Magazine article History Today

History Today Millennium Survey

Magazine article History Today

History Today Millennium Survey

Article excerpt

LOOK AT THE SIXTEENTH AND SEVENTEENTH CENTURIES if you want to understand the history of the last thousand years. And look at history if you want to understand the biggest problems facing the world today. These are the unmistakable conclusions of History Today's own survey of the last millennium.

Earlier this year we asked our readers to name the most significant day in the history of their country, the institution that has done the most to benefit humanity, and the most important history book of the twentieth century. Finally, we asked what questions readers want to see historians address in the new century.

While there is no agreement on exactly which day's events did the most to determine Britain's history since AD 1000, most of our readers do locate that day somewhere in the Tudor period. The Battle of Bosworth (August 22nd, 1485); the day Henry VIII met Anne Boleyn, the day he married her (in late January, 1533); November 17th, 1558, when Elizabeth ascended the throne; the defeat of the Spanish Armada on 8-9th August 1588: all these, with their clear implications for English Protestantism and English naval supremacy, are popular choices.

Other readers, though, prefer the Battle of Hastings, or pivotal days in the Second World War: D-Day (June 6th, 1944), or October 30th, 1942, when HMS Petard captured a crucial Enigma code-book. Not every reader, though, considers the events that most determined British history directly involved British people at all: Luther's nailing of his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg (October 31st, 1517), and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7th, 1941), are both advocated as crucial days in British history.

Readers in other countries naturally opt for key dates in their own national history: Pearl Harbor (again) in the United States; January 30th, 1770, the sighting of, or arrival in, Australia by Captain Cook was most popular for Australians (the Gallipoli landings also got a mention); the treaty of Waitangi for New Zealanders; Wolfe's capture of Quebec; the start of the revolt of the Netherlands; the attack on the Winter Palace by the Aurora in Russia; the Papal Bull of 1155 that gave Henry II dominion over Ireland; and the fall of Jerusalem to the Crusaders; the suicide of Getulio Vargas in August 1948, for Brazil: all these have their proponents.

The belief that the early modern period holds the key to the history for much later times was also evident elsewhere. The twentieth-century's most significant work of history, in the opinion of our readers, is unquestionably Fernand Braudel's The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II (published 1949; in English 1958). …

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