to make a historic split from the European Union, reminding us that UK history is an ongoing process. Take the journey throughout time and see if you are an expert on the biggest events in UK history.

Who was the Norman King who conquered England in 1066?

Anointed as "William the Conqueror," the Duke of Normandy led a successful campaign to capture England from 1060 to 1066. The decisive Battle of Hastings occurred on 14 October 1066 and secured the Norman victory over the Anglo-Saxons.


What London theater was the home of William Shakespeare's plays?

William Shakespeare's legendary Globe Theater opened in 1599 and was the site of many of Shakespeare's most famous plays, including "Romeo and Juliet" and "Julius Caesar." A modern recreation exists in London today, called Shakespeare's Globe.


Why did Henry VIII split from the Catholic Church to form the Anglican Church?

Henry VIII's primary motivation in breaking from the Catholic church in 1534 was to secure an annulment from his wife, Catherine of Aragon. He believed his marriage was cursed and desperately wanted an heir to continue his legacy. When Rome refused to grant the annulment, he broke from the Church and declared himself "Supreme Head on earth of the Church of England."


What colony was considered "The Crown Jewel of the British Empire"?

The British set up the British Raj on the Indian subcontinent in 1858 and controlled the region until independence in 1947. During this time, the British extracted a vast quantity of highly valuable raw materials from the region with extremely cheap labor, fueling their wealth back home and bolstering their military capabilities.


Who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot to assassinate King James I?

Guy Fawkes planned the failed Gunpowder Plot after an anonymous letter pointed to him and the pile of explosives underneath the Westminster Palace. Fawkes was a staunch Catholic and wanted to return England to the fold of the Catholic Church. His effigy is burned on a bonfire on Guy Fawkes Night, occurring every fifth of November.


Which British explorer discovered, and died in, Hawaii?

James Cook became the first European to establish contact with the Hawaiian islands in 1778. Cook was an intrepid explorer who circumnavigated the world and traveled to places as remote as Alaska and New Zealand. He died when he attempted to kidnap Hawaiian King Kalani'opu'u in 1779.


What was the name of the Nazi operation to invade the UK in 1940?

By the summer of 1940, the Nazis controlled most of continental Europe. Operation Sea Lion was the secret plan to invade the UK after the Nazis established aerial superiority. The RAF fought off the German air force, and Hitler scrapped the operation to prepare for an invasion of the USSR.


Which British inventor patented the first telephone?

Alexander Graham Bell was an inventor and engineer who had made numerous inventions working with sound. Bell raced against other inventors like Elisha Gray to be the first to win a patent for the telephone, which he did in 1876.


Which kingdom launched a massive armada to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I in 1588?

The Spanish Catholic crown launched a 130 ship Armada to invade and depose the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I in 1588. Poor weather conditions, a larger English fleet and daring exploits of English fireships led to Spanish defeat and their last attempt to invade the UK.


Which political party has typically been loyalists to the Crown in the UK?

The Tories entered the political scene in 1678 when they tried to oppose Whigs from disinheriting the heir of Catholic King James II. The Tories would become one of the major political parties in the UK through the 19th century, espousing an ideology of monarchism, traditionalism and classicism.


Which revolution saw Oliver Cromwell become Lord Protector of the Commonwealth?

The English Civil War pitted the King and his loyalists (Cavaliers) against Parliamentarians (Roundheads) over issues of governance. Oliver Cromwell emerged as a military and political leader during the conflict and supported the execution of King Charles I. He established a Protestant theocracy from 1653 until his death in 1658.


Who is the longest-ruling monarch in UK history?

Queen Elizabeth II (born in 1926) is the longest-reigning monarch, beating her Great-Grandmother Victoria's record of 63 years of power. Queen Elizabeth II is the fourth monarch from the House of Windsor, a dynasty originating from the German House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.


What famous fighter plane did the RAF use during WWII?

Although the Royal Air Force used many planes throughout the war, none is more iconic than the Supermarine Spitfire. Crucial to winning the aerial Battle of Britain, these single-seat fighter planes are recognizable by their semi-elliptical wing shape.


What year was the first time women were allowed to vote in the UK?

Two laws extended the right to vote in the UK. The first, The Representation of the People Act, passed in 1918 and enfranchised 5.6 million women over the age of 30 who met minimum property qualifications. The more thorough Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act passed in 1928 and extended the right to vote to all women over the age of 21.


What horrifying serial killer stalked the streets of London in 1888?

The impoverished London district of Whitechapel was terrorized by an unknown assailant who was called "Jack the Ripper" by the police between 1888-1891. During this time, the brutal murders of at least five women captured the imagination of the public and criminologists across the world.


England started an alliance with what country in 1386 that remains intact to this day?

The Anglo-Portuguese Treaty of 1373 is thought to be the oldest active treaty still in existence, with the Kingdom of Portugal and the United Kingdom never once fighting each other in a war. The Portuguese call the special friendship the Aliança Inglesa, or the English Alliance.


Which sport did not originate in the UK?

Legend has it that tennis dates all the way back to the 12th century in France when players would hit a ball with their hand. Meanwhile, golf, cricket and rugby all originated in the UK and enjoyed popularity throughout the British Commonwealth.


What is the most common name for the 20th-century conflict in Northern Ireland?

Between the 1960s and the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, Irish nationalists clashed with loyalists in Northern Ireland, leading to decades of armed fighting. The total number of casualties numbered around 50,000, with the conflict reaching a peak in 1972 with the Bloody Sunday massacre.


Which British general was a major figure in the British army during the American War of Independence?

Starting the war as a lieutenant, Charles Cornwallis orchestrated the successful "Southern Strategy" in 1779, scoring a series of victories in the southern theater of the war. He surrendered to French and American forces at the Siege of Yorktown.


When did the London Underground, or the Tube, begin operations?

The London Underground railway became the world's first underground passenger railway when it began operations in 1863. On its first day it carried 38,000 passengers on gas-lit wooden carriages carried by steam engines. Today it services over 1 billion people every year.


What 1215 legal document limited the power of the king?

King John of England signed the Magna Carta, or Great Charter, in 1215 to make peace with rebel barons challenging his reign. The Magna Carta, which was the first document to put a limit on the absolute powers of a king, became a central component of English legal and political culture.


Who was the Prime Minister that signed the infamous Munich Agreement with Hitler in 1938?

The figurehead of the appeasement movement, Neville Chamberlain participated in the 1938 Munich Agreement with Hitler, Mussolini and de Gaulle to decide the fate of Czechoslovakia. Hitler betrayed the agreement and invaded Czechoslovakia anyways. The Czechs were not allowed to participate in the negotiations.


Which of the following dynasties never ruled in the UK?

The Angevin dynasty ruled in the early middle ages and counted Richard the Lionheart among its leaders. The Tudors included King Henry VIII while the Stuarts comprised the Scottish kings of the 18th century. The House of Wittelsbach was the royal family in Bavaria.


Which of these UK bands is NOT associated with the Punk Era of the '70s and '80s?

A legendary output of punk music came out of the UK during the 1970s and 1980s, including famous records by bands like The Ramones, The Clash and The Sex Pistols. This counter-culture music rebelled against traditional values and economic marginalization.


Which palace is located in the UK?

Located in Berkshire, the Windsor Castle is the residence of Queen Elizabeth II and the largest occupied castle in the world. William the Conqueror ordered the construction of the castle after the Norman invasion in the 11th century.


What British writer created the famous detective series, "Sherlock Holmes"?

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle began his career as a physician, which provided him with the medical background to construct the Sherlock Holmes character. Doyle went on to write over 50 Sherlock Holmes stories, many of which have been made into adaptations for the stage and cinema.


The Glorious Revolution put which Dutchman on the British throne?

Parliament secretly invited William of Orange, later William III, to rule with his cousin Mary after they suspected King James II of conspiring with the French King Louis XIV to return Catholicism to Britain. The event is called the Glorious Revolution because it involved relatively little violence.


Which UK leader earned the moniker "The Iron Lady"?

A Soviet journalist dubbed Margaret Thatcher "The Iron Lady" in 1975 as a rebuttal to her hawkish foreign policy stances. Thatcher embraced the epithet as she led as PM from 1979-1990.


Which nation did the UK fight in the Falklands War?

The Falklands War was a 10-week conflict between the UK and Argentina in 1982. The dispute originated when Argentina invaded the small UK possession of the Falklands Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off its coast. The UK kept possession of the islands.


What English city did Danish Vikings invade and occupy in 867?

Vikings raided Anglo-Saxon monasteries and villages as early as 793, but they did not establish a permanent settlement until they conquered York in 867. The Danelaw, or Viking settlements, would encompass 15 shires.


What was the last UK colony on the American mainland?

The UK maintained control of Belize until 1981, and it remains part of the British Commonwealth. It was formerly known as British Honduras.


What is the oldest university in the UK?

Oxford is the second oldest university in operation, with records of teaching here dating back to 1096. The university continues to be among the world's top 10 best and operates the world's largest printing press.


What city was the Encyclopædia Britannica first published in?

Colin Macfarquhar began work on the Encyclopædia Britannica in 1768 in Edinburgh as a response to Denis Diderot's great Enlightenment work, Encyclopédie. The Encyclopedia now contains entries on over 500,000 topics.


Which British general defeated Napoleon at Waterloo?

Napoleon Bonaparte met his famous end at the Battle of Waterloo in present-day Belgium on 18 June 1815. His army fell to the combined forces of the Duke of Wellington and the Prussian army under Field Marshal Blücher.


When did the Acts of Union unite Scotland and England in a united "Great Britain"?

Although England and Scotland had been united under the same monarch, the Acts of Union occurred over 1706 and 1707 to bring the Parliaments together. They formed the basis for a Great Britain that would later become the United Kingdom.


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