Happy Historical 2016!

Well, the hangovers have (mostly) subsided, the words to Auld Lang Syne have been hastily reforgotten, and Jools Holland has at last returned to his cave. All that remains, then, is to have a look at some of the big historical anniversaries we hit in 2016. And it’s going to be a bumper year…

Everyone will be talking a lot about Gallipoli, the Somme, and the Irish Easter Rising (and I will put money on the fact someone tries to make this about Jeremy Corbyn). But perhaps the most important anniversary from 1916 was the notorious, secret, Sykes-Picot agreement. This carved up the remains of the Ottoman Empire and gave us the current (currently defunct) boundary between Iraq and Syria.

We all like to complain about the weather, but 1816 saw the ‘Year without a summer’, after Mount Tambora erupted in what was then the Dutch East Indies, blackening the skies and ruining harvests.

John Law, 1671-1729: bad banker.

1716, meanwhile, saw the beginnings of one of the great banking disasters in history. Desperately trying to catch up with Britain, the French monarchy asked Scottish economist John Law to set up a national bank. Alas, however, this Royal Bank of a Scotsman collapsed a few years later after a crisis over sub-prime American real estate (sort of). Fortunately nothing remotely like this would happen again. Ever.

We’re going to hear a lot about a certain William Shakespeare this year. He died in 1616 and the event is so significant that even busy Boris Johnson has taken the time to pay his researchers to write a book on it. But it was also a big year in English history for other reasons. The first folio edition of a playwright’s works came out (Ben Jonson of course). It also saw the arrival of Pocahontas in England (she went by the name of Rebecca), and – in January – the diplomat Thomas Roe met with the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, becoming the first British ambassador to India.

The ancient city of Dubrovnik

1516 was a big year for humanism: it saw the publication of Erasmus’s Greek translation of the New Testament (a much bigger event than you might think) and, of course, Thomas More’s Utopia.

In 1416 the Dalmatian republic of Ragusa (modern-day Dubrovnik) became the first European state to abolish the slave trade.

And if you thought 1816 was bad, check out 1316, which marked the worst year of the ‘Great European Famine’.

Then, in 1216 ‘Bad’ King John died (it’s been a bad couple of anniversary years for him) …

… while 1016 saw the beginning of the reign of King Cnut, England’s most typographically-nightmarish monarch.

Happy New Year!


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Noirfifre says:

    Collapse of bank due to real estate, that sounds familiar and recent. Ahh, the lessons not learnt from History.

  2. toutparmoi says:

    And won’t the Shakespeare Industry just go absolutely apeshit? It would be nice if we could see a celebration of Elizabethan/Jacobean drama (acknowledging that W.S. didn’t loom anywhere as near as large to his contemporaries as he does to us) but no hope of that. Instead we’ll get same-old-cash-in-quick.

  3. BuntyMcC says:

    Thanks for the amusing history lesson.

  4. Richard says:

    250 years ago:
    “His Majesty’s Gracious Ordinance Relating to Freedom of Writing and of the Press” abolishes government censorship in Sweden and guarantees freedom of the press, making Sweden the first country of the world to introduce constitutional protection of press freedom and to pass wide-ranging freedom of information legislation.

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