Arts

TV 'history guy' Dan Snow on new live tour, book and History Hit TV web channel

David Roy chats to TV historian Dan Snow about his new tour An Evening With The History Guy, his new book On This Day in History and the success of his online channel History Hit TV

TV historian Dan Snow is currently on his first ever live tour

TOP TV historian Dan Snow is hitting the road next month for the next leg of his new (deep breath) An Evening With The 'History Guy' On The History Hit UK Tour 2019, including a stop at The Ulster Hall in Belfast on January 30.

The events find The One Show regular sharing memorable anecdotes from his career as a historian and broadcaster, revealing historical facts about each city he visits and also fielding questions from fans.

"Doing live events is a huge treat because you get to meet people," enthuses Dan (40) when when I catch up with him on a rare day off.

"It's an enormous boost to the confidence to know there are people out there following what you do. The tour is the first time I’ve done this in an organised way where we’ve been able to build a proper show.

"It's a great chance to meet people and say thank you to those on whom my career depends."

As well as presenting his popular history-themed BBC documentaries, including the recent Operation Gold Rush with Dan Snow and National Treasures Live, Dan has also been running his own thriving online channel of podcasts and documentaries, History Hit TV, for the past year.

Additionally, fans can now enjoy his new book, On This Day In History: a handsome hardback ideal for stuffing the stockings of history hounds everywhere, it offers a concise summation of a different historically significant anniversary for every day of the year.

The son of veteran BBC journalist/presenter Peter Snow and nephew of Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow, London-born, New Forest-based Dan has been out and about with the new live show since the summer and it seems he's thoroughly enjoying juggling the various facets of his history-obsessed career.

"The tour started in June and I've been out filming, making podcasts and trying to get my new television channel off the ground – things have been slightly chaotic!" says Dan, who caught the history bug early through visiting various heritage sites with his parents and later went on to earn a degree in Modern History from the University of Oxford.

In fact, far from struggling to get off the ground, it would seem that History Hit TV is already flying high, no doubt fuelled by the tour and new book – every copy of which cannily includes a code for a free three month History Hit TV trial.

In November, the subscription-based portal enjoyed its most successful month since launching in 2017.

"That's right, it's really really exciting," Dan confirms. "We've had millions of downloads for the podcast and record numbers of people signing up to become subscribers. It feels like we might be on the verge of something big."

As for On This Day In History, its entries take a global approach to the past while covering an eclectic selection of 'genres' including social, military, political and scientific history.

For example, readers will learn that 'on this day' in 1783, William Pitt 'the younger' became British prime minister, surviving an initial wave of ridicule to become the second-longest serving PM ever.

The book also reveals that the date of the Belfast show coincides with the 369th anniversary of the first 'regicide' in history: Charles I's execution by order of Oliver Cromwell, whose corpse would later be exhumed and dragged through the streets of London by a vengeful Charles II.

"Anniversaries can be really useful starting points for learning about history," explains Dan of the book's format.

"They often make people start to think about the past for the first time – for example, recently we had the 100th anniversary of the first day of the Somme. So that's why I wanted to organise the book in this way."

It seems that, as well as the new tome being very much part of a career-long obsession with making the past more accessible from the present day, it's also a useful repository for the massive swathe of varied historical knowledge Dan has accumulated over the past 16 years since presenting his first programme for the BBC as part of its 60th anniversary special on the Battles of El Alamein.

"I spent my life being a generalist," he explains. "I've travelled around, I've been to abandoned World War II airfields in Northern Ireland, endless early medieval – what we used to call 'dark ages' – Catholic sites in the Republic, remote islands off the coast of Scotland near St Kilda and Norse churches in Viking Greenland.

"[The book] is just an opportunity to kind of scoop up all that research and put it into one volume – I didn't really know what I'd do with it otherwise."

And, although Dan admits it was a challenge to whittle the number of potential entries down to a pleasingly varied 366, a methodical approach and input from his publisher ensured that the book presents a broad spread of historical matters.

"You just sit there with a massive spreadsheet and have lots of wonderful discussions/arguments," he reveals. "It's great fun. History is not all about dead kings, old libraries and dust. It’s everything. It’s your parents’ eyes meeting across a crowded room and why we are who we are and why we are speaking English and why it's acceptable for women and men to mingle together."

Indeed, those coming to see Dan in Belfast next month can expect an eclectic trawl through both history and the presenter's continuing career bringing it to our screens.

"I hope people walk out of the theatre saying that they had a really good time," he says. "I also hope they leave having thought deeply about the past of their town, their country and their world. History explains so much about today.

"Why can’t you book a boozy holiday in Somalia? That is down to history. The country’s instability is the result of colonial interference, food scarcity and the interference of America.

"If you’re curious about the world today, history can help you understand it. It will also make you realise that we are so lucky to be alive today. It gives things a real sense of perspective."

ON THIS DAY IN IRISH HISTORY

Dan Snow's new book takes a global approach to historically significant dates – including plenty related to Ireland

:: February 22: Failed French invasion in Wales in support of Society of United Irishmen (1797)

:: March 17: Death of St Patrick (461)

:: April 10: Eruption of Mount Tamboa in Indonesia, ash cloud contributes to Irish Famine (1815)

:: April 23: Brian Boru vs the Vikings at the Battle of Clontarf (1014)

:: April 24: IRA bomb explodes in London's Canada Wharf (1993)

:: September 21: Richard de Clare's troops invade Dublin (1170)

:: October 11: Oliver Cromwell slaughters thousands in Wexford (1649)

:: October 28: Dublin writer Jonathan Swift publishes Gulliver's Travels (1726)

:: November 21: Bloody Sunday (1920)

:: November 30: Death of Oscar Wilde (1900)

:: December 31: Guinness Brewery founded in Dublin (1751)

:: An Evening With The History Guy, January 30, The Ulster Hall, Belfast. Tickets via Etickets.waterfront.co.uk. On This Day In History is available now, published by John Murray. Visit Historyhit.com

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