Events that Changed Our World

A BBC Viewer’s Poll


Big Ideas

Last year, readers of the UK’s Radio Times magazine were asked to vote for the single most significant world event since 1945 and the end of the Second World War.

10. The Iranian Revolution 16th Jan 1979

Ayatolla Khomeini
Ayatolla Khomeini

The Iranian revolution is credited by many historians as launching an era of Islamic radicalism, with subsequent Islamic movements such as Hezbollah and Al Qaeda seen as influenced by the notion of a “revolution” to bring about a pure Islamic state.

9. The Election of Margaret Thatcher 4th May 1979

Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher

Admired and revered, hated and despised in equal measure, Margaret Thatcher will, surely, never be forgotten. The first, and to date only, female British Prime Minister, she quickly gained the moniker The Iron Lady for good reason.

8. The Cuban Missile Crisis 14th – 18th Oct 1962

President John F. Kennedy
President John F. Kennedy

Armageddon never came closer than one bright Saturday afternoon in October 1962. A stand-off between the USA and the Soviet Union over the locating of nuclear missiles on the island of Cuba left the future of the planet, quite literally on a knife-edge.

7. Establishment of the State of Israel 14th May 1948

David Ben-Gurion

Antagonism between cultures has caused many a conflict. But this particular conflict has divided the world for the past sixty years and shows no sign of ending. The partitioning of Palestine to create a new Zionist state would cause a series of clashes that persists now.

6. Martin Luther King‘s Speech 28th Aug 1963

Dr Martin Luther King Junior
Dr Martin Luther King Junior

He had a dream, that one day his children would live in a nation where they’d be judged, not by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character. His speech, in front of a vast crowd in Washington, would lead, eventually, to the end of racial segregation in the USA.

5. Fall of the Berlin Wall 9th Nov 1989

walltnThe cold war was effectively ended in November of 1989 with the collapse of communism, symbolised by the fall of The Berlin Wall. This wall had, for 28 years, separated the Soviet Bloc from the capitalist west.

4. Invention of the WWW 6th Aug 1991

screentnInvented by Tim Berners-Lee, the World Wide Web has transformed global communication and has entered every-day life in homes across the planet. Tim Berners-Lee, an Oxford physics graduate made no money from his invention, he is now a campaigner for freedom of information.

3. The First Moon Landing 21st Jul 1969

moontnAt 13:32 GMT on July 16th 1969, Apollo 11 took off from Cape Kennedy in Florida carrying three American astronauts into the annals of history. They were about to take a small step for man, but a giant leap for mankind.

2. September 11 2001

sept11tnOn the day known, universally as 9/11 two American airliners were flown into the World Trade Center towers by Islamic Fundamentalist hijackers. Similar attacks would follow in Washington and Pennsylvania.

1. Discovery of the Structure of DNA 28th Feb 1953

helixtnTwo British Scientists published an article in which they claim to have answered the question about how living creatures reproduce themselves. What they’ve actually done is to unravel the structure of DNA and with it, the secret of life.

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