577AD: Death of Saint Brendan the Navigator, the Irish monk whose legendary travels in a leather currach helped establish the idea of a lush and inhabited island across the sea from Europe. “St. Brendan’s Island” often shows up on early maps; one school of thought believes it indicates that Brendan was actually the first European to make landfall in North America. He remains the patron saint of sailors and navigators.
1536: Opening day of Anne Boleyn’s trial for treason, adultery and incest. Anne was the daughter of Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Howard, and was educated in the Netherlands and France, largely as a maid of honour to Queen Claude of France. Anne returned to England in early 1522, to marry her Irish cousin James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormond; the marriage plans were broken off, and instead she secured a post at court as maid of honour to Henry VIII’s wife, Catherine of Aragon. Early in 1523 Anne was secretly betrothed to Henry Percy, son of the 5th Earl of Northumberland, but the betrothal was broken off when Percy’s father refused to support their engagement. Cardinal Wolsey refused the match in January 1524 and Anne was sent back home to Hever Castle. In February or March 1526, Henry VIII began his pursuit of Anne. She resisted his attempts to seduce her, refusing to become his mistress, which her sister Mary had been. It soon became the one absorbing object of Henry’s desires to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon so he would be free to marry Anne. When it became clear that Pope Clement VII would not annul the marriage, the breaking of the Catholic Church’s power in England began. In 1532, Henry granted Anne the Marquessate of Pembroke. Henry and Anne formally married on 25 January 1533, after a secret wedding on 14 November 1532. On 23 May 1533, newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer declared Henry and Catherine’s marriage null and void; five days later, he declared Henry and Anne’s marriage valid. Shortly afterwards, the Pope decreed sentences of excommunication against Henry and Cranmer. As a result of this marriage and these excommunications, the first break between the Church of England and Rome took place and the Church of England was brought under the King’s control. Anne was crowned Queen of England on 1 June 1533. On 7 September, she gave birth to the future Queen Elizabeth I. Henry was disappointed to have a daughter rather than a son but hoped a son would follow and professed to love Elizabeth. Anne subsequently had three miscarriages, and by March 1536, Henry was courting Jane Seymour. In order to marry Jane Seymour, Henry had to find reasons to end the marriage to Anne (wikipedia).
1532: Sir Thomas More resigns as England’s Lord High Chancellor, his second attempt to leave Henry VIII’s court over the issue of papal versus royal supremacy.
1602: English navigator Bartholomew Gosnold discovers Cape Cod.
1643: Four year old Louis XIV ascends to the throne of France on the assassination of his father, Henry IV. Dubbed “The Sun King” by the media of the time, he famously responded when asked about the nature of the State, “L’etat, c’est moi! [I am the state]”
1776: The Virginia Convention instructs its delegates to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia to propose a resolution of independence from Great Britain.
1801: Birth of William Seward (d.1872), Secretary of State in the Lincoln Administration, and the official at Lincoln’s deathbed who announced to the press, “Now he belongs to the ages.” In the Andrew Johnson Administration, Seward became the chief advocate of the United States’ purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867. The popularly remembered “Seward’s Folly” cost the country $7,200,000.00, or 2 cents per acre.
1860: Opening day of the Republican National Convention in Chicago. Springfield lawyer and former Member of Congress Abraham Lincoln defeats the front-runner New Yorker William Seward on the third ballot.
1864: The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, the third sequential battle in U.S. Grant’s Overland Campaign to capture Richmond. Coming a week after the Wilderness fight, the battle was characterized by horrific bloodletting and unprecedented firepower that flattened the landscape and destroyed every tree and bush in the battle area. The climax occurred at the Bloody Angle, where hand-to-hand fighting occurred back and forth across trench lines and muddy fields completely filled with the corpses of the fallen. The mud was so thick that men who lost their balance were trampled and drowned before they could get back up. Because Lee was able to hold his position, and because the number of casualties was heavily weighted against the Union, it was technically a Confederate victory. But the battle was so costly to Lee that he was never able to re-gain the initiative against Grant, who continued to shift his army to the left and continue to probe and plunge against Lee’s ever-weakening right flank, eventually leading to the establishment of the siege line around Petersburg.
1868: President Andrew Johnson is acquitted on his impeachment trial by a single vote in the U.S. Senate.
1884: Death of inveterate tinkerer and inventor Cyrus McCormick (b.1809). McCormick is best known as the inventor of the mechanical reaper, which enabled viable economic growth for the huge farms of the Great Plains. His company formed the foundation of today’s International Harvester.
1889: Death of John Cadbury (b.1801), English grocer whose temperance beliefs led him to explore cocoa and chocolate as an alternative to the alcohol he saw ravaging the lives of the poor
1918: As a companion bill to its recently passed Espionage Act, Congress passes, and President Wilson signs, the Sedition Act. It makes it illegal to criticize, e.g.: to“…willfully utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” about the U.S.government during time of war. In addition to a $10,000 fine and 20 years in prison, the Postmaster General was tasked to halt mail deliveries to and from any person convicted or associated with a person convicted of the act. Over 1500 were charged and more than 1000 were convicted. Wilson’s Attorney General sought to keep a peacetime version in place after the war, but Congress repealed it in December, 1920.
1928: Mickey Mouse makes his first appearance in a cartoon, the originally silent short Plane Crazy. The more popular Steamboat Willy came out in November.
1948: With the expiration at midnight of the League of Nations mandate to British Palestine, David Ben-Gurion proclaims the State of Israel from a museum in Tel Aviv. Guns from Syria, Jordan and the United Arab Republic (Egypt) are already firing in the background of his announcement
1949: Frustrated and embarrassed by the stunning success of the nearly year-long Berlin Airlift* (where air deliveries of food and supplies eventually surpassed pre-blockade rail shipments) the Soviet Union ends the Berlin Blockade, which is now recognized as the first battle of the Cold War. The success of the airlift compounded the political failure of the Soviets to intimidate the Western powers and led to the establishment of a separate West Germany on the 23rd of May.
1957: Great Britain detonates its first hydrogen bomb, a high altitude air burst, over Christmas Island in the South Pacific.
1963: Last flight of Project Mercury, with Gordon Cooper completing 22 earth orbits over the course of a 34 hour flight. His re-entry course landed him in the Pacific recovery zone only four miles from the prime recovery ship, USS Kearsarge (CVS-33).
1981: Pope John Paul II survives an assassination attempt by Turkish terrorist Mehmet Al Agca, part of a plot that originated in Bulgaria. The Pope forgave Agca and visited him on a number of occasions in his prison cell.
2006: As we speak [i.e., as we spoke in 2006], a 300 foot slab of rock is growing out of the dome in the crater of Mount St. Helens. Raw magma has also been spilling out of the core, helping to rebuild the conical shape of the mountain. Volcanologists do not expect another massive eruption but they are quick to point out that “things can change.” The US Forest Service runs a real-time camera aimed at the mountain. Website is: http://www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/volc anocams/msh/ and there are loads of interesting pictures and links to other volcano sites.
Re 577 – According to the Norse Sagas, when the Vikings got to “Vineland” they found Irish monks living there. If true this shows Brendan DID make it to the new world.
Paul Plante says
As an American citizen who is not a fan or proponent of “colonization,” I always find it of interest to read about some European or Englishman discovering something on the face of the earth that was always there and was never lost, like English navigator Bartholomew Gosnold discovering Cape Cod in 1602.
Being curious as to who this Bartholomew Gosnold (1571 – 22 August 1607) dude was, I checked with the handy reference Wikipedia to find out that he was an English lawyer, explorer, and privateer who was instrumental in founding the Virginia Company of London, and Jamestown in colonial America.
He led the first recorded European expedition to Cape Cod.
He is considered by Preservation Virginia to be the “prime mover of the colonization of Virginia”.
Leading the first recorded expedition to Cape Cod is not exactly the same as “discovering” it, is it?
According to history as I understand it, European fishermen had been fishing those waters for some long time before Bartholomew Gosnold came on the scene.
Before the Pilgrims got there, there had been an epidemic of some sort, believed picked up from European fishermen that had decimated the Native American population of Cape Cod and the Massachusetts coast.
Wikipedia makes reference to the fishing in that area as follows:
The coast of New England also produced a wealth of fish prized in Europe which could support a small foothold establishment and produce a profit with growth provided when more settlers were gradually added later.
This is before the Gosnold expedition, and was one of the reasons supporting the expedition in the first place, since these were commercial ventures where the principals intended to make money.
But yes, according to history, Gosnold did name Cape Cod, so I suppose that is a form of discovery.
And this is not meant to be critical.
Rather, it is how one American citizen views these claims of Europeans and the English that they somehow discovered America, or parts of it.
Paul Plante says
With respect to the Berlin Airlift, which is all but forgotten American history today, we forget the tensions which existed in the world back then, post-WWII, with Europe in ruins and Communism on the rise, which scared the hell out of people in Washington, D.C., who I think are afraid of their own shadows most of the time, anyway, seeing boogie-men threatening our “national security” everywhere in every nook and cranny and under every rock in sight.
But that notwithstanding, at p.77 of “The Best and The Brightest” by David Halberstam, a book about how we got into the quagmire of Viet Nam so many years later, we are given a glimpse of that historical period in world history as follows:
When someone questioned the President (JFK) about spending too much time on Berlin, he answered, better too much than too little, and he did not mind checking too closely on military convoys; he did not, afterall, want the world to be blown up because some young captain had a hangover on a given morning.
If Berlin had seemed central in early 1961, Vietnam had loomed somehow very distant.
Around that time, a knowledgeable Far Eastern correspondent named Stanley Karnow had dropped by the Justice Department to talk with the president’s brother.
In the course of the conversation, Karnow began to single out Vietnam as probably the most serious problem there, the one which bore the greatest long-range potential for danger.
“Vietnam,” said Robert Kennedy, “Vietnam . . . We have thirty Vietnams a day here.”
From the beginning it had been that way, a tiny issue overclouded by the great issues.
It had risen to pre-eminence partly because of neglect and omission, a policy which had evolved not because a group of Westerners had sat down years before and determined what the future should be, but precisely because they had not.
Vietnam had begun as the most peripheral of problems to the United States, a new Western power sprung suddenly to superpower proportions and facing a prolonged confrontation with the Communists.
There had been time only for the great decisions, and Vietnam had been part of the price, something small which grew into something large.
Who, in 1945, when decisions were being made, had time for Indochina?
Nineteen forty-five was a time when the problems of Europe were pre-eminent, when the questions of the atomic weapon and the atomic balance with the Soviet Union was next, when even China was on the periphery; Vietnam was on the periphery of the periphery.
But it began to go sour for this country as early as July 1945, when the new and uncertain President of the United States, Harry Truman, made his first major trip abroad, to Potsdam, to come to terms with the enormous problems that seemed to come hurtling at him, great decisions which would decide the immediate wartime and postwar future.
In 1945, the United States found itself in its own estimation, anyway, as a new Western power sprung suddenly to superpower proportions and facing a prolonged confrontation with the Communists.
Today, that is forgotten, but it was a reality to many people in the world back then – that clash between Communism and “democracy.”
With that as the backdrop, the Berlin Airlift in 1948, which was during the reign of new and uncertain American president Harry S. “The Buck Stops Here” Truman, was really a part of a drama that began three years earlier in 1945, when the so-called Big Three—Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (replaced on July 26 by Prime Minister Clement Attlee), and U.S. President Harry Truman—met in Potsdam, Germany, from July 17 to August 2, 1945, to negotiate terms for the end of World War II.
After the Yalta Conference of February 1945, Stalin, Churchill, and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had agreed to meet following the surrender of Germany to determine the postwar borders in Europe.
Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945, and the Allied leaders agreed to meet over the summer at Potsdam to continue the discussions that had begun at Yalta.
Although the Allies remained committed to fighting a joint war in the Pacific, the lack of a common enemy in Europe led to difficulties reaching consensus concerning postwar reconstruction on the European continent.
That last sentence is important to the understanding of the need for the Berlin Airlift, because of the underlying reason the Soviet Union blocked all road and rail travel to and from West Berlin, which was located within the Soviet zone of occupation in Germany, on June 24, 1948.
According to history, the Soviet action was in response to the refusal of American and British officials to allow Russia more say in the economic future of Germany.
That is what the confrontation was about – the Soviets throwing a hissy-fit because they couldn’t get their own way.
As to how that hissy-fit ended, the Soviets persisted with the blockade until May 1949, but by then, however, it was apparent to everyone concerned that the blockade had been a diplomatic fiasco for the Russians, and around the world, the Soviets were portrayed as international bullies, holding men, women, and children hostage in West Berlin and threatening them with starvation.
Beyond that, the unbelievably successful American airlift also backfired against the Russians by highlighting the technological superiority of the United States.
By the time the Soviets ended the blockade, West Germany had become a separate and independent nation and the Russian failure was complete.
But that was then.
Three years earlier, in 1945, the major issue at Potsdam was the question of how to handle Germany.
At Yalta, the Soviets had pressed for heavy postwar reparations from Germany, half of which would go to the Soviet Union.
While Franklin Roosevelt had acceded to such demands, the fact of the matter by the time of Potsdam was that FDR was dead and gone, and his ideas of how the world should function, including independence for Viet Nam, went to the grave with him, so that his successor in office, Harry S. Truman and his Secretary of State, James Byrnes effectively changed the course of world history because unlike Roosevelt, they were determined to mitigate the treatment of Germany by allowing the occupying nations to exact reparations only from their own zone of occupation.
There were laid the seeds for the need for the Berlin Airlift three years later in 1948.
Truman and Byrnes encouraged this position because they wanted to avoid a repetition of the situation created by the Treaty of Versailles, which had exacted high reparations payments from Germany following World War One.
Many experts agreed that the harsh reparations imposed by the Versailles Treaty had handicapped the German economy and fueled the rise of the Nazis.
Despite numerous disagreements, the Allied leaders did manage to conclude some agreements at Potsdam.
For example, the negotiators confirmed the status of a demilitarized and disarmed Germany under four zones of Allied occupation.
According to the Protocol of the Conference, there was to be “a complete disarmament and demilitarization of Germany”; all aspects of German industry that could be utilized for military purposes were to be dismantled; all German military and paramilitary forces were to be eliminated; and the production of all military hardware in Germany was forbidden.
Furthermore, German society was to be remade along democratic lines by repeal of all discriminatory laws from the Nazi era and by the arrest and trial of those Germans deemed to be “war criminals.”
The German educational and judicial systems were to be purged of any authoritarian influences, and democratic political parties would be encouraged to participate in the administration of Germany at the local and state level.
The reconstitution of a national German Government was, however, postponed indefinitely, and the Allied Control Commission (which was comprised of four occupying powers, the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union) would run the country during the interregnum.
The Potsdam Conference is perhaps best known for President Truman’s July 24, 1945 conversation with Stalin, during which time the President informed the Soviet leader that the United States had successfully detonated the first atomic bomb on July 16, 1945.
Historians have often interpreted Truman’s somewhat firm stance during negotiations to the U.S. negotiating team’s belief that U.S. nuclear capability would enhance its bargaining power.
Stalin, however, was already well-informed about the U.S. nuclear program thanks to the Soviet intelligence network; so he also held firm in his positions.
This situation made negotiations challenging.
The leaders of the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union, who, despite their differences, had remained allies throughout the war, never met again collectively to discuss cooperation in postwar reconstruction.
And as they say when the movie credits are rolling, and the rest, people, is history!
Aaron Smith says
World War 2 was THE defining event that has determined our modern, post-Cold War global society.
Paul Plante says
Wouldn’t it be as accurate, or perhaps more accurate, to say that WWII ended the “old” world order, and the political and economic dominance of England, and began the “new” world order, where global emphasis has shifted away from Europe and over to Asia, with the rise of China as a world power?
The Korean War really had more of an impact as a defining event that has determined our modern, post-Cold War global society than did WWII.