THE BLOG

Eighty Moments That Shaped the World

25/11/2014 17:30 GMT | Updated 25/01/2015 10:59 GMT
GREG ENGLISH/AP

In 1934 Hitler met Mussolini at the Venice Biennale of Art. In that same year Stanley Matthews pulled on an England football shirt for the first time. Dylan Thomas wrote some of his greatest poems as composers Edward Elgar and Gustav Holst passed away. Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith were both born and so was the British Council - founded to share the 'knowledge and ideas' of the United Kingdom with the world.

2014 is the British Council's 80th Anniversary; and to mark it we have drawn together an international panel of 25 eminent scientists, technologists, academics, artists, writers, broadcasters and world leaders - from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas - to choose their '80 Moments' which shaped our world. 10,000 people spread equally across Brazil, China, Egypt, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, South Africa, the USA and the UK then voted to rank the final list.

The overall winner is the World Wide Web - and for me this shows just how much we all care about being connected. Some of the worst moments for humanity are there too: the Holocaust, the two Atom bombs, 9/11 - aggressions, invasions, wars and attacks. What we learned from them is also present - the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the formation of major international institutions for peace.

There are also the moments that have joyfully brought us together like football World Cups, the sounds of Michael Jackson - and when people have come together to help others, like Live Aid. '80 Moments' ends with dance steps, Picasso and the humble instant noodle. All life is here and all the more because the diverse backgrounds of the international expert panel means they come from all around the world and all walks of life.

A lot of what makes the list though is about people; the heroes from Mandela to Jessie Owens and Muhammad Ali, the rise of mass movements inspired by Ghandi to Martin Luther King and the progressive - albeit far from complete - advance of the rights of women and minorities. Then there are the great inventions, discoveries; medical and technological advances: mobile phones, Dolly the Sheep, DNA and penicillin.

Throughout the last 80 years - in part through the work of the British Council - the UK has generally looked out and played its full part in the world. Indeed the UK and British people were involved with, instrumental in or inventors of a good quarter of these '80 Moments'. And we have been affected by them all.

In times of global upheaval, countries always feel pressures to turn in on themselves: to fix their own problems before tackling the global challenges, to promote their interests over those of others and to look after their own before helping anyone else. The darker of the '80 Moments' show what happens when people and countries turn inwards, and turn against each other.

But for me, '80 Moments' shows that our lives generally get better when we share our knowledge and ideas; and when people from different countries study, work and create together. That was the founding idea of the British Council - and it is as true of today's world it was in the 1930s.

Eighty years is within a single lifetime of today - but for many it will feel a long time ago. The pace and scale of change in science and technology, international relations, arts and culture - and the way societies work and people live - must seem vast through the eyes of a those who have lived through them.

That is what inspired us to produce '80 Moments'. The British Council works with millions of young people around the globe helping them to learn English, gain UK-backed qualifications, access educational opportunities and ultimately perhaps to study, visit, work or do business with the UK. We also help UK young people learn languages, study overseas and develop their careers and creativity internationally. So we are sharing '80 Moments' widely around the world through social media with the hashtag #80Moments.

It is important that we give young people here and around the world a sense of the contribution that individuals, events and inventions (and therefore all of us) can make. It's also worth reminding those of us who have lived through some of them. Each of us could be part of the next 'Moment' which changes the world - for good or bad. A sense of our connectedness and interdependence is, I think, the thing which comes through '80 Moments' the most, that and amazing things people can and have achieved when we work together.

The full list with all 80 Moments is at www.britishcouncil.org/80Moments