In V for Vendetta, the demagogue Lewis Prothero talks on his show about the Boston Tea Party, making the case not to support the US: "I think its payback time for a little tea party they threw for us a few hundred years ago."

However, in reading Reddit posts, I've heard from Britons that they don't learn anything in school about the American Revolution, much to the chagrin of American Redditors.

So I wondered, would British audiences on the whole understand this reference? Or was it only intended to resonate with American audiences?

  • I'm from NZ. I didn't learn anything about the U.S. revolution. But I know about the Boston Tea Party.
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 3:13
  • @Tim how did you learn about it?
    – user151841
    Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 3:17
  • I remember learning about it from Sesame Street :-) Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 9:59
  • @user151841 - not from school. I found out later - probably looked it up on the interwebs. Not everything has to be taught in school.
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 21:49
  • 3
    At the very least it's adequately explained by the reference in "Mary Poppins" about the incident in which "The Americans threw the tea overboard thus making the tea undrinkable – even for Americans". Hasn't everyone seen that as a child ;)
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Nov 25, 2016 at 14:53

2 Answers 2


Contrary to Chenmunka's answer, any in depth study of the American revolution is not mandatory by Key Stage 3 (High school) national curriculum.

In the UK we have two different types of 'lesson'; Statutory and Non-Statutory, the latter of course being a subject that is 'optional', and can be taught at the teachers/schools discretion.

There is Statutory Module in Key stage 3 history called Ideas, political power, industry and empire: Britain, 1745-1901, which contains as an example of a possible lesson plan 'The Seven Years War and The American War of Independence'. It's plausible the Boston Tea party would be included as part of that lesson, should the school choose to pursue it.

However, this is optional and is listed among other, potentially more pertinent lessons like 'Britain as an Industrial Nation' and 'Ireland and Home Rule'. Both these subjects, as well as broader subjects like the Enlightenment will likely be prioritized, particularly considering likely exam questions.

I was educated at Key stage three (1998 -2003), and we were taught nothing on the American War of Independence. I have an 18 year old Nephew who told me he learnt everything he knew about the American war of Independence from the computer game Assassins Creed 3, and it's still only on the syllabus as an optional sub-part of a larger module.

Despite not being formally educated on the subject, however, the reference to the Boston Tea Party would not be lost on most British adults, I would hope.

  • I'm still perplexed by how British adults might know of the Boston Tea Party without having formally learnt the American war of Independence. Is it just something "known" from world history, because of its interesting character?
    – user151841
    Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 13:27
  • 1
    @user151841 you don't need formal school education in order to learn things. Sorry to say that it's a stereotype of Americans that they have particular ignorance of anything outside of the continental USA.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 13:44
  • @OrangeDog but you do need a source of some sort. Does the average Briton know of "One if by land, two if by sea"? There's myriad references from the American Revolution; I wonder why this one gained currency in general, as opposed to others.
    – user151841
    Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 13:45
  • 3
    @user151841 we were just so outraged over the improper handling of tea ;)
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 13:46
  • 1
    @user151841 As a Brit, I learned about the Boston Tea Party from asking my parents to explain a parody of it in (I think) a Looney Tunes cartoon... and yes, as a child I was shocked at the wanton waste of perfectly good tea! "One if by land, two if by sea" isn't a reference I'd immediately get Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 14:30

On the contrary, British schoolchildren are taught about the American Revolution in History lessons. This is taught at secondary school level.

Any educated Briton would definitely appreciate the significance of the Boston Tea Party.

It is probably true that the level of detail taught in British schools is less than that taught in American schools. After all, British history lessons include a lot about the other colonies of that era. However, the key events are well known - the Tea Party is definitely a key event.

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