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Daniel Snowman

Description : Daniel Snowman (born 4 November 1938) is a 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 Emigrés; an anthology of essays about today's leading historians; and The Gilded Stage: A Social History of Opera.Snowm... Page:d303

Daniel Snowman (born 4 November 1938) is a 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 Emigrés; an anthology of essays about today's leading historians; and The Gilded Stage: A Social History of Opera.

Life and career

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.

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, 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, 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. 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; in 2010 he delivered the IHR Annual Fellows’ Lecture.

Personal life

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 Emigrés: 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.

Historians, based on a long-running series of quarterly essays in the magazine History Today. 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.

Articles and reviews

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, 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.


Snowman is a frequent speaker at British arts festivals, academic and cultural institutions, luncheon clubs, NADFAS (National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies) etc., and in a typical year delivers some 40–50 illustrated talks and lectures in the UK and abroad. 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. In winter 2010/11, he presented a six-part series of public lectures at the Royal Academy of Music on the Social History of Opera. He has also lectured for the Education Departments at Glyndebourne, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and the New York Metropolitan Opera Guild.

Lectures and papers 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)
  • 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)
  • Paper on 19thC opera history (Royal Musical Association annual conference, London, 15 July 2010)
  • 2020/11: Six Lectures on the Social History of Opera (Royal Academy of Music, London; monthly, from September 2010 to March 2011)
  • 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)
  • 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 the Barber of Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham re: their exhibition, "Rebel Visions" (November 26, 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)


Since 2001, he has 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

(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 and Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2013).

Hallelujah! An informal history of the London Philharmonic Choir

London Philharmonic Choir, 2007


Palgrave Macmillan, 2007, paperback edition, 2016

The Hitler Emigrés: The Cultural impact on Britain of Refugees from Nazism

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

PastMasters: The Best of 'History Today' (ed)

Sutton: 2001

Fins de Siècle

(with Asa Briggs), Yale University press, 1996

Plácido Domingo's Tales From the Opera

BBC Books, 1994; Amadeus Press, USA, 1995

Pole Positions: The Polar Regions and the Future of the Planet

Hodder & Stoughton, 1993; Random House, Canada, 1993; Lubbe, 1994

Beyond the Tunnel of History: the 1989 BBC Reith Lectures

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

The World of Plácido Domingo

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

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

If I Had Been ... Ten Historical Fantasies (ed)

Robson Books, 1979

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

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

Edito-Service, 1970; English and French language editions

America Since 1920

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

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