Emmerdale, as it is now known, launched as Emmerdale Farm on ITV on October 16, 1972, originally airing in the afternoon. It gradually moved to an evening slot, depending on region, between the late 70s and mid 80s.
The drama is set in a small village – Beckindale originally, becoming Emmerdale in 1994 – in West Yorkshire.
In the early days, the action centred on farming family, the Sugdens. But in 1989, this was extended to the goings-on in the village, hence the change in show title.
This coincided with the introduction of the Tates, the wealthy family who took up residence at Home Farm, and heralded the arrival of racier storylines.
The soap caused huge controversy and garnered its highest ever ratings in 1993, when a plane crashed near the village, killing four people. It was deemed in poor taste by many viewers as it aired just nine days after the five anniversary of the real-life Lockerbie plane tragedy in Scotland.
For its 40th anniversary, the soap ambitiously aired a live episode, which climaxed with the murder of Carl King. Former lover Chas believed she had killed him in an act of self-defence as he attempted to rape her. In fact, her then-lover Cameron Murray finished the job off later after finding he was still alive.
While previously regarded as the lesser of the soaps, Emmerdale now holds its own with EastEnders and Coronation Street, with both viewing figures and critical acclaim – in 2016 it won the Best Soap award at the British Soap Awards for the first time.
Popular characters currently include the Dingle family, the Bartons, the Sugdens and the Sharmas; recent storylines have featured an acid attack, a serial killer, and a character returning to the village as transgender.