Historical Events You Most Wish You Could Learn About In Song

List Rules
Vote up the historical events you'd most like to sing along to.

Many songs offer historical information, such as the ones in musicals like Hamilton, Evita, and even Les Miserables, which not only depict history through music, but also teach their audiences a thing or two about the past. Musicals about certain historical events could seriously help their audiences learn their details and timelines. Plus, they would totally make history more accessible and fun.

  • 1
    40 VOTES

    The Alamo

    Have you ever wondered why you're supposed to remember the Alamo? As the best-known event in Texas's fight for independence from Mexico, the Alamo represents heroism, fighting until the very end, and standing up to oppression. All of these qualities scream "musical!"

    The Alamo, first a chapel for missionaries and eventually an outpost for the Spanish military, is located along the San Antonio River. During the early 19th century, after Mexico gained its independence from Spain, Mexican troops were stationed at the Alamo. Settlers began to make their way from the United States into what was previously known as Tejas. By 1830, there were more settlers than Mexicans, and as skirmishes became common, Mexico decided to ban immigration from the United States. The settlers still in Tejas, however, became enraged and began to push for an independent state. Open conflict broke out between Texans and Mexicans in 1835.

    In late 1835 or early 1836, Texas volunteers George Collinsworth and Benjamin Milam led an attack on the Alamo and seized it from Mexico. The Alamo was a strategic position, and Colonel James Bowie and Lieutenant Colonel William B. Travis were ready to fight for it when the Mexican military inevitably attacked. Notable Texan fighters like David Crockett were present when about 200 troops fought against a Mexican force that was anywhere from 1,800 to 6,000 strong. The Texans lasted thirteen days against the much larger contingent but, in the end, the Alamo fell back into Mexico's hands on March 6, 1835.

    Texas declared its independence in 1836, and the men who fought at the Alamo were considered heroes of the cause. Songs like "See You Later, Spain" would tell the early story of Mexico emerging from colonial oppression. "The Alamo is Us All" could represent the numerous purposes and occupations of the location. The ending would include a solemn ballad dedicated to the men on both sides of the fight who refused to surrender, aptly named, "Remember Us."

    40 votes
  • 2
    36 VOTES

    The History Of The British Crown

    The world can't get enough of the British royal family, but keeping them all straight is difficult. A musical would help! The show could be structured by acts that more or less recreate the giant family tree that has grown to support the House of Windsor today. 

    Act one would introduce some key Anglo Saxons before diving into the blending cultures that defined eleventh and twelfth century Anglo-Norman kings. The reigns of King John and King Richard would feature heavily, and songs could be titled "From Lackland to Lionheart." Stories of Edward I, Edward II, and Edward III through the fourteenth century would feature tunes about "Those Pesky Scots" and "Eeek! The Black Death!"

    Act two would tell the stories of Kings Henry IV, V, and VI as well as Edward IV, V, and Richard III as they set the scene for the Wars of the Roses. It was an extremely complex period of British history. Songs like "Red Rose, White Rose" and "Where Are The Princes?" give the basics before presenting the first of the Tudor kings, Henry VII. "Bosworth Field to Baby Trouble" introduces the audience to Henry VIII and his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth. 

    Act three begins with the death of Elizabeth I and the reign of James VI of Scotland. The Stuarts faced some trying times during the reign of Charles I. He went to war with Parliament and lost his head over the whole affair, leading to the establishment of the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell. "The King Went Too Far" could tell the story of why the Cromwells and anti-royalists took England in a non-monarchical direction. The reestablishment of the house of Stuart in 1660 brought back the King. By 1688, it led to the Glorious Revolution

    The final act would recount the Kings of Hanover. It would cover the four Georges to Queen Victoria then leap into the 20th century with Windsor monarchs like George V and VI. Elizabeth II would close out the show. Songs like "George III, Meet America" and "Ain't No Escaping the British Empire" would serve as overviews of Britain dominance and colonialism. "What's Next?" could make a nice closing number, raising the question of royal succession as well as examining the place of the monarchy in modern politics.

    36 votes
  • The fall of the Soviet Union is another aspect of history that is difficult to wrap one's head around. The musical could focus on the period between 1989 and 1991, starting with how the Soviet Union slowly lost control of its Communist satellite states in Eastern Europe. "Poland Leads the Way!" would provide information on Lech Walsea and the Solidarity movement. "East Meets West" would recount how Germany was on its way to reunification. 

    The role of Mikhail Gorbachev with his policies of "Perestroika" and "Glastnost," both of which could be explanatory songs, also offer insights into how the Soviet Union tried to adapt to changes within the Communist world, albeit unsuccessfully. When Gorbachev was the target of a coup in 1991, it signaled an end to the Soviet Union. Gorbachev stayed in power but resigned in December 1991. Within a month, the former Soviet Union ceased to exist. For closure of sorts, ending the musical with "Goodbye Mikhail, Hello Boris" could provide information about the leadership of Boris Yeltsin and what it would mean for the post-Soviet Union world. 

    28 votes
  • 4
    21 VOTES

    The Medieval Inquisition

    The Inquisition started in the late 12th century, but it's often associated with 15th century Spain. The Inquisition was an instrument of the Catholic Church used against heretics like the Cathars during the Albigensian Crusade. The 13th century was rife with groups that threatened the doctrinal unity of Catholicism, and the Church engaged in rooting out non-conformists in Europe. This musical on the medieval Inquisition would explain how it all began with a song called "The Wrong Kind of Christian" or "Heretics be Damned."  

    The Inquisition was a tribunal sent in by the Church to ask questions, find heretics, and make them recant false beliefs. Inquisitors, many of them Franciscan and Dominican friars, developed manuals to guide them as they entered various districts. During the medieval period, inquisitors heard confessions, meted out penance (pilgrimage, for example), and held trials for individuals accused of heresy. Witnesses were called, and at times, torture was used to extract information. After a trial, a convicted heretic could be excommunicated, imprisoned, or handed over to civil authorities. All of these incidents could be included in tunes called "Asked and Answered" and "Send Me to Holy Toledo!"

    As the Inquisition developed in Europe, it soon became a political tool as much as a religious one. During the 14th century, the Catholic Inquisition was used to drive Muslims from Spain as the Reconquista was under way. In the 15th century, the newly unified Spanish kingdom used the Inquisition to root out non-Catholics, with a heavy focus on Jewish people. The end of a musical on the Inquisition could finish with a song like "Fear the Grand Inquisitor."

    21 votes
  • The start of the Great Depression kicked off a decade of struggle for millions of people worldwide and in the United States led to economic experimentation with Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal.

    The hardships of the Great Depression—the unemployment, bank failures, poverty, Hoovervilles, which started under President Herbert Hoover's watch—are generally well known. During the first years of the Depression, the government experimented with planned scarcity and a hands-off approach to economic recovery. When FDR became president in 1932, he implemented a program of social support, relief, reform, and protection. During his first 100 days, FDR signed the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Act to improve infrastructure and begin building projects along the Tennessee River. He established the National Industrial Recovery Act to protect worker's rights. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) provided jobs to young men around the country.

    The emerging alphabet soup of work program acronyms continued during the second round of New Deal laws the Roosevelt administration pushed starting in 1935. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) provided work for millions of Americans. The National Labor Relations Act regulated unions, and the Social Security Act set up pension protection and unemployment assistance. There were numerous New Deal programs to fund farmers, education, and to provide loans. Not all of the programs worked, and some replaced others as the Depression continued through the 1930s. By 1939, the New Deal decreased unemployment in the United States dramatically, and the economy as a whole greatly expanded. With the outbreak of World War II, the depression ended, but the New Deal set a precedent of increased government involvement in economic and social issues.

    The build up to the stock market crash in 1929 has plenty of sad music to go along with it. Numbers like "Going Home to Nowhere" would provide an appropriate tone for the Depression. The hopefulness of the New Deal, however, would bring a lighthearted tone in songs like "Roosevelt's Chattin' Tonight" (a reference to his Fireside Chats) or "WPA Means We're A-okay!"

    40 votes
  • 6
    27 VOTES

    The Norman Conquest Of England

    The Norman's conquest of England would certainly be a soap opera, and an occasionally humorous one at that. The political situation in 11th century England was rife with conflict between Englishmen, Normans, and Vikings.

    King Edward, who ruled England, failed to produce an heir. He purportedly offered the throne to Duke William of Normandy upon his death. In the famous scene from the Bayeux Tapestry, Harold Godwinson, King Edward's advisor and the second wealthiest man in England, swore on holy relics that William would be the next king. Harold had supposedly been sent to Normandy to tell William, although by other accounts, he was coerced into making this promise. Either way, when King Edward died in January 1066, the English council, called the witan, didn't choose William to be king but rather chose Harold Godwinson for the throne. King Harold I ruled until his death at the Battle of Hastings on October 14, 1066.

    A few days before the Battle of Hastings, King Harold was in the north of England fighting his own brother, Tostig, and Harald Hardrada, the king of Norway. Both men died in their battle with Harold. Shortly after, William of Normandy arrived on the southern coast of England. 

    When William of Normandy arrived in England, he was looking for a fight. He marched through the south and finally met Harold's forces—which he had hastily gathered together as he rushed back from the north—at Hastings. William and his Norman forces were victorious at Hastings; King Harold I died at the battle, and England found itself under the authority of a new,Norman king.

    You can't make this stuff up and it's rife with song material. "Emma, wife and mother of Kings" and "Harold, not Harald" help explain the genealogy. "That Liar!" could cover William's indignation.

    27 votes