Romans, Victorians and the World Wars top the list of the UK's favourite eras, new research shows

  • Romans and the World Wars are favoured by the men, while women prefer the Victorian and Tudor eras
  • When asked what got them interested in a period of history, films, TV and theatre prove most popular among respondents (52%), followed by school (45%)
  • Despite the popularity of Bridgerton, Georgian period fails to top the list (3%)

While many on social media may be thinking daily about the Roman Empire, the World Wars (1914-1918 & 1939-1945) came out on top (15%) in a new study released today looking at the UK's favourite historical era.

The YouGov research, which surveyed 2,056 adults across the UK, found film and TV significantly drive interest in a particular historical era (52% of respondents). Across all age groups, school and education are shown to have a lasting impact on our historic interests (45%), most prominently among 18-24-year-olds (62%).

Visiting historical sites came in third overall (38%) for reasons to be interested in a particular historical era.

With a programme of events running across the summer at our castles, forts and monuments, English Heritage has a day out to suit any family wanting to become immersed in England's history beyond the screen or the classroom.

Almost seven in 10 (68%) respondents could identify a favourite historical era, with the World Wars coming as the most popular (15%), followed in joint second/third by the Romans and Victorian eras (10%), with the Tudors coming in fourth place (9%).

Meanwhile, more than a quarter of respondents marked 20th century periods as their favourite: Roaring Twenties (6%), World Wars (15%) and Cold War (5%).

Matt Thompson, Curatorial Director, English Heritage, says,'We can see from this research just how much Brits love the past!

'The vast majority of people we spoke to knew exactly what their favourite era was.

'While people particularly plumped for the Romans, and Victorians, the 20th century was the go-to period for over a quarter in our poll. And what motivates those choices for most people is a film, a school trip or a visit to an historic site, underlining just how important great storytelling is.

'As a charity which offers great backdrops for films and TV, free school trips for everyone and over 400 sites to experience history where it happened, what’s clear to see is how just one visit can spark a love that can last a lifetime!'

While popular culture has been driving the nation's passion for heritage, the popular period fantasy Bridgerton has not converted substantial numbers to the Georgian and Regency periods, with just 3% of respondents identifying as fans of the era.

Alongside the World Wars, fans of the Roaring Twenties and the Georgian and Regency periods also came in the top three for picking films, TV and theatre as the thing which most got them interested in that era (55%, 80%, and 62% respectively).

Alex von Tunzelmann, historian and screenwriter, says, 'Recently there has been a lot of anxiety about the portrayal of history on film and TV, with fears that audiences will be tricked into believing fiction.

'What we can see from this fascinating survey, though, is that film and TV shows drive genuine interest in history and heritage. Many of those people who love British period dramas like Bridgerton, Peaky Blinders, The Crown or Call the Midwife will be inspired to visit some of the wonderful sites English Heritage have around the country, where they’ll be able to immerse themselves in the past and learn much more about what really happened.

'As a historian, I’m thrilled to see every generation rediscover and re-engage with history in its own way.'

Perhaps reflecting the enduring influence of the British stiff upper lip, for all ages order and tradition and duty and respect were cited as resonating most regarding their favourite era, alongside action and adventure (all 35%) for the more intrepid.

55+ came above the other age groups in picking creativity and optimism (34%).

For women, romance and intrigue came out on top (38%), with a large proportion of the fans of the Georgian and Regency era, the Roaring Twenties and the Tudors citing this as resonating with them (63%; 55%; 54%).

Preferences differ across the UK.

  • In the North East – home to Hadrian's Wall – the Roman era was the favourite (15%)
  • In the West Midlands – where country houses such as Witley Court were owned by wealthy industrialists, it was Victorian (13%), which was also second favourite in Northern Ireland (13%).
  • The East of England, where visitors can discover the story of Mary Tudor at Framlingham Castle, had a higher interest in the Tudors than most other regions in the UK (12%)
  • Scotland had the highest response in favour of the World Wars (22%).

Specific eras seem to mean different things to the UK public. For those who picked Tudor, World Wars, and Cold War as their favourite, the big events and politics held the most appeal (83%; 88%; 84%); though looking at Georgian and Regency, Victorian, and the Roaring Twenties, it is the fashion and style (66%; 54%; 84%).

Across the summer, English Heritage sites will be offering fun events for the whole family with unforgettable days out and children's quests.

English Heritage cares for over 400 historic buildings, monuments and sites – from world-famous prehistoric sites to grand medieval castles, from Roman forts on the edge of the empire to a Cold War bunker – catering to all, no matter their favourite era.

There are also a number of money-saving deals for families, including 15% off admission to sites and events when booked online, Members' Kids Eat Free, and 20% off membership. Get your feel good summer started today.