40 Interesting Facts From History About Great Britain

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1 Limey


The British are often referred to as “Limey” because of their army’s use of lime to prevent scurvy when at sea. The use of citrus was initially a closely guarded military secret as it gave them the ability to remain at sea for lengthy periods without contracting the disorder.

2. The longest-reigning monarch in British history, Queen Elizabeth II is the first British monarch to have had a sapphire jubilee, marking 65 years of reign. There were no public celebrations and she spent the day in “quiet reflection” and undertaking official work.

3. When the British burned the White House in 1812, they did not burn the Marine Barracks or the Commandant’s House out of respect for the honorable conduct of the Marines at the Battle of Bladensburg.

4. In 1784, Great Britain imposed a tax on bricks to pay for the war in America. In response, people starting using larger bricks, and buildings can be dated based on the brick size.

5. British Submarines carry the Jolly Rodger because a First Lord Sea Admiral said that submarines are “underhanded, unfair, and damned un-English” and their sailors should be hanged as Pirates.

6 Continental Breakfast

Continental Breakfast

The British used to call mainland Europe “The Continent.” As more continental European tourists travel to England and the Americas, they pushed for a breakfast of pastry, fruit, and coffee they normally eat. That is why hotels serve a “Continental Breakfast,” and it’s also cheap.

7. The “Not Terribly Good Club of Great Britain,” was founded in 1977 for people proud of their incompetence. The club was forced to close when the founder sold a book that became a bestseller and the club received thousands of applications “even as failures, we failed.”

8. There were two witchcraft trials in Plymouth Colony 50 years before the Salem Trials. Unlike the later, more infamous trials, the accused were found not guilty and their accusers were fined for giving false statements.

9. The melody to the medieval English folk song “Nottamun Town” was considered lost to history until musicologists found isolated, illiterate, populations in Appalachia singing the song with a common melody and lyrics.

10. During WWII, the British launched nearly 100,000 weather balloons trailing long metal wires toward occupied Europe, causing power outages when they shorted out power lines and causing at least one German power station to burn down.

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11 Robert Fortune

Robert Fortune

In 1848, the British East India Company sent Botanist Robert Fortune on a trip to China’s interior, an area forbidden to foreigners to steal tea seeds from China to India. He succeeded and within his lifetime, India surpassed China as the world’s largest tea grower.

12. The Lost Colony of Roanoke was the first attempt at the British settlement in North America. The leader of the colony left for England for supplies and returned to find all 120 colonists and their buildings had vanished. The only clue was the word ‘CROATOAN’ carved into a tree.

13. During the English Civil War, Lady Mary Bankes defended a castle from over 200 attackers with only five men under her initial command. She would be reinforced by 80 royalists and would hold against a total of 600 men for three years before being betrayed and forced to surrender.

14. During WW1, the British created a campaign to shame men into enlisting. Women would hand out White Feathers to men not in uniform and berate them as cowards. It was so successful that the government had to create badges for men in critical occupations so that they would not be harassed.

15. The British crown had at least a 15% approval rating during the revolutionary war – higher than the current approval rating of the US Congress of 13% in 2016.

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16 Fish and Chips

Fish and Chips

The British Government was able to safeguard supplies of fish and chips during both World Wars, making it one of the few non-rationed foods.

17. The British king or queen has two birthdays: their real birth date and one assigned to them during the summer, to ensure better weather for the parade.

18. Great Britain is one of only a few states that have an uncodified (unwritten) constitution. It consists not of a single document, but of a number of treaties, diverse laws, practices, and conventions that have evolved over a long period of time.

19. During the British Raj, India experienced some of the worst famines ever recorded, including the Great Famine of 1876–1878, in which 6.1 million to 10.3 million people died and the Indian famine of 1899–1900, in which 1.25 to 10 million people died.

20. When introducing Golf to India, the British were angered by monkeys running onto the course & playing with their balls. When all attempts to stop the monkeys failed, they decided the game needed to adapt. To do so they introduced a new rule: “Play the ball where the monkey drops it.”

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21 Cobra Effect

Cobra Effect

When the English colonial government in Dehli in India put a bounty on cobras to eliminate them from the city, it resulted in a cobra population boom. The bounty was greater than the cost of breeding a cobra, and the citizens were breeding them to sell to the government.

22. British colonials in India used gin to cover the bitter taste of anti-malarial quinine tonic, thus creating the Gin & Tonic.

23. In the early 19th century, the East India Company cut off the hands of hundreds of people in Bengal in order to destroy the indigenous weaving industry in favor of British textile imports.

24. The English common law known as the doctrine of “Ancient Lights,” holds that people can have a reasonable expectation of sunlight; and that when they do, their neighbors ought not to take it away.

25. Citizens of the Commonwealth (Canada, Australia ect.) are allowed to vote in the United Kingdom.

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