Interview with ‘The History Guy’, Dan Snow

Dan is a big fan of Somerset and its history

Dan is a big fan of Somerset and its history - Credit: submitted

While some television presenters are precious about their names, there is one who is quite happy to be simply known as ‘The History Guy’

Dan's father is the respected presenter and historian Peter Snow

Dan's father is the respected presenter and historian Peter Snow - Credit: submitted

A lifetime of battles and castles might seem the lot of a war-mongering baron or perhaps even a Crusader but when you meet Dan Snow, whom the nation has adopted as its favourite historian you realise that he has a passion for every aspect of world history,

In a sense he is a Crusader himself because he likes nothing better than to arouse an interest in history among people who perhaps had previously thought of it as little more than a boring school lesson. Already Dan has converted many with his television series, books and radio broadcasts and there is a growing army of budding historians inspired by his own enthusiasm and interest.

Somerset has provided him with many happy visits and he plans many more in the future.

"I have featured various parts of the region in my television series, it is such an amazing area producing centuries of historical facts," says Dan. "What I really like is that the people of the area are so in touch with their history as can be seen by the large number of heritage and history groups. They do not take it for granted but take a real interest and pride in it whether we are going way back to Roman times and before or to the more modern links with the 21st century.

"Somerset's history is, in some ways, understated because other areas of the country have had a better press perhaps," he says. "In truth a tour of the county reveals so much about British heritage as a whole.

"For instance, I have a particular interest in sea-faring and to visit the birthplace of Admiral Robert Blake, one of the icons of Naval history is quite an honour. It is now the Blake Museum and almost a voyage of adventure when you visit it.

"Of course the Battle of Sedgmoor is also indellilbly marked in British history and I have given talks on that fascinating encounter when James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, who had been proclaimed King on the Cornhill in Bridgwater, led his troops on a surprise night-time attack on the King's troops near Westonzoyland. When someone accidently fired their musket before the attack, the surpise element was lost and so was the battle. James Scott later lost his head too in the Tower of London. That was in 1685 but years earlier not far away was the famous occasion when King Alfred allegedly burnt the cakes as he hid in the in the marshes of Athelney after a battle with the invading Danes in 875.

"For spiritual history take a look at the wonderful Wells Cathedral, if you are interested engineering history what better example of Brunel than the Clifton Suspension Bridge even though it was actually completed after his death.

"Somerset is even involved in the history of music of course with the famous Glastonbury Festival which, in a sense, both overshadows and draws attention to the nearby Abbey and the legend of Joseph of Arimathea and his connection with the Holy Grail.

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"Glastonbury was famous throughout the world among historians and archeologists long before the annual festival began. Now the two complement each other brilliantly and hundreds of thousands of people flock to Somerset every year for these two icons alone.

We haven't even mentioned Bath yet, which is totally immersed in history if you don't mind the pun."

Dan Snow came to our television screens in a fascinating series on Battlefields, which he researched and presented with his famous and much-respected father Peter Snow. It was sparked off in 2003 by a special programme on El Alamein to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the battles and that led to an eight-part series on BBC2 in 2004 called Battlefield Britain, which won a BAFTA award for special effects.

That series not only launched the nation into a much keener interest in history but launched Dan into a high-profile career as an expert.

"It has always been history first with me rather than the thought of a media career," he explains. "When you have parents who take an interest in history and are also media people it does rub off. They have been great role models but it was never a natural path for me to take, just a great way of sharing my passion for history."

Dan is not only renowned for his television work but is also something of an action man having rowed three times for Oxford in the Boat Race with one win to his credit and taken part in various other sports.

He has also shown a caring side, typified by the time in 2010 when he and On Sunday, April 18, 2010 Snow and a few friends took three inflatable boats from Dover to Calais to help 25 people return to the UK after they were stranded in France by the air travel problem caused by the volcanic eruption in Iceland. The French authorities were none too pleased but Dan's Dunkirk spirit saved the day for those stranded. That same spirit saw him make a citizen's arrest during the 2011 rioting in London when he caught someone looting from a show shop.

Dan is also a family man, married to Edwina, formerly Lady Edwina Grosvenor, whose godmother was Princess Diana. They have two daughters, Zia and Orla and son Wolf. Needless to say they are encouraged to take an interest in history from an early age.

"They have already been with me to a few castles and trod the battlements in the rain. That's the sign of a true historian," he jokes.

Although Dan has been associated with battles, his interests go far beyond matters of conflict. One of his project brings back to life the golden age of steam railways in Britain.

"I think we all love steam trains, they are such magnificent creatures," he enthused. "This project was a celebration of them and we found some great footage. Many of the trains were characters in their own right and are as famous as stars of stage and screen."

Dan is in big demand for his fascinating TV series and his books but he also regularly tours the country giving talks and even hosts the podcast, Dan Snow's History Hit.

"There is no end to the fascination of history," said Dan. "we have mentioned a couple of aspects of Somerset but there is so much more - it is probably worth a series all of its own."

One of his latest books is Peter & Dan Snow's Treasures of British History, which he wrote with his famous father. Published by Carlton, it is an exciting examination of the nation's history as revealed through 50 key documents some of which are reproduced in the book but all of which are shown to be so important in the story of Britain. It is written in a style which makes it fascinating to absolutely anyone with any interest in the story of how we got here.

The book has confirmed Dan Snow's role in society as not just a very professional and accomplished television presenter, not just a great historian but as a man who successfully combines the two to involve millions of others in his passion for life past and present.

"I have found, while touring the country, that there is a growing fascination of who we are, where we come from and, in a sense, how our history can tell us where we are going. History is a great pointer to the possible dangers of the future.

"I think there is still a lot of exploration to do in Somerset. I hope to be back in the county again soon."