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This Little Britain
How One Small Country Changed the Modern World

To coincide with the release of This Little Britain: How One Small Country Changed the Modern World by Harry Bingham the following poll was commissioned.

The YouGov Poll Results

In order to find out how much the British knew about their own country, a survey by 'YouGov' was undertaken.

The findings strongly suggested that many Britons were unaware of the past achievements of their country. The survey findings revealed that less than a third of us knew about Britain's major successes in areas of government, law, industry, science, agriculture, warfare, and sport.

Research Summary / Key Facts

Representative democracy:

YouGov's 'This Little Britain' survey of a sample of 2230 adults found that 10% of them knew that the first elections (in the sense that people elected their representatives by voting for them) in England took place in 1215. Much higher proportions thought that the first elections took place in 1689 (38%) or later in 1870 (32%).

Spread of British democracy:

32% of respondents knew that of the nine countries that operated under a stable democracy throughout the 20th century, six of them were English speaking. 54% thought it was 4 countries or less.


Many judicial systems have relied on torture to extract confessions from those accused of a crime. Only 2% of respondents knew that it had become illegal in England 800 years ago. A total of 76% of respondents thought it became illegal in the last 200 years or less.

Industrial Revolution:

Just 11% of those questioned knew that at the peak of the industrial revolution Britain produced twice as much coal and steel as the rest of the world put together. Far more (36%) thought they produced only as much as Europe put together.


7% of respondents knew that British farmers were three times more productive as French and German counterparts put together in 1800.


Just under a quarter (24%) of respondents knew that the British Royal Navy was, at its peak, larger than all other navies in the world put together


Just 1% of respondents knew that England had been successfully invaded (that is: the ruling government overthrown) 9 times since 1066. (The relevant dates are 1139, 1153, 1326, 1399, 1460, 1470, 1471, 1485, 1688).


Just 12% of respondents (15% of men, 9% of women) knew that Britain has won as many Nobel Prizes in science as France, Russia, Italy, Spain, Japan, Canada, Australia, China, India, Africa and Latin America put together.


Just 6% of respondents knew that Baseball, Ice-Hockey, Lacrosse, Croquet and Downhill Skiing, are all British inventions

Nigel - 14th October 2007

Book Details

Title: This Little Britain: How One Small Country Changed the Modern World

Author: Harry Bingham

Publisher : Fourth Estate

Published : 2007

Copyright : Harry Bingham 2007

ISBN-10 : HB 0-00725-848-8
ISBN-13 : HB 978-0-00725-848-2

Book Details:

Celebratory, witty and incredibly insightful, Harry Bingham explores the eccentricities and customs of the British nation in a bid to answer a question which has everyone debating - Who are we? For the British, that's an oddly difficult question. Although our national self-assessment usually notes a number of good points (we're inventive, tolerant, and at least we're not French), it lists a torrent of bad ones too. Our society is fragmented and degenerate. Our kids are thugs, our workers ill-educated, our public services abysmal. We drink too much. Our house prices are crazy, our politicians sleazy, our roads jammed, our football team rubbish. When the 'Times' invited readers to suggest new designs for the backs of British coins, one reader wrote in saying, 'How about a couple of yobs dancing on a car bonnet or a trio of legless ladettes in the gutter?' Is there really nothing to be proud of? British inventors have been responsible for myriad marvels we now take for granted, from the steam engine to the World Wide Web. British medical and public health innovations - vaccination, integrated mains sewerage, antiseptic surgery - have saved far more lives than all other medical innovations put together. And why stop there? The British empire covered a quarter of the earth's surface but used an army smaller than that of Switzerland to exert its rule. The world speaks our language. Our scientists have won vast numbers of Nobel Prizes. The evolution of habeas corpus, trial by jury and the abolition of torture aren't purely British in inspiration, but owe more to us than to anyone else. Our parliamentary democracy has been hugely influential in spreading ideals of liberty and representative government round the world. If the modern world is richer, freer, more peaceful, more democratic and healthier than it was, then Britain has played a leading role in that transformation. This book is about just that. Taking a particular interest in the many things that we did first, or best, or most, or were the only ones ever to do, this focuses especially on those of our oddities that spread across the world - everything from football to the rule of law.

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