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Top 10 Things Britain Stole From Other Countries

VO: Richard Bush WRITTEN BY: Stacey Thomas
Care to join us for a spot of tea? Welcome to WatchMojo UK, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 things Britain has stolen from other countries. For this list, we will be looking at things that you thought were quintessentially British but, as it turns out, are actually taken from other countries and cultures. Special thanks to our user RichardFB for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 Things Britain Stole From Other Countries


Care to join us for a spot of tea? Welcome to WatchMojo UK, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 things Britain has stolen from other countries.

For this list, we will be looking at things that you thought were quintessentially British but, as it turns out, are actually taken from other countries and cultures.

#10: Baked Beans


The humble baked bean has made a home in every household cupboard in Britain. It’s a staple. It’s part of the national cuisine. You can’t have a proper full English breakfast without beans on the plate. However, baked beans don’t originally come from Britain, and we actually have our American friends to thank for the dish. The Heinz brand of tinned beans were originally sold in the UK in Fortnum and Mason, as a fancy and exotic US import. And now America thinks it’s weird that we eat them on toast. What gives?

#9: Penny-farthing


Do you remember the penny-farthing bicycle from history in school? The contraption, named after two British coins because of its ridiculously uneven wheel-size, is seen as a symbol of incredible Victorian engineering and wealth. The design is credited to inventor James Starley, who created it around 1870. But the bicycle originates with French engineer Eugène Meyer, who patented the wire-spoked wheel, and created a similar high-wheel design in Paris, a year before Starley’s. Meyer is now, rightfully, considered to be the father of the unique contraption.

#8: Football


We may sing that ‘football’s coming home’, but its original home isn’t actually in the UK. True, footy is quintessentially British, and the first ‘Football Association’ was created in England, but the earliest known form of football was a Chinese sport called Cuju, which was basically an ancient version of keepy-uppy. Whilst FIFA also recognises the ancient Greek game of Episkyros as being an early version of the game, modern football appears to have come from a similar game played in England in the Middle Ages.

#7: Freddie Mercury


The flamboyant, strutting, rock ‘n’ roll star we all know as Freddie Mercury, may seem as British as they come, but he was actually born in Zanzibar as Farrokh Bulsara. Mercury spent his formative years in what’s now Tanzania, and then in India, which is where he learned to play piano. It wasn’t until he was 17 that his family moved over to Middlesex in the UK. We should be thankful that he did, or he may never have gone on to front the legendary rock band, Queen.

#6: Polo


Polo! The sport of kings! Such a noble sport. Such a British sport. Actually, no. The famous sport of the English upper classes wasn’t actually invented by the Brits. It was originally played thousands of years ago in Central Asia and, most notably, Persia, where it was also a favourite with the nobility. The game’s popularity eventually stretched to China and South Asia. It was then in India in the 19th century that the British picked the sport up, before taking it home and completely making it their own.

#5: The Queen


You would be forgiven for assuming that the Queen of the United Kingdom herself might be British, but, you guessed it, you’d be wrong again. Her Madge actually comes from a family of German descent. The Royals’ name was originally Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, but they changed it in 1917, during World War I, essentially for PR reasons. If you look back through the monarchy’s history, you’ll see that most of the blood lines are actually made up by nobility of many different countries, mostly from across Europe.

#4: Pubs


The local, the boozer, the alehouse… whatever you want to call it, the pub is surely something distinctly British? There’s one in every town. In some towns... there’s one on every corner. The good old public house may now be as British as Churchill, but it was actually brought to these shores by the Romans. When the Roman armies invaded, they brought with them the concept of road networks. Along with that, they then set up pubs as convenient stop-offs along the way.

#3: St. George


He’s the patron saint of England, you’d think he’d at least be British, right? Nope! The dragon-slaying Knight may be a symbol of English bravery and honour, but English he is not! This legendary figure is actually believed to have been born in Syria to a Greek-Christian family. He was adopted as the patron saint of England by King George III in the 14th century, but Georgie is also the patron saint of (just to name a few) Georgia, Beirut, Iberia, Brazilian football club Corinthians and the sexually transmitted disease... syphilis.

#2: Fish and Chips


Ask anyone what the national dish of Great Britain and the answer is usually one of two things; a Sunday roast, or fish and chips. Only, that second one isn’t actually British. The battered-beauty is actually believed to have been brought to the UK in the 17th Century by Jewish immigrants hailing from either Spain or Portugal. Even the chip is believed to have been invented by a Belgian housewife when she was out of fish and opted to fry potatoes as a substitute. As if that’s not bad enough, the classic dishes of cauliflower cheese, beef wellington and mince pies aren’t actually British either!

#1: Tea


Not this. Take anything, but this. There’s surely nothing more British than a good cup of tea, right? Well, actually there is, and the classic brew isn’t quite as British as we’re usually led to believe. Tea has been drunk in China for thousands of years as a medicinal drink. It’s only been consumed in the UK since the 16th Century, when the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza married Charles II. She had a taste for a cuppa, and so it became fashionable amongst the British royalty and eventually its popularity grew and imports boomed.
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