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When Britain Burned the White House

Saturday 22 March 2014

1 Hour


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One of Britain’s best-known journalists and television news presenters Peter Snow takes a look at events that saw British troops enter and set fire to the White House in Washington DC. It was August 1814 and the US army had just been defeated in battle outside Washington. The President and his wife had enough time to pack their belongings and escape before the British army entered. The invaders found dinner still laid out on the dining table.

Snow tells of the changing fortunes of both sides in this war, which inspired the writing of the American national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner. He describes the colourful personalities on both sides, including Britain’s fiery Admiral Cockburn and President James Madison and his courageous and determined wife Dolley.

Snow was appointed ITN diplomatic and defence correspondent in 1966 and reported from all over the world. He moved to the BBC in 1979 and was one of the first and regular presenters on Newsnight when it started in 1980. He is particularly well known for his contribution to the BBC’s election coverage.