J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Townsend-Warner History Prize—Play Along at Home!

The St. Paul’s Preparatory School (Colet Court) in London won this year’s Townsend-Warner competition for historical knowledge. As this webpage explains, this test has been an unofficial part of upper-class English private education since the late 1800s.

The questions now take this form:
13. Explain the link between each of the following:
a) Conwy, Beaumaris, Caernarfon
b) John Balliol, John Comyn, Robert Bruce
c) Crécy, Poitiers, Agincourt
d) Lambert Simnel, Perkin Warbeck, Edmund de la Pole
e) Bartolomeu Dias, Vasco da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan
f) Jane Seymour, Catherine Howard, Katherine Parr
g) John Adams, James Madison, James Monroe
h) Osborne House, Sandringham, Balmoral
i) Winston Churchill, Dardanelles, Suvla Bay
And this:
1. Write fully on TWO of the following: . . .
The Seven Years’ War (1756-1763)
Canals in the 18th Century in England
The Agricultural Revolution in the 18th Century
The Boston Tea Party (1773)
The Settlement of Australia (1788 on)
The achievements of Horatio Nelson (1758-1805)
I’ve chosen examples that touch a little on eighteenth-century American history, but those are naturally just a small part of the test. Britain has so much more history than the U.S. of A. Of course, that national outlook can hinder as well as help: one of the most common mistakes in the quoted quizzes was to credit Lincoln’s “house divided” speech to the English abolitionist William Wilberforce.

Why do I mention all this? Because Godson’s Brother placed 47th out of 700 scholars who took the test this academic year and thus helped St. Paul’s Prep School to its win. While he wasn’t quite in the Top 30 individual performances, most of the students who took the test were ages 12 or 13 and he was only 10. He had another birthday last month, and is raring for another go next year. Everyone is, of course, very proud of him and his teammates.

(Pictured above: One of the individuals mentioned in this posting. Click on the image to see who.)

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