1 February 2017, Army and Navy Club, St James’s Square, London.
On 1 February Masterclassers took to Pall Mall, the heart of London Clubland, to learn from Dan Snow, who has dedicated his life to the study of history and constantly embraces new technology to preach the value of history to a global audience. The event was held in the Library of the Army and Navy Club, a room of learning and scholarship overlooking St James’s Square, once one of the most fashionable residential addresses in London and still a magnificent example of Georgian architecture.
The Army and Navy Club – affectionately known by its members as the RAG – was founded in 1837 and has occupied the site on the corner of St James’s Square since then. The library, on the second floor, is lined with books on all aspects of military history, on all periods, in all locations.
In two vibrant sessions, divided by a spontaneous masterclass on paintings in the library, our Masterclassers were challenged by Dan from start to finish to consider the value of history, the purpose of history and the means by which history both has been and now is created.
Dan explored these ideas through a series of quotes about history from the ancient world to the modern, and considered the use of history from Aristotle to Trump via Brexit, Afghanistan, Iraq, Jerusalem, Syria, Napoleon, Alexander the Great, slavery, the Somme, Stalingrad, Rommel, Arnhem, Hitler, Mussolini, Tolstoy, Viking tooth infections, plague, Trafalgar, the NHS, London’s sewerage system, courage, drugs, nuclear war, chemical weapons, bereavement and Mesopotamia.
You would only believe it possible if you were lucky enough to be there.
Dan’s initial talk was followed by a break for food and drinks where Masterclassers had the chance to get to know each other and to meet Dan, Sam Willis and Suzannah Lipscomb, who then led the second half of the Masterclass with an open-floor interview. Discussion was open and fluent and our guests as well as our historians left with a keen, and optimistic sense, of the value of history. Thank you all for coming.