Science | History | Design & Technology

Sputnik, Velcro… and 70 years of change

Defining moments: Four firsts from the Queen's reign.

Did the Queen see more change than any other ruler? The advances that the Queen witnessed during her reign were extraordinary. Few monarchs have reigned for so long, in such momentous times. The doors of Westminster Abbey opened, and a young woman walked out onto the streets of London. The crowd roared and the diamonds on her crown sparkled in the sunlight. Today, more than 70 years on from Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, people around Britain and the world are remembering a monarch who ruled for longer than any other in British history.  The Queen is still commanding headlines now just as she did in the 1950s. But there is no doubt: the headlines are being written in a remarkably different world. In the 1950s, the world was still recovering from World War Two. On her coronation day, the Queen reigned over 70 overseas territories. The British EmpireA group of countries that were once ruled or controlled by the UK, including Australia, Canada, India and large parts of Africa. still existed. In the seven decades since, the world has transformed. Today, the Queen is monarch of 15 countries, not 70.  She has lived through the tense days of the Cold WarA period of diplomatic conflict between blocs led by the USA and the USSR that lasted from 1947 until 1991, when the USSR collapsed., and watched on as first the Berlin Well and then the entire Soviet Union fell.  Society has changed beyond recognition. When Princess Elizabeth became Queen, segregation was still allowed in US schools. Today, same-sex marriage is legal in 30 countries, including the UK.  Meanwhile, technology has transformed our understanding of what is possible. The first humans walked on the moon in 1969. Now, there are plans to put people on Mars. Closer to home, the tech industry has altered how we live every day. Elizabeth II sent her first email in 1976 at the age of 50 and her first tweet in 2014 aged 88. We listen to music on our smartphones, not on vinyl, cassettes, CDs or even iPods.  The woman who waved to her subjects 70 years ago could not have imagined the extraordinary future in front of her. There is no doubt: the pace of progress has been dazzling. Today, some believe there is no other era in history that can rival the second Elizabeth age. Did the Queen see more change than any other ruler? Transformational Yes: There is no doubt at all. The last 70 years have seen extraordinary progress, and extraordinary political change in Britain and around the world. There can be no comparison. No: Queen Victoria saw the Industrial Revolution, the growth of the British Empire and a vast population boom during her 63 years on the throne. And before her, Queen Elizabeth I witnessed the Protestant reformation. Or... The greatest changes may still be to come. The world the new King is inheriting is profoundly different to that of his mother. But there is no doubt: progress has not stopped yet. KeywordsBritish Empire - A group of countries that were once ruled or controlled by the UK, including Australia, Canada, India and large parts of Africa.

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