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A DeLorean time machine from Back To The Future. What do the journeys of Doc through time tell us about history? See below...
Welcome to InfoBritain, for historical visiting information in the UK. InfoBritain tells you what happened and where it happened. We have articles and visits relating to all historical periods from prehistoric Britain to recent times, and to the lives of major British authors, artists, musicians, scientists, politicians, military and royal figures. You can use our site search, or our various menus to find suggested visits relating to times or people. Alternatively go to the regions menu, find a place to visit in a particular area, and then link back to the history relating to it. We also have a full accommodation booking service for all parts of the mainland UK. We specialise in historic accommodation, but we also have comprehensive lists of hotels of all types and price ranges. See the regional menus on the right. Enjoy!
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A Personal Note (Archive)
Sometimes history is like a school report. How did such a prime minister do? Marks out of ten. What mistakes were made which led to the First World War? The suggestion in this kind of approach is that things could have turned out differently. In fact since the 1990s there has been a type of history writing which imagines what would have happened if some moment in history had turned out differently. But a fundamental question in history has to be: could things really have been any different? The rise of "what if" history writing came in the 1990s, at the same time as "what if" stories started to become very influential in successful cinema films. So let's have a quick look at the biggest of those films. Do they tell us that things could have been any different?
The Terminator series of films began in 1984, envisaging a future world in which humanity has gone to war with machines. With things going badly for the machines, an effort is made to change history. A terrifying killing machine in the shape of Arnold Schwarzenegger comes back in time, on a mission to kill Sarah Connor, the mother of a future human resistance leader. In response the resistance leader sends his own man back in time to protect his mother from the Terminator. This man then takes a shine to Sarah, and becomes the father of the future resistance leader! This does not suggest people taking control of destiny. If anything there is a sense that the characters in The Terminator are locked into a circle from which they will never escape.
Then there are the Back to the Future films, released in 1985, 1989 and 1990. In these films all the humour comes when Doc, travelling through time in his modified DeLorean, makes scatty attempts to control history. History, however, seems determined to cause problems no matter what tweaks he makes. The changes that persuade things to work out in one sense, cause unexpected problems further down the line. In the final film Doc's last words of wisdom are that nobody knows their future, so we might as well make it a good one. Quite how we do that is tricky, when even the ability to travel in time does not guarantee a good outcome.
So films which imagine being able to change the past, seem to be saying that such power might not actually change anything.
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Historical news for March
An exhibition exploring the life and work of William Kent opens at the V&A this month. Kent created what we now know as Georgian architecture. The exhibition brings together almost 200 examples of Kent's work, ranging from architectural drawings to pieces of gilded and upholstered furniture. The exhibition runs 22 March - 13 July. Telephone 020 7924 2000.
In 1911 hundreds of women across Britain boycotted the census of that year. The aim was to raise awareness for the campaign to grant women the vote. An exhibition commemorating this event is being staged at the People's History Museum in Manchester this month. The exhibition runs from 24th February until 27th April. Telephone 0161 838 9190.
A collection of photographs capturing English social eccentricities in the 1960s is on display at the Science Museum, London. The exhibition features more than fifty unseen photographs by Tony Ray Jones. The exhibition runs until 16th March. Telephone 020 7942 4000.
Anniversaries for March
2nd March 1930: D.H. Lawrence dies in Vence, France. One of his final pieces of writing was a robust defence of his novel Lady Chatterley's Lover against critics who wanted the book suppressed.
7th March 1876: A patent is granted on a device that its inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, calls the telephone.
11th March 1708: Queen Anne withholds royal ascent for the Scottish Militia Bill, blocking the creation of a Scottish militia. This event is often described as the last time a British monarch vetoed government legislation. However, she only did this on the advice of her ministers, who were worried a Scottish militia would be disloyal.
15th March 44BC: A day known as the Ides of March in the Roman calendar. This was a day that coincided with a number of religious ceremonies. The 15th also became notorious as the date of the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44BC.
21st March 1980: First airing of a Dallas episode called A House Divided. This was the episode in which JR was shot by a mystery assailant.
30th March 1979: British MP, and wartime escaper from Colditz, Airey Neave, is killed by a bomb as he leaves the Palace of Westminster car park. The Irish National Liberation Army claims responsibility.
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Thank you to photo contributors Danielle Davis, Jean Edwards, Vicky Eagle of Portsmouth Dockyard, Kevin Edwards, Julian Jones, Richard Jones, Jackie Lewis, Debbie Lowless, Judy Mills of the Corinium Museum, Jane Barron of the World Rugby Museum, and Susan Stuart of Old Spitalfields Market.