Watching movies is a very popular way to learn English. What about for learning about the history of and English-speaking country, though? What can we learn about British history by watching movies?
Watching movies isn’t actually a good way to learn about the events of the past. There are very few historically accurate movies about British history. Most are biased or have extra plots woven in to make them more interesting. After all, these movies have to compete with fictional stories specially designed to be exciting for viewers so the directors have to do something to make them a bit more interesting than reality.
So, rather than the facts about historical events, focus on the aspects of British history that you can learn about from movies. These are mainly what life was like at the time and how people interacted rather than the actual historical accuracy. For example, period dramas, fictional stories set in the past, will teach you a lot about what is was like to live in the period in which the drama is set. You can find out about the clothes people wore and their everyday customs. Dramas like this are usually well-researched and can be a spectacular glimpse into what life was like in the past.
For example, a movie like ‘Pride and Prejudice’ based on a classic book can teach you a lot about manners in that a period that helped shape a lot of the customs we still see in the UK today. Period dramas don’t need to be set in the distant past, either. For example, modern movies like ‘This is England’ can teach you about political and cultural live in more recent time periods.
Biographies, movies about a specific person, can also be useful for looking at change over a lifetime. So, comparing the world at the beginning of and end of the person’s live can give us an idea of social progress. They can also be useful for finding out about the particular challenges faced by social groups in the past. For example, the movie ‘The Imitation Game’ shows how our attitude to gay rights has changed. The main character was put in jail for something that is no longer considered a crime in the UK and is now considered a national hero.
Movies can also tell us about language and how it has changed. For example there are more than 410 movies or TV adaptations of Shakespeare plays. Not all of these are in original language but those that are give the viewer the chance to hear English as it was spoken a long time ago.
If you really want to learn about the events of British history though, there are lots of excellent documentaries you can watch. One of the best, the TV series ‘A History of Britain’, is an excellent overview and will give you a more accurate understanding of British history than any movie.
So, in summary, what can you learn about British history by watching movies? You can learn about clothes, manners, language, and everyday life. For facts about historical events, though, stick to a documentary or visit your library.