The DeLorean DMC-12 sports car was later used as the time machine in Back to the Future.

The DeLorean Motor Company was founded by engineer and automobile executive John DeLorean in 1975. The prototype DeLorean Safety Vehicle was completed in October 1976 with initial investment from celebrities including Johnny Carson and Sammy Davies Jr. Meanwhile DeLorean secured significant financial incentives from the Northern Ireland Development Agency to build the manufacturing plant in Dunmurry, a suburb of Belfast, in an attempt to cut unemployment and curb sectarian violence.

The factory was built in 1978 with production of the car scheduled to begin the following year. Subsequent engineering delays and budget overruns meant that work on the first units didn’t actually begin until 1981. Built by an enthusiastic but largely inexperienced workforce, the first of the distinctively shaped DeLorean DMC-12s was completed on 21 January. Fitted with gull-wing doors and finished with stainless-steel body panels, the car’s appearance was expected to be a unique selling point.

However, by the time the first cars were available a recession had hit the United States that had a devastating effect on new car sales. Combined with mediocre reviews and customer complaints about the quality of the finished vehicles, it’s reported that at least half of the 7,000 cars produced by February 1982 had not been sold.

Although the company limped on for a few more months, the DeLorean Motor Company went bankrupt shortly after its owner was charged by the U.S. government with trafficking cocaine. Although he was later acquitted, DeLorean’s reputation was irreparably damaged.

The first traveller’s cheques, in the form of a ‘circular note’ issued by a bank, went on sale in London.

Devised by the Scottish banker Robert Herries, circular notes were an immediate hit with young British aristocrats who needed to obtain foreign currency while exploring Europe on the Grand Tour. They needed an easy way to access to their British-based wealth, and Herries’ creation provided it.

Having secured the cooperation of a number of continental banks, Herries was able to ensure that his customers could withdraw local currency in more than 80 European cities. The notes were issued against the payment of cash to the bank in London, meaning that the customer was freed from the burden of travelling with gold. Since the notes had to be countersigned by the recipient they also provided much greater security. Any unused notes could be returned to the issuing bank in London and the cash refunded.

A century later, and just two years after the first round-the-world tour, the British company Thomas Cook began issuing their own circular notes to help customers manage the constant change of currencies. This idea was developed further by American Express, who launched the first branded Travelers Cheque in 1891. It is said that the system was developed by American Express employee Marcellus Flemming Berry after the company’s founder, J. C. Fargo, experienced problems obtaining funds on a European trip.

The popularity of traveller’s cheques has declined in recent years due to the creation of pre-paid currency cards alongside debit and credit cards. Yet their fundamental aim remains that same as the circular notes introduced by Robert Herries in 1772. They all allow travellers to access funds while away from home.

The British government had passed the Tea Act seven months earlier on 10 May, partly in an attempt to support the struggling East India Company. The act allowed the company to import tea directly to the colonies, bypassing the middlemen who previously handled overseas tea sales and avoiding the issue of duty and refunds for importing tea into Britain. Tea imported into the colonies would consequently be much cheaper, and allow the East India Company to undercut the price of smuggled Dutch tea.

The problem for settlers in America was that tax was still imposed on tea in a continuation of the three pence duty that came in under the Townshead Acts of 1767. Although tea imported under the new Tea Act would still be cheaper than before, a number of colonists opposed the idea that the British government had the right to impose any tax at all on the colonies. Since they did not elect the British parliament they argued that the new Act violated their right to “no taxation without representation”.

The first shipment of tea to arrive in Boston under the new Act was brought by the Dartmouth in November. Colonialists gathered together by Samuel Adams urged the captain of the ship to sail back to Britain without paying the import duty, but Governor Hutchison refused to allow the ship to leave.

In the meantime two more ships arrived. Unable to resolve the standoff, on the evening of 16 December a group of up to 130 men, some disguised as Mohawk warriors, boarded the three vessels and threw all 342 chests of tea into the water. This act of defiance served as a catalyst for the American Revolution that broke out less than 18 months later.

Every year on the day after the American holiday of Thanksgiving, millions of shoppers head to the stores to take advantage of cut-price deals offered by retailers. The day has become known as Black Friday, but the origin of the name has recently become the focus of viral social media images.

I first noticed an image referring to the origins of the Black Friday name in 2013, as it began to circulate on social media. This image showed an image of a slave market, accompanied by text that claimed the name came from the practice of slave traders selling slaves at a ‘discount’ on this particular day to help plantation owners get all their tasks done before Christmas.

This is false.

Let’s begin by looking at the historical context. Slaves on both sides of the Atlantic were hardly ever referred to as ‘black’ at the time. It’s generally agreed that ‘Negro’ was the generic term applied to Africans by slavers and plantation owners but, despite this generalisation, their records almost always identified a specific ethnicity or tribal group. As uncomfortable as it is to acknowledge it, traders and owners often wanted a particular ‘type’ of slave, so genetics and ancestry were massively important details to record. It therefore made no sense to use the broader term ‘black’ to describe slaves.

So if the term ‘Black Friday’ did not originate in the slave markets, where did it come from? Some claim that the term came from retailers themselves. A widely-accepted explanation is that it is in reference to accounting, marking the day on which retailers begin to show profit for the year – in which their accounts move from being ‘in the red’ to ‘in the black’. However, this explanation doesn’t really begin to appear until the 1980s, by which time the term ‘Black Friday’ had already become associated with the day after Thanksgiving.

Research by the excellent myth-busting website Snopes.com has identified that the earliest known use of the term. According to Snopes, a 1951 article referred to ‘Black Friday’ as the day when loads of employees would phone in sick to nab a cheeky 4-day weekend after the holiday Thanksgiving on the Thursday. However, the term really took off after Philadelphia police began to use it to describe the awful traffic as a result of people heading out to go shopping the day after Thanksgiving, much like Boxing Day sales in the UK. The traffic jams, and the enforced 12-hour shifts for policemen and women are therefore largely held responsible for the nickname.

So…Black Friday is a 20th Century term that was originally used to describe terrible traffic (albeit connected with shopping!)

Thursday the 24th October 1929, known as Black Thursday, is generally accepted as the first day of the Wall Street Crash. The day saw panic selling of shares on the New York Stock Exchange on an unprecedented scale, with over 12.8 million being sold and the market’s value plummeting by 11%. The market didn’t return to its pre-crash level until 1954.

Signs of an impending crisis had been identified many months before the crash, with the Federal Reserve warning on the 25th March of the dangers of speculation on the stock market. The warning coincided with a slowing down of the American economy, but investors continued to purchase stocks that gradually pushed the market to a peak of 381.17 points on the 3rd September.

However, in late September many of the larger investors began to sell their shares, and by the middle of October the market was in freefall as more and more people began panicking about the plummeting prices. Although Black Thursday was the first day of large-scale panic selling, the losses were dwarfed by those the following week when around 16 million shares were sold. Within just a few days of trading, $30 billion dollars had been wiped off the stock market. This was the Wall Street Crash. Although the scale of panic selling did slow down, the market continued its downward trajectory for over 2 years, finally reaching an all-time low on the 8th July 1932. By that time the effect of the Great Depression had crept around the world, acting as a catalyst for the world war that was to follow.

The Tyneside town of Jarrow had been the site for Palmer’s Shipyard that was responsible for a large proportion of the town’s employment. Having operated since 1851, the yard was sold in 1933 due to a collapse in the British shipbuilding industry and the impact of the Great Depression.

The shipyard closed shortly afterwards and, although American entrepreneur T. Vosper Salt proposed turning the site into a steelworks, he was forced to withdraw after members of the British Iron and Steel Federation lobbied to make the project unfeasible.

The collapse of the steelwork plan was a devastating blow to the people of Jarrow, where unemployment had hit 70% in the months following the closure of the shipyard. In response David Riley, the chairman of Jarrow Borough Council, proposed a march to London in order to raise the profile of the economic disaster.

The marchers had the full support of their local Labour MP, Ellen Wilkinson, and secured funding for the march from the local community including all the political parties. Over 1,200 men volunteered to take part in the march, of whom 200 were chosen to take the petition to London. They marched for 25 days and received a generally positive reception wherever they passed through.

Arriving in London on 31 October the marchers entrusted the petition of 11,000 names to Wilkinson, who presented it in the House of Commons on 4 November. It achieved no immediate response from the government, and the marchers returned home feeling that they had failed.

On the 26th September 1923, German Chancellor Gustav Stresemann ended passive resistance in the Ruhr and resumed the payment of First World War reparations. By doing so he was able to slow down the economic crisis that was enveloping the country and show that he accepted the international realities of the new era. Although greeted with anger from both Left and Right Wing parties, Stresemann’s actions laid the foundation for the economic recovery that Germany experienced up until the onset of the Great Depression.

The 1921 London Schedule of Payments set out both the reparations amount, and the timetable over which Germany was expected to pay for its defeat in the First World War. However, from the very start of the payments Germany missed some its targets. Failure to provide the full quota of coal and timber in December 1922, provided the excuse for France and Belgium to occupy the Ruhr on the 11th January 1923.

Occupation was met with passive resistance, and the striking workers were paid with money printed by the government. This contributed to the rampant hyperinflation that had begun to cripple the economy from before the occupation even began. Aware that the situation was unsustainable, Stresemann – who had only been Chancellor for six weeks – called off passive resistance after nine months and started to pay reparations again. This marked the start of Germany’s international rehabilitation, although within Germany it was met with opposition from both Left and Right extremists. For that reason, Stresemann asked President Ebert to announce a state of emergency under Article 48 of the constitution on the same day.

Alexander Hamilton was made the first United States Secretary of the Treasury by President George Washington.

Alexander Hamilton was born on the Caribbean island of Nevis to a Scottish-born father and a half-British, half-French Huguenot mother who had left her husband and son on the Danish-ruled island of St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. Alexander’s parents were consequently unmarried when he was born, and he became an orphan around the age of twelve following his mother’s death. His father had left the family a number of years earlier, and Hamilton moved to live first with his older cousin and later a wealthy merchant.

Hamilton secured work as a clerk at a local shipping company, where he developed an interest in writing. A letter to his father recounting a violent storm was later published in a newspaper, and this attracted the attention of wealthy locals who provided funds for him to continue his education in New York City.

Hamilton believed strongly in independence for the Thirteen Colonies and, following the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, he joined a local militia from which he rose to become the senior aide to General Washington. The end of the war saw Hamilton elected as New York’s representative to the Congress of the Confederation, where he argued for a strong central government and the creation of a new constitution.

Hamilton was a highly influential member of President Washington’s cabinet, and was appointed as the first Secretary of the Treasury on 11 September 1789. He continued in this role for almost five years, during which he had a key role in defining the structure of the government of the United States and created the country’s first national bank.

On the 16th August 1819, the Peterloo Massacre occurred at St Peter’s Field in Manchester when a group of over 60,000 protesters were charged by cavalry. An estimated 15 people died, and approximately 700 others were injured.

The protesters had gathered to hear the radical speaker Henry Hunt demand parliamentary and social reform. Britain was caught in the midst of economic depression and the textile industry, concentrated in the industrial centres of northern England, was particularly badly hit. Factory owners cut wages by as much as two-thirds which, combined with the increased price of grain due to the Corn Laws that imposed tariffs on cheaper imports, led to workers facing famine as they could no longer afford to buy food.

They also lacked political representation. The millions of people who lived in the Lancashire mill towns were represented by just two Members of Parliament due to out-of-date constituency boundaries and, due to the limitations of voting rights, they weren’t eligible to vote anyway. These inequalities became a target for radicals, who quickly gained working class support.

Contemporary accounts say that the crowds were peaceful and in good spirits when they assembled on the morning of the 16th August. However, the chairman of the magistrates was concerned by the enthusiastic reception when Henry Hunt arrived, the ordered the local Yeomanry to arrest him. Caught in the crowd, the cavalry began hacking with their sabres. The melee was interpreted by the magistrates as the crowd attacking the yeomanry, and more cavalry were sent in. The crowd dispersed within ten minutes, but eleven people died on the field.

On the 1st August 1834, the Slavery Abolition Act came into force in the United Kingdom, although it had received royal assent a year earlier. The Act outlawed slavery throughout the British Empire, although there were some exceptions such as in areas controlled by the East India Company.

Although Parliament had outlawed the slave trade itself in the Slave Trade Act of 1807, that Act only served to stop the creation of new slaves. It did not address the issue of existing slaves working in the colonies. It was these existing slaves that the new Act sought to address, and although it did abolish slavery the impact took a long time to be felt.

A key problem facing the government was what to do with the former slaves. The Act addressed this issue by stating that former slaves over the age of six became ‘apprentices’ and continued to work on largely the same plantations in largely the same conditions as before. Many of them were only fully emancipated six years later in 1840.

The former slave owners themselves were also dealt with in the Slavery Abolition Act. It’s important to remember that the Act effectively stripped slave-owners of their property. The logic therefore went that the slave-owners needed to be compensated for their loss of property, so the Act established the Slave Compensation Commission who awarded the equivalent of £17bn in today’s money – funded by the taxpayer – to 46,000 slave owners. A searchable online database of every slave-owner who was awarded compensation is available to view at https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/