Ellen Fitzpatrick, professor of history, University of New Hampshire
History is about change over time—its course rarely changes profoundly in a single day. That said, things would never be the same after the successful test of the atomic bomb in Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945. Humankind harnessed the power of nature and gained the capacity to destroy all it had made.
Charles Hill, professor of international studies, Yale
October 12, 1492. Columbus’ landing in the New World caused everything to be re-thought. It sparked a Spanish debate on the question of whether the natives were humans, with souls and therefore possessed of rights and eligible for salvation. The answer, argued by Bartolomeo de las Casas, was yes. From that point forward all Humanity had to be considered as One.
Philippa Gregory, author of The Other Boleyn Girl
There must have been a day sometime in 1526 when Katherine of Aragon told someone that she knew would report to her husband, Henry VIII, that she was not going to step aside and leave him free to marry a younger woman who might bear him a son. This set Henry on the course which would lead England into Protestantism, divorcing the country from Renaissance Europe and forcing it instead to look outwards to Empire and America.
Margaret Cho, comedian
I don’t know about all history, but my history was changed for sure on September 11, 2001. It was the first time I felt the world shaken, and everything stop and then start again.
Claudia Goldin, Harvard economist
There is no particular day because there would always have been another. Had December 7, 1941 not occurred, the U.S. would still have been involved in WWII. If April 11, 1861 were wiped from the calendar of history, the U.S. Civil War would still have broken out. And if we knew the day of the Big Bang and erased it from time, we would all still be here almost the same as we are today.
Read the rest of the responses. [Image: Graham Roumieu]
In this month’s issue, we debut our newest feature, where we ask a variety of experts and public figures a “Big Question”.
Now we’re asking you. What day most changed the course of history?
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- unwordinglanguage said:Us-centric, of course. Because history hadn’t existed before the US was even discovered/in parallel with US history.
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