TV historian Dan Snow explains why history is all the rage

Dan
Dan

Dates in Crawley, Worthing and Eastbourne

History is all the rage – for the simple reason we’ve realised that history is all around us. It is how we got to this present moment, says TV historian Dan Snow who is on the road with his theatre tour, An Evening with the History Guy.

The show takes in Crawley’s Hawth on March 17; Worthing’s Connaught Theatre on March 21; and Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park on March 25.

Dan will offer tales of memorable moments from his career, but as he tours the country, he will also research – and include – historical facts and stories relating to the specific area/town he is appearing in.

Dan is in a happy position. As he says, he sits between acadaemia and the public, and he is able to travel between the two… thanks to a job offer from the BBC.

He was just about to launch into his postgraduate studies at the time, and he admits it was a difficult decision which route to go down, but even his tutors at Oxford were urging him to take the job – and Dan hasn’t looked back.

Times have changed excitingly: “People used to ask me what is the point of history. They don’t ask me that anymore.”

The difference has been the crash of 2008, the impact of 9/11 and other global events which have helped people realise that if we want to understand what is going on now, we need to understand what has gone before. If you want to understand war in Syria, if you want to understand the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, you need to delve into history.

History is the essential reference point for the present. Dan cites the Brexit slogan “Take back control.” The slogan implies that we had control in the past. Dan also cites the Trump slogan “Make American great again.” The slogan implies that America was once great.

Part also of the point of history is that we do learn from it.

“We have built the most successful, remarkable society. We have built a society where we have almost banished hunger from the western world. We have abolished slavery and we have given women an equal place in society.”

When Dan left Oxford, he started presenting history programmes with his father and their series Battlefield Britain went on to win a BAFTA. Over the years he has made programmes on a number of historical topics and has presented shows such as Armada, Grand Canyon and Vikings..

“I love history. It’s everywhere. It’s everything that ever happened to anyone who has ever lived on this planet. It also means that I’m never bored on a train journey. As you travel, you see names that echo from the past. Every place has a history – wasn’t there a siege in the Civil War there?

“The first question I’m always asked at events is ‘What’s the best place you’ve ever been to?’ They expect me to say something like Angkor Wat. But perhaps weirdly, I just love this country – there is so much character and history here. Wherever you go in Britain, there are so many stories.

“For example, you can visit a place just outside Manchester and find the perfect Industrial Revolution era textile mill where global industrialisation began.”

History is constantly beckoning him towards it.

“I drove up the M3 recently to interview a Second World War veteran. On the way I visited Odiham Castle in Hampshire. It was built by King John, it was besieged twice and various people were murdered there down the centuries. The M3 is a road I use all the time, and I had never heard of Odiham Castle before. There is so much history on this island just waiting to be discovered. It’s such a treat. We may complain, but we do have a great respect for history. I’m half Canadian, and in Canada they would simply bulldoze a historic site and put a new building in its place. We are so lucky that we have preserved so much in Britain.”