In early December, Bradford Kimball ’24 became the first BB&N student to win the National History Bee, which was delayed six months this year and held online due to COVID. He competed against over 70 eighth graders from across the country, beating out a student from Florida and a student from Maryland by one and two points, respectively, in the final round.
The National History Bee is a buzzer-based history quiz competition for individual students. Students must first take a qualifying exam and then compete at the regionals to earn a spot at the nationals.
Kimball started competing as part of a group organized by former Head of the Middle School History Department and Faculty Emeritus, Bill Rogers. Kimball joined the group in seventh grade and competed in the New England Regionals before moving on to the Nationals.
BB&N recently caught up with Kimball to speak with him about his amazing victory.
So, history must be your favorite subject?
Yeah, history is my favorite subject at school (sorry to all my non-history teachers). I find it so incredible how close history is to us. For example, my grandmother’s grandmother lived in the 1800s, which feels ancient, but yet I get to interact with my grandmother, who knew someone who lived through that period in history. History shapes all of us, and it’s the most human subject, because it’s just about people and their stories.
Do you study for the Bee?
When I competed in Nationals in 2019, I had a pretty rigorous study plan, but this time around I didn’t really have one. With the Bee being moved from June to December, I actually didn’t realize it was happening until about two weeks before. Most of my studying in those two weeks was watching Crash Course history videos and reading through some of the study guides I made two years ago, which ended up helping immensely. Though studying has helped me with the Bee, I would say that I’ve acquired most of my history knowledge just by reading and watching the news.
Do you get nervous before the event or have any superstitions that bring you good luck?
No, I don’t really get nervous before competing, or have any routines that I do. The only thing I try to do is to approach each round with a blank mind, not preoccupied with any sort of thoughts other than the questions at hand.
What was it like having the Bee virtual this year?
Doing the Bee online was weird, and at times very stressful. I had two close calls with technology during the final round, which could have cost me the win. The first was that my laptop almost died, but I was able to retrieve my charger fast enough to not miss too much. I was using two computers, one for the Google Meet, and one for the buzzer, so the really scary moment was when the computer I was using for my buzzer crashed. Fortunately, there was a long debate about scoring that was happening while my computer crashed, and I was able to get it back up and running in time.
What’s next for you in terms of competing?
The next step is to try to start a Quiz Bowl team here at BB&N! Quiz Bowl is like the History Bee, but it contains questions about all general knowledge. A few of my friends and I are looking to try and start one, so if anyone reading this is interested in joining, or helping to organize it, please reach out!
Think you could excel in the National History Bee? Try your luck with a few sample questions from the competition. (Answers below.)
1: What party held all but three seats in the Massachusetts legislature following the 1854 election?
2: What Roman consul was targeted in the Catiline Conspiracy?
(1: The Know-Nothings; 2: Cicero)