“The world doesn’t need any more gangly posh blokes walking around telling everybody how they are going to fix their problems!” The History Guy, or Dan Snow as he’s more commonly known, talks to Carl Marsh.
You’ve just had a book that has come out called On This Day In History. How daunting was it for you to do such a project, finding things that happened on every day of the year throughout history?
Believe me, it was a bloody nightmare! Some days were very busy, like the Battle Of Agincourt was fought on the same day as the Charge Of The Light Brigade, whereas on other days there was absolutely nothing that happened – it was a right pain in the neck!
Did you have to spend a lot of time on this book, or get to do it as a bit of a side project?
I do a lot of anniversary-related stuff on social media, and it’s always popular, and has always been popular with TV – I’ve worked on The One Show on BBC1 doing all the anniversary stuff. I have this huge giant folder in my computer of all these anniversaries, while a lot of it was stuff I had done in the past, so all I had to do was write it all up. It was quite hard having to write an engaging story on every single day of the year.
There is also a tour – will it all be linked to the book, or will it be completely separate?
I’ll be flogging the book, but the tour is a more ambitious project where I will be telling people about my love for history, why it still matters, why it has shaped the world and continues to do still. We are living in historical times with Brexit, Trump, the rise of the far right and climate change. The tour is a celebration of history; it’s a celebration of remarkable people I’ve met, such as historians or people that have played their part in history – politicians, rock stars, genocide survivors, WWI and WWII veterans. It’s a more significant evening for sure.
Does it have a political theme to it then?
A lot of people will tell you that the world is going to hell in a handcart, and actually history tells us that we have never been luckier than to be alive today. During the 17th century, a third of human beings died during a period of global cooling – we have no idea how lucky we are to be alive today. That is one of my bigger ideas of the talk which is, as we go through and look at history, it should actually make us quite happy and glad to be alive.
It can also predict answers as to why there are areas where we are not happy such as, why we are more obese? Why are we spending less time with our families? Why are we more sedentary? History can be quite crucial in an everyday guise.
Are you ever tempted to go into politics – a lot of people will often say that most politicians don’t know anything about history, while you apparently do. Your great-great-grandfather was the Prime Minister David Lloyd George, are you tempted?
No, I don’t think. The world doesn’t need any more gangly posh blokes walking around telling everybody how they are going to fix their problems! I don’t think I’ve got the skill set for it. And I’ve not got the appetite and the thick skin either.
We need people going into politics who are passionate and care about institutions like the NHS, about rural affairs or education. I’m an amateur. It’s true I have studied politics in the past but just because people know that I know a lot about the Duke Of Wellington, Pitt The Younger and David Lloyd George doesn’t mean I’d make a great politician. I know the politicians are not doing a brilliant job at the moment, but when you go back to history, at least we are resolving our disputes through argument and the ballot box and the law courts – that’s a good thing.