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Five minutes with… Dan Snow

Dan Snow is an author, historian, TV presenter and the mastermind behind the hugely popular History Hit podcast series. His latest BBC endeavour, 1066: A Year To Conquer England, is available via iPlayer. 

What is an historian?

Someone who explores what happened before now.

Was there anything in particular that made you decide to pursue a career in history?

Nope. History was so woven with my life, hobbies and interests that it never represented a separate way of being. I have always loved visiting the places history has been made, talking to eyewitnesses to history, at some stage I just started getting paid to do it.

Is there a history book you simply couldn’t do without?

Dreadnought by Robert Massie tells the story of one history’s greatest and most important standoffs with wonderful scholarship and prose that sends the pulse racing. A reminder that we can and must aim for both.

What is your favourite website for historical research?

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. So useful to get up to speed on the characters in a new period I jump into.

From Stonehenge and Harlech Castle to Culloden Moor and the Tower of London, Britain is packed with sites of historical significance. Do you have a favourite historical place?

No. I could never choose. Hard to beat Duxford with its aircraft or Portsmouth with its ships. Stirling Castle is also immense.

You have a time-machine for twenty-four hours, where do you go? 

Either 5thC BC Athens to the festival of Dionysius or the Battle of Trafalgar. I can’t imagine what those naval sea battles were actually like.

1066: A Year to Conquer England

What is your normal working pattern?

Don’t have one. But if I have a writing deadline I get up at 6 and stop work by 1pm.

Your field of historical expertise no longer exists. What would you research instead?

19thC American history. The genesis of a superpower.

Why is history important today?

History is important because any attempt to understand our problems, let alone solve them, start with understanding where they have emerged from. Anger in the Islamic world, nationalism in China, fear in North Korea, corruption in sub-Saharan Africa, nativism in the USA, isolationist nostalgia in Britain, are all impossible to understand without delving into history. Why is there war in South Sudan and not Switzerland? Why is silicon Valley in California and not Crimea? History.

Please share your best historical fact…

The Great Pyramid was the highest man made structure on earth for nearly 4,000 years from its construction to 1311. When it was overtaken by…. Lincoln Cathedral

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