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Who now remembers the day when the UK joined what was then the European Economic Community? If you know that it was Monday 1 January 1973, give yourself a pat on the back.
If you didn’t, then don’t be too harsh on yourself: you’re in the majority. This seminal moment in modern British history never gets much attention. Yes, at the time, there was some Euro-enthusiasm, with the Royal Mint marking the occasion with a special heptagonal 50 pence piece featuring nine hands that represented the member states. But pretty much since then, the day when the UK went “in” has been all but scrubbed from our collective national memory.
Given the all-consuming focus on Brexit today – taking the UK “out” after 46 years of being “in” – it is reasonable to assume that historians would have paid some attention to this key date in British history. Yet two new books, published within a few months of each other and purporting to highlight key events “On This Day”, choose to remember other events that took place on 1 January.
In his On This Day in History, Dan Snow, the TV historian, described how, on New Year’s Day 1886, Lord Randolph Churchill, father of Sir Winston, “presented Queen Victoria with an extravagant gift: Burma”.