June 8, 1949. George Orwell’s iconic novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ is published, introducing readers to Big Brother. Orwell’s dystopian tale of a society whose collective mind is controlled by a totalitarian regime and which exists in a state of constant war is as frightening and relevant today as it was six decades ago. Orwell wrote the book on a remote Scottish island rented from a friend while battling tuberculosis in the latter months of his life and had originally intended to call it ‘The Last Man in Europe’. It was inspired by the uncertainty of the post-war period, when Europe, the United States and the Soviet Union were jostling to divide the world among themselves. As well as its cultural influence, the book has also left a lasting legacy on the English language, with the terms ‘newspeak’, ‘Thought Police’ and even ‘Orwellian’ still used to evoke situations of repression and totalitarianism.
Also on June 8: Vikings begin the invasion of Britain at Lindisfarne (793); Robert F. Kennedy is buried in New York (1968); homosexuality is legalised in New South Wales state in Australia (1984).
Born on June 8: Robert Schumann (1810), Barbara Bush (1925), Kanye West (1977), Kim Clijsters (1983).