Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Features

'History Guy' Dan Snow talks 10 historic moments that shaped the world

Broadcaster, author, and self-styled 'History Guy' Dan Snow talks Luke Rix-Standing through 10 historic moments that continue to ring down the generations

Dan Snow (Peter Byrne/PA)
Dan Snow (Peter Byrne/PA)
Famous events: Princess Diana’s death
Famous events: women vote for the first time
Famous events: Google is founded
Famous events: Concorde on its first flight
Famous events: Margaret Thatcher becomes PM
Famous events: Shackleton at Elephant Island

He captained Oxford in the Boat Race, presents a lion's share of the BBC's history coverage, and famously performed a citizen's arrest on a London rioter in 2011 - Dan Snow is easily one of the media's Renaissance men.

His TV portfolio includes broadcasting behemoths like Battlefield Britain and Hadrian, as well as a regular slot on The One Show. Throw in over 300 episodes of award-winning podcast, Dan Snow's History Hit, and his @thehistoryguy Twitter handle looks less presumptuous by the second.

His latest book - On This Day In History - picks out one major anniversary for every day of the year, exploring 365 turning points that helped change the course of humanity.

Here, Snow talks us through some of his favourite entries, and how the events still shape the world we live in today...

1. Shackleton reaches land, April 15, 1916

Famous events: Shackleton at Elephant Island

Sir Ernest Shackleton's third and final polar expedition ended in disaster when his ship became trapped in sea ice.

Sign In

After waiting out the winter, he and his crew sailed three lifeboats through the swiftly melting ice cap, eventually making land at Elephant Island. By the time they came ashore, they had not set foot on dry land for 497 days.

Snow says: "It's the ultimate story of leadership, survival, courage and never losing hope, and very different to the story of failure we're all used to with Captain Scott. Shackleton will remain forever one of the greatest ever examples of successful leadership in the teeth of the most terrible situation imaginable."

2. Votes for women, February 6, 1918

Famous events: women vote for the first time

Despite the efforts of suffragettes and suffragists alike, it took the First World War and the premiership of David Lloyd George for a select group of women (about 40%) to finally be granted the vote in 1918.

It would be another decade before women gained the same voting rights as men, though.

Snow says: "It was the first time that women nationally were given the vote - if they met a property and age qualification. It was a vital, vital milepost on the journey towards the modern world, where women and men enjoy equal rights and equal suffrage."

3. The Jarrow March, October 5, 1936

Around 200 "Jarrovians" (or "crusaders", as they preferred to be known) marched 250 miles to London from their Northern hometown of Jarrow, demanding action on poverty and unemployment.

Their petition was received by the House of Commons, but steadfastly ignored.

Snow says: "A hugely important moment in the creation of a more just and equal society. The people of Jarrow were crushed by terrible poverty and marched on Westminster to try and secure redress.

They didn't achieve what they wanted but, in retrospect, working people managed to move the dial and bring us closer to a society in which people's welfare is looked after by the state. It was part of a narrative of social change that has brought us into the modern world."

4. The Windrush arrivals, June 21, 1948

The Empire Windrush docked in Jamaica en route from Australia to Essex, shortly after the Nationality Act of 1948 granted British citizenship to colonial subjects.

The ship left port carrying 802 Caribbean migrants to a new life in the UK - the first of 'the Windrush generation'.

Snow says: "A key part of today's Britain is that we are a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-faith society. Although there have been communities of people of colour long before the Windrush arrivals, they became a symbol - a moment at which migration from the rest of the world went up another gear. "

5. Lennon meets McCartney, July 6, 1957

For all their future fame and fortune, Lennon and McCartney first met at a humble church fete in St. Peter's Church, Liverpool.

Lennon's skiffle band, The Quarrymen, were playing when McCartney arrived, and after the set he picked up one of the guitars. The rest, as they say, is music history.

Snow says: "We're in a world which has popular culture - dominant music; dominant art forms; books being written for the largest possible audience. Lennon meeting McCartney began a process through which even the economic and social elite ended up listening to popular music. It was a revolution in how culture operates - they aren't just the forebears of the sexual and social revolution of the Sixties, but also of JK Rowling and Coldplay."

6. Concorde's first flight, March 2, 1969

Famous events: Concorde on its first flight

A marvel of Anglo-French engineering, Concorde could transport over 100 passengers at more than twice the speed of sound.

It entered commercial service in 1976, offering transatlantic routes for British Airways and Air France, but was decommissioned in 2003.

Snow says: "It was a product of the industrial revolution. People talk about the Industrial Revolution as though it's finished but I think we're still in it - in the same decade we first went to the moon, we became capable of supersonic passenger flight. Even though Concorde itself was too expensive and has now stopped flying, it embodied the dizzying pace of change that the last 200 years has seen."

7. Margaret Thatcher becomes PM, May 3, 1979

Famous events: Margaret Thatcher becomes PM

The first of three barnstorming general election victories for the new-look Tories, Thatcher ousted James Callaghan's Labour government amid the fallout from the Winter of Discontent.

She masterminded a swing of 5.2% - the largest since 1945.

Snow says: "For her supporters, this is the moment that Britain rebounded from its nadir in the 1970s, when industrial relations were poor, and the retreat from imperial mastery seemed to be going badly. For her detractors, this is when Britain began dismantling its industrial and trade union heritage. It's a hugely controversial moment, which has cast a long, long shadow."

8. The Death of Princess Diana, August 31, 1997

Famous events: Princess Diana’s death

Pursued by a swarm of motorbike-riding paparazzi, Diana's Mercedes crashed in the Pont de L'Alma road tunnel in Paris, killing her, her driver, and her companion Dodi Fayed.

The 'People's Princess' was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital in the early hours of the morning.

Snow says: "A moment when the British people asserted their sovereignty over the sovereign, and the future of the monarchy lay in the will of the streets. It was a very democratic spasm, and it showed that modern Britain had changed: The public outcry, the howl of rage and sympathy, shook the British establishment to the core."

9. Google is founded, September 4, 1998

Famous events: Google is founded

Google was founded by Stanford University PhD students Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who formulated a revolutionary method for ranking search results by 'relevance', rather than mentions.

Initially called BackRub, when the company was incorporated, the two were working out of a friend's garage.

Snow says: "The invention of Google is up there with the printing press and iron technology in the Iron Age. No book would exist in its current form today without Google - by allowing us to search the impenetrable mass of information on the web, it changed the way we communicate, with consequences that have flowed into every single aspect of our lives."

10. The collapse of the FTSE 100, January 21, 2008

It started with subprime mortgages and the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and morphed quickly into an era-defining global recession.

One day in January 2008 witnessed the implosion of the FTSE 100, wiping around £77bn off the value of the UK's biggest companies - but this was merely a portent of what was to come as the crisis developed.

Snow says: "One of the worst recessions in history, it led directly to Brexit, to Trump, the re-emergence of far-right and far-left. There's almost no part of the modern turbulent political and social scene that's not in some way a consequence of the massive economic dislocation of 2008."

  • On This Day In History by Dan Snow is published by Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99 (hardback)

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph