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This Day in Science Fiction History: 4 May

Historical Entry—Friday, May 4, 1979 

May 4th is arguably the most well-known and popular of the geek holidays. But surprisingly, it wasn’t originally called out as a holiday. Instead, it started as a congratulatory advertisement in the London Evening News in 1979.

Great Britain was under enormous pressure to change politically as the decade ended. The policies of the Labour Party were in question. The population was chafing under the socialist stances and large-scale government ownership of businesses. Things came to a head with a series of strikes in 1978 and 1979, known as the Winter of Discontent. Prime Minister James Callaghan was accused of poor handling of the situation. In March of 1979, Callaghan lost to a vote of no confidence placed before the government by Margret Thatcher.

Margret became the head of the party in 1975. In order for the Conservatives to win control of the government, they would need a parliamentary majority of 44 seat. In the largest change in voting leaning since 1945, Margret led the Conservative Party to a stunning victory, gaining 62 seats in the House of Commons. On May 4, Margret was elevated to the position of Prime Minister, becoming the first elected female head of government of a European nation.

In 1977, Star Wars graced the cinema screen for the first time. Much of the movie was filmed at Pinewood Studios in Iver Heath, just eighteen miles from central London. Which meant many people in London were familiar with not only the cinema experience but were part of the creation. The movie was popular with British moviegoers and grossed £130.8 million. It’s unclear who exactly in the Conservative Party placed the advertisement with the line “May The Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations.” in the London Evening News, but they certainly knew their Star Wars lore.

Even with such a prominent advertisement, the date remained a somewhat hidden holiday even in Great Britain for three decades. It wouldn’t gain notable popularity until 2005 when advertisements for Star Wars: Episode III-Revenge of the Sith used a picture of Yoda in front of a patriotic background of red, white, and blue fireworks with the phrase. From there, the holiday gained much more public notice and, well, as they saw in Hollywood, the rest is history.

Election of Margret Thatcher

Historical Fact

Great Britain



This Day in Science Fiction History examines notable events, real and fictional, concerning fantasy and science fiction in various media.


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