The History of Quizzes

Wine Quiz logo

The History of Quizzes

There are an estimated 22,000 pub quizzes every week held in Britain. Combine this with a TV schedule packed with quiz shows and a thriving board game market and it soon becomes apparent that quizzing is big business? But where did quizzing begin and what is the history behind one of Britain’s most popular pastimes.

Tracing quizzing history is difficult to say the least. The use of the word “quiz” pre-dates the invention of the pub quiz as we would know it today. It was first used in a mocking sense to describe an “oddball”. The pub quiz as we know it today began to emerge in the 1970s when Burns and Proctor began to nationalise quizzing. Individual pub quizzes had been in local establishments for at least 20 years prior to Burns and Proctor’s arrival on the scene but there attempt to unify the quizzing scene encouraged pubs to dedicate a weekly quiz night.

During this period Pubs began to realise how profitable quizzing nights could be and there started the trend. Long after Burns and Proctor died out, establishments up and down the country began to put more time and effort into making their quiz night the most appealing. Top quizmasters were in demand and quizzing had truly taken off.

As technology developed so did pub quizzing. Pictures rounds and music rounds began to emerge with more frequency and the quality of hand-outs, questions and presentation improved. But with this came a downside. Googling. Smart-phones with the ability to retrieve answers to quiz questions within a matter of seconds began to become commonplace and cheating in pub quizzes became all too frequent. To this day the opening introduction of a quiz night usually involves a warning against googling answers, something unthinkable 20 years ago. Pub quizzing remains strong but will the ever improving access to information ruin this tradition? Only time will tell.

Quizzing however will always survive on television as it continues to grow. Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? was event television rewarding great quizzing with big money. Eggheads this year celebrates ten years on screen and itself relies on the appeal of World Champion quizzers to draw in viewers. Mastermind and University Challenge continue to be successful. A glance at the ratings each week will show quizzing programmes dominate the upper echelons. From serious quizzers to family viewers every avenue is covered in the world of TV quizzing.

But that is far from all…..there is a serious side to quizzing that has a long history yet still in many ways is in its infancy. Quiz Leagues are evident in cities and towns across the country with thousands taking part each week. Certainly no googling here! A quick browse of the Quiz League of London website shows they size of interest in competitive quizzing. Quiz Leagues in Sunderland and York hold claims of being the oldest with origins in the 1960s.

Throw into the mix the emergence of the National Quiz Circuit and you begin to see how seriously quizzing is taken. From TV faces such as Kevin Ashman and Barry Simmons down to local eager quizzers, the circuit in Britain is the biggest in the world. Each month for the past 10 years or so serious quizzers have assembled across the country to pit their wits against the best. The World Championships continue to grow with over 2000 players in 2013. The history of quizzing may indeed lie in pubs and televisions, but with Google on the rise and pubs on the closure lists, leagues and competitive quizzing could well be the future?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *