Daniel Snowman

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Daniel Snowman

Daniel Snowman (born 4 November 1938) is a British writer, lecturer and broadcaster on social and cultural history. His career has spanned the academic world and the BBC, while his books include Kissing Cousins (a comparative study of British and American social attitudes); critical portraits of the Amadeus Quartet and of Plácido Domingo; a study of the cultural impact of The Hitler Émigrés; an anthology of essays about today's leading historians; and The Gilded Stage: A Social History of Opera.

Life and career[edit]

Snowman was born and raised in London, his parents coming from Anglo-Jewish families with roots in 19th-century Eastern Europe. He was educated at Cambridge (Double First-class degree in History) and Cornell (MA in Government) and from 1963–7 was a lecturer in Politics and American Studies at the University of Sussex. In 1967, he went to the BBC for a 6-month stint as a radio producer, rejoining as a full-time staff member in 1970. In 1967, too, Snowman joined the London Philharmonic Choir, an ensemble with whom he sang for 48 years, and whose history he has written.[1]

At the BBC, Snowman was responsible for a wide variety of radio programmes on cultural and historical subjects, working with such established broadcasters as Bernard Crick, Robin Day, Bill Grundy, Lord Hailsham, William Hardcastle and John Vaizey while also helping develop the broadcasting careers of such younger figures as Susan Hill, Aled Jones, Norman Lebrecht, Roy Porter, Edward Seckerson and Lucie Skeaping. Snowman tended to specialize in ambitious series such as The Long March of Everyman,[2] Whatever Happened to Equality?, A World In Common (world development issues), World Powers in the Twentieth Century, Northern Lights (a Radio 4 festival about the Arctic) and Fins de Siècle,[3] an attempt to enter and recreate the sound world of the final years of each of the past six centuries. Many of these later appeared as books which Snowman helped edit.[4] After leaving the BBC at the end of 1995, Snowman turned increasingly to writing and lecturing. From 2004 he has held a Senior Research Fellowship at London University's Institute of Historical Research;[5] in 2010 he delivered the IHR Annual Fellows’ Lecture.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Snowman was briefly married to Alice Harris (1964–66). In 1975, he married Janet Levison and they have two children, Ben and Anna. The marriage ended in divorce in 2014.


The Hitler Émigrés: The Cultural Impact on Britain of Refugees from Nazism concerned those who, having escaped the shadow of Nazism, found refuge in Britain and made a lasting mark on the nation's intellectual and cultural life, among them some of Britain's most celebrated artists, architects, musicians, choreographers, film makers, historians, philosophers, scientists, writers, broadcasters and publishers.[6]

Historians, based on a long-running series of quarterly essays in the magazine History Today.[7] Snowman examined the so-called ‘History Wave’, proposed some reasons for this, and suggested that, as people sought a usable ‘Heritage’ from the past as an aid to their own self-definition, the historian – who mediates between past and present – took on something of the function of the priest of earlier times. In Historians, he wrote about the life and work of some thirty of the most influential, including Asa Briggs, Peter Burke, David Cannadine, Natalie Zemon Davis, Richard J. Evans, Niall Ferguson, Roy Foster, Antonia Fraser, Eric Hobsbawm, Lisa Jardine, Ian Kershaw, Simon Schama and David Starkey.

The Gilded Stage: A Social History of Opera was a pioneering attempt to place the history of opera in its widest historical perspective. Thus, Snowman explored not only the traditional trio of composers, works and artists but also the financing and patronage of opera over the centuries, the changing nature of those in the operatic professions and their audiences, the history of theatrical architecture and of stage design, the impact of new technologies (gas, electric lighting, recording, photography, film etc.), and the globalization of opera in the 20th century.[8]

Articles and reviews[edit]

Articles and reviews by Daniel Snowman have appeared in: BBC History Magazine, BBC Music Magazine, Daily/Sunday Telegraph, Economist, English Historical Review, Gramophone, Guardian, Historical Research, Historically Speaking, History Today, Homes & Gardens, Independent, Jewish Chronicle, Jewish Renaissance, Journal of American Studies, Listener, Literary Review, Living History, Music and Musicians, Musical Times, New Society, New Statesman, Opera, Opera Now, Political Studies, Radio Times, Standard, Sunday Times, Times, Times Literary & Higher Education Supplements, Tribune.

His 'Short History of Opera' (and pages about voice types, etc.) was used on the official website of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and in spring 2011 he was commissioned by the ROH to undertake an academic assessment of their Archives and historical Collections.

Lectures and public events[edit]

Snowman is a Frequent Lecturer[9] at British arts festivals, academic and cultural institutions, luncheon clubs etc, and in a typical year delivers some 40–50 illustrated talks and lectures across the UK and abroad. Since 1999 he has delivered over 600 illustrated lectures to members of The Arts Society (formerly NADFAS).[10] In 2002 and again in 2006 he undertook a two-month, round-the-world lecture-and-research tour, including visits to various parts of Australia, New Zealand and North America. Daniel has also lectured for the Royal Opera (Covent Garden), Glyndebourne, English National Opera, the New York Metropolitan Opera Guild and Los Angeles Opera.  In winter 2010/11, he delivered a six-part series of public lectures at the Royal Academy of Music on the Social History of Opera, and in 2017 presented a 12-week (36-session) course at the Victoria and Albert Museum[11] to accompany their major exhibition on the subject – a lecture series he repeated at the V&A in 2018.

Lectures and public events have included:

  • The Yerushah Lecture (University of Cambridge, 14 May 2003)
  • The Scouloudi Lecture (University of London, Institute of Historical Research, 12 June 2003)
  • The Leo Baeck Lecture (Imperial War Museum, London, 3 November 2004)[12]
  • Paper on 'Why the Public Loves History' (London University, Institute of Historical Research, winter conference: 13 February 2006)
  • The 2010 Annual Fellows’ Lecture (London University, Institute of Historical Research, 1 June 2010)[13]
  • Paper on 19thC opera history (Royal Musical Association annual conference, London, 15 July 2010)
  • 2010/11: Six Lectures on the Social History of Opera (Royal Academy of Music, London; monthly, from September 2010 to March 2011)[14]
  • Paper on the Social History of Opera (University of Western Ontario, Canada, 9 March 2011)
  • Speech on the Social History of Opera (University Club, New York, 15 March 2011)
  • Paper on 19thC opera politics to the 'Music in Britain' social history seminar (University of London, Institute of Historical Research, 9 May 9, 2011)
  • Introduction to Die Meistersinger: Education Day at Glyndebourne (15 May 2011)
  • Paper to the Anglo-American Conference of Historians, Senate House, London (6 July 2012)
  • Paper to the Institute of Musical Research (Senate House, London; 22 October 2012)
  • Lecture on 'Puppetry and Opera': Puppet Centre conference (Barbican, London; 9 November 2012)
  • Lecture on opera history at the Juilliard School of Music, New York (31 January 2013)
  • Lectures to the New York Metropolitan Opera Guild ( 1 and 2 February 2013)
  • Lecture (Verdi and Victoria) for the "Viva Verdi!" festival at the Italian Cultural Institute, London (7 February 2013)
  • Martin Miller and Hannah Norbert-Miller Memorial Lecture: The Hitler Emigres Re-visited (Senate House, London; 21 February 2013)[15][16]
  • Chaired final plenary session, Institute of Historical Research annual Winter Conference ('History and Biography', Senate House, London; 8 March 2013)
  • Delivered pre-concert talk about Michael Tippett's: A Child of our Time (London Philharmonic Orchestra), and sang in the performance: Royal Festival Hall, London (1 May 2013)
  • Lecture to the 120th annual conference of the Jewish Historical Society of England (28 August 2013)
  • Lecture at National Gallery (London) to introduce their exhibition Facing the Modern: Vienna 1900 (Study Day: 30 November 2013)
  • Lecture at Royal College of Music (London) to introduce their 3-day international Symposium "Singing A Song in a Foreign Land" (February 21, 2014)
  • Lecture (War and the Arts) at Barber of Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham re: their exhibition, "Rebel Visions" (26 November 2014)
  • Delivered pre-concert lecture for Classical Opera's inaugural 'MOZART 250' weekend, Milton Court, London (21 February 2015)
  • Chaired panel at Institute of Historical Research conference on 'London and the First World War' (20 March 2015)
  • Speaker: 'Cities of Modernity: European Arts and Architecture 1880-1914': Royal Institute of British Architects (21 April 2015)
  • Organised and chaired two 6-part series of public Seminars at the Institute of Historical Research with leading historians debating how we use and abuse the past. These were held at Senate House (London) during the academic years 2015/16 and 2016/17.[17]
1. 'History, History Everywhere...' October 14, 2015. Panellists (l to r): Ronald Hutton, David Reynolds, Paul Lay and Pat Thane. Video YouTube.[18]
2. 'History as Heritage' November 11, 2015. Panellists (l to r): Roger Bowdler, Robert Hewison, Anna-Maria Misra and Simon Thurley. Video on YouTube.[19]
4. 'Re-writing the Past' January 13, 2016. Panellists (l to r): Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Jonathan Steinberg, Ian Kershaw and Penelope Video on YouTube.[20]
5. 'Pictures of the Past' February 10, 2016. Panellists (l-to r): Marion Kant, Simon Goldhill Vic Gatrell and Simon Shaw-Miller. Video on YouTube.[21]
6. 'Uses and Abuses of the Past' March 9, 2016 Panellists (l-to-r): Paul Preston, Donald Sassoon, Peter Hennessy and Lawrence Goldman. Video on YouTube.[22]
  • Lecture (The Gilded Stage: A Social History of Opera) at Royal College of Music, London (14 January 2016)
  • Chaired final session of Anglo-French History Conference, London University, Institute of Historical Research, Senate House (18 March 2016
  • Pre-performance talk (Hänsel und Gretel) at Royal College of Music, London (2 July 2016)
  • Pre-performance talk ('The Amadeus Quartet') at Martin Lovett tribute event, Royal College of Music, London (5 March 2017)
  • Chaired opening two sessions of conference on 'History Heritage and Ideology: Universities and the Commemoration of Benefactors' at Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, London (24 March, 2017)
  • Presented a 12-week (36-session) course at the Victoria and Albert Museum to accompany their major exhibition on the history of opera (September – December 2017, and again in autumn 2018).
  • Addressed All-party Parliamentary Group on history of opera (29 November, 2017).
  • Gallery Talk ('Verdi and Victoria') at Victoria and Albert Museum (15 February 2018).
  • Presented ‘Introduction to Salome’ evening at English National Opera (18 September 2018)
  • Chaired Symposium on ‘Operetta’ evening at English National Opera (24 January 2019)
  • Presented 'Introduction to 'Jack the Ripper' evening at English National Opera (5 March 2019)


He has also lectured on cruise liners, and between 2001-2014 he led over fifty music and opera tours for ACE, Cox & Kings, Martin Randall and other travel companies to many of the world's great cultural capitals, among them: Aix-en-Provence, Barcelona, Berlin, Bregenz, Budapest, Cracow, Dresden, Halle, Leipzig, Madrid, Milan, Munich, Naples, New York, Paris, Prague, Riga, Rome, Salzburg, Savonlinna, Seville/Andalucia, Stockholm, Torre del Lago, Turin, Valencia, Venice, Vienna and Warsaw.



(The History Press [Pocket Giants series], 2014)

The Gilded Stage: A Social History of Opera[edit]

(Atlantic Books, 2009; paperback edition, 2010; Italian edition (Il Palco d'oro) Elliot Edizioni, 2010; Chinese edition: Shanghai People's Publishing House, 2012; Spanish edition (La Ópera: Una historia social) Siruela, 2012; paperback 2016.

Hallelujah! An informal history of the London Philharmonic Choir[edit]

London Philharmonic Choir, 2007


Palgrave Macmillan, 2007, paperback edition, 2016

The Hitler Émigrés: The Cultural impact on Britain of Refugees from Nazism[edit]

Chatto and Windus, 2002; Pimlico paperback 2003, reprinted 2010.

PastMasters: The Best of 'History Today' (ed)[edit]

Sutton: 2001

Fins de Siècle[edit]

(with Asa Briggs), Yale University press, 1996

Plácido Domingo's Tales From the Opera[edit]

BBC Books, 1994; Amadeus Press, USA, 1995

Pole Positions: The Polar Regions and the Future of the Planet[edit]

Hodder & Stoughton, 1993; Random House, Canada, 1993; Lubbe, 1994. It was this book that led the editors of New Scientist to the concept of nominative determinism, the hypothesis that people tend to gravitate towards areas of work that fit their name.[23]

Beyond the Tunnel of History: the 1989 BBC Reith Lectures[edit]

(with Jacques Darras), Macmillan (UK) and the University of Michigan Press, USA, 1990

The World of Plácido Domingo[edit]

The Bodley Head and McGraw-Hill, 1985; Arrow paperback 1986; Die Welt des Plácido Domingo, Schweizer Verlagshaus, 1986; new edition Domingo, 1992; Schott edition 1994; El Mundo de Plácido Domingo, Versal, Barcelona, 1986; Japanese edition, 1988; Hungarian edition, 1989

The Amadeus Quartet: The Men and the Music[edit]

Robson Books, 1981; Le Quattuor Amadeus, Buchet/Chastel, 1981

If I Had Been ... Ten Historical Fantasies (ed)[edit]

Robson Books, 1979

Kissing Cousins: An Interpretation of British and American Culture, 1945–1975[edit]

Temple Smith, 1977; published in USA as Britain and America: An Interpretation of their Culture, New York University Press/Harper and Row, 1977; adapted and translated for use in Japan as English-language text, Kinseido Ltd, Tokyo

Eleanor Roosevelt[edit]

Edito-Service, 1970; English and French language editions

America Since 1920[edit]

Harper and Row, 1968, and by Batsford, 1968 as USA: The Twenties to Vietnam. Republished in revised updated edition as America Since 1920 by Heinemann Educational Books, 1978, 1980, 1984


  1. ^ "London Philharmonic Choir | 60th Anniversary | HALLELUJAH! – The Book". Lpc.org.uk. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  2. ^ Asa Briggs, The history of broadcasting in the United Kingdom, Oxford University Press 1995, Volume 5 – pp. 941–2; David Hendy, Life on Air: A History of Radio Four (Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 64;
  3. ^ Asa Briggs: "The March of Time" (History Today, Volume 46, issue 11, November 1996); Asa Briggs: Loose Ends and Extras (Frontline Books, 2014), p. 44.
  4. ^ Whatever Happened to Equality? (John Vaizey ed, BBC 1975). The Long March of Everyman, 1750–1960 (T. C. Barker, ed, Deutsch, 1975). World Powers in the Twentieth Century (Harriet Ward, BBC and Heinemann Educational Books, 1978). Pole Positions: The Polar Regions and the Future of the Planet (Hodder & Stoughton, 1993). Fins de Siècle, (with Asa Briggs; Yale University Press, 1996).
  5. ^ a b "Mr Daniel Snowman, BA (Cantab), MA (Cornell)". The Institute of Historical Research (IHR), School of Advanced Study at the University of London.
  6. ^ The Spectator 27 April 2002; The Guardian 11 May 2002; The Daily Telegraph, 28 April 2002; The Catholic Herald, 1 November 2002; Contemporary Review, August 2003.
  7. ^ "Daniel Snowman". History Today.
  8. ^ Literary Review, November 2009. For further reviews of The Gilded Stage, see e.g.: The Scotsman, 20 November 2009; The Independent, 18 December 2009; The Gramophone, February 2010; The Telegraph (Calcutta), 20 August 2010; Metro, 16 November 2010; The Guardian, 27 November 2010; Opera News (New York), February 2011 etc.
  9. ^ "List of lectures given by Daniel Snowman". danielsnowman.org.uk. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  10. ^ "The Arts Society". theartssociety.org. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  11. ^ "V&A · Opera: Passion, Power and Politics". Victoria and Albert Museum. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  12. ^ "recording (28134)". Iwm.org.uk. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  13. ^ "The gilded stage and beyond: why history and the arts should get together more often". History SPOT. 31 May 2010. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  14. ^ "The Gilded Stage A social history of Opera flyer" (PDF). Royal Academy of Music. 2010. Retrieved 3 July 2016.
  15. ^ 2nd Martin Miller and Hannah Norbert-Miller Lecture: 'The Hitler Emigrés' Revisited. Research Centre for German and Austrian Exile Studies (EXILE) – via YouTube.
  16. ^ "Research Centre for German and Austrian Exile Studies (EXILE)".
  17. ^ "History Now and Then seminar poster" (PDF). Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  18. ^ History Now and Then - History, history, everywhere. Institute of Historical Research, University of London. Retrieved 13 December 2006 – via YouTube.
  19. ^ History as Heritage. Institute of Historical Research, University of London. Retrieved 13 December 2006 – via YouTube.
  20. ^ 'Re-writing the Past' January 13, 2016. Institute of Historical Research, University of London. Retrieved 13 December 2006 – via YouTube.
  21. ^ History Now and Then - Pictures of the Past. Institute of Historical Research, University of London. Retrieved 13 December 2006 – via YouTube.
  22. ^ History Now and Then - Uses and Abuses of the Past. Institute of Historical Research, University of London. Retrieved 13 December 2006 – via YouTube.
  23. ^ Feedback (5 November 1994). "Feedback". New Scientist (1950). Archived from the original on 24 September 2016.

External links[edit]