A few key dates in your head can help you to orient yourself around new information about when things happened - before or after the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989), for instance, or before or after the London bombings (2005).
For what it’s worth, here’s my top 20, not pretending to be in any way definitive, or anything but UK-oriented.
I’ve found a couple of the most useful, which I’ve remembered for years because they make such an easy pair, are: 1979, Margaret Thatcher elected; 1997, Tony Blair elected.
David Cameron became prime minister, leading coalition government
: first Conservative prime minister for 13 years, since the defeat of John Major in 1997.
: in October the government part-nationalised three UK banks and pumped billions into the financial system after record stock market falls around the world.
7 July: London bombings
(‘7/7’); 52 people killed and around 700 injured in four suicide bomb attacks on London's transport network.
Iraq War: in March the UK joined a US-led war against Iraq after diplomatic efforts through the UN to ensure Baghdad had no weapons of mass destruction were perceived to have failed. Saddam Hussein was hanged for crimes against humanity three years later, on 30 December 2006, following the sentence of an Iraqi court.
9/11: attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and other US targets on 11 September.
Dotcom boom, with the Nasdaq (high-tech) index peaking
on 10 March at the height of what Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan famously warned was a period of “irrational exuberance”.
An eventful year (which counts for three of my 20 dates):
1 July: handover of Hong Kong to China.
31 August: Death of Princess Diana
2 May: Tony Blair elected with the first Labour administration for 18 years, since the defeat of James Callaghan in 1979. Like Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair led his party to three election victories, but was replaced by a cabinet colleague in his third term when Gordon Brown took over in 2007.
16 September: Black Wednesday
, when the UK dropped out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. To support the pound, the Chancellor Norman Lamont raised interest rates from 10% to 15% and authorised the spending of billions of pounds to buy sterling.
17 January: the Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm
with US, UK, French, Saudi and Kuwaiti bombing of strategic targets in and around Baghdad, following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. By the end of February 1991, President Bush had announced the liberation of Kuwait.
Fall of the Berlin Wall
. The following year, 1990, East and West Germany were reunited.
: one year ahead of Margaret Thatcher’s second (of three) general election victories. John Major took over as prime minister during Margaret Thatcher’s third term of office, in 1990, and he won a fourth election for the Conservatives in 1992.
elected: first Conservative government since the defeat of Edward Heath in 1974.
21 July: Neil Armstrong became first person to walk on the moon
, on the Apollo 11 mission. Richard Nixon was president of the United States.
Election of Labour prime minister Harold Wilson
. He served two terms of office, 1964-70 and 1974-76. Between his terms, Conservative leader Sir Edward Heath
was prime minister.
First post-war government
: Clement Attlee led Labour to victory.
If you’ve got thoughts about my selection, do feel free to add your suggestions below.
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