Will 2022 be an important year, historically?

2018 marks 100 years since the end of the First World War.

2018 marks 100 years since the end of the First World War. - Credit: Archant

Another year draws to a close, a new one is about to begin. 

Will 2022 prove to be a landmark year in global history? Only time will tell.

1066 seems to be one famous year which most people can remember. And it certainly was important. It marked the dawn of a new era, separating us forever from the Dark Ages and the time of the Saxons. 

In some ways, the Battle of Stamford Bridge was as important as the more famous Battle of Hastings, which occurred less than three weeks later. 

Hastings ushered in the Norman period. But Stamford Bridge brought an end to the constant threat of Viking raiding parties which had plagued England for centuries. 

King Harold Hardrasta triumphed at the first, defeating his own brother in the process. The Norman conqueror William then defeated him at Hastings.

What other historic years do people tend to remember? 

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“What about Magna Carta?” the comedy actor, Tony Hancock once joked. “Did she die in vain?” 

Of course, Magna Carta was not a person at all but a thing: literally a “great charter” signed at Runnymede by King John in 1215. 

To repeat another very old joke, that is the year 1215, not 12.15pm. Joking aside, the signing of the Magna Carta remains a very important moment, essentially granting some basic human rights to the population for the very first time.

I will apologise now for my generally western and specifically British bias at this point, however. Big and important events happened on every continent of the world over the centuries but I won’t be able to record all of these. I’m deliberately restricting myself to dates people reading this are likely to remember having heard about already.

After 1066 and 1215, few medieval or Tudor dates have become rooted in the popular collective memory in the centuries since. 

The years 1346 and 1415 both witnessed famous victories in the Hundred Years War: Crecy and Agincourt, while 1485 and 1588 both featured important battles too, Richard III’s 1485 defeat at Bosworth ending not just his own rule, but that of the Plantagenets and the end of the medieval era. 1588 saw the defeat of the Spanish Armada. 

One date stands out above all others, however: the year of the discovery of America, an event summarised in the poem which begins: “In fourteen hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue…”

Quite a few years appear very significant in the 17th century: the execution of Charles I (1649), the Restoration of the Monarchy 1660) and the Glorious Revolution (1688). But undoubtedly the two dates which stay with most people are 1665 (the Great Plague) and 1666 (the Great Fire of London).

As far as the next century goes, 1776 and 1789 stand out. Both were revolutionary years for America and France respectively. 1805 (Trafalgar) and 1815 (Waterloo) both mark important defeats for Napoleon, as does 1812, the year of his defeat in Russia which also inspired a great overture.

Why does nobody particularly remember 1829 as the year of Stephenson’s Rocket, 1876 for the first ever telephone call, or 1903 for the Wright Brothers’ first flight? 

Who knows? Perhaps it’s because their full significance was not necessarily fully appreciated at the time.

As for the 20th century, the dates of the two World Wars (1914-18, 1939-45) leap out at us as memorable years. 

What else does? The Russian Revolution (1917)? The General Strike (1929)? England’s World Cup win (1966)? The Apollo 11 Moon landings (1969)? The long hot summer (1976)? 1963 always strikes me as an unusually eventful year: Beatlemania, the Profumo Affair, the Kennedy assassination and so much else.

Many big and important things happened in other years, of course. But these are the ones we have
tended to select as the most important ones in our history.

All that remains is to wish you all a very happy new year in 2022.