69 A.D.: Roman Legions in Germania Superior (present-day Alsace region) refuse to swear allegiance to the Emperor Galba, instead casting their support for the accession of Vitellius, whose short reign (April-December of this year) made him the third in a uniquely turbulent period of Roman history known as The Year of Four Emperors, all of whom were powerful generals, and all vying for control of the post-Nero Roman throne by the power of the armies they commanded in the far-flung provinces of the Empire.
406 AD: Traditional date for the beginning of the great Barbarian invasion of the Roman Empire, with waves of Vandals, Alans and Suebians crossing the un-bridged but frozen Rhine River to begin a massive campaign of pillage along a broad front of Roman Gaul.
1066: In Grenada, the capital of the recently conquered al-Andalus region of the Iberian Peninsula, an enraged Arab mob storms the royal citadel and murders the Grand Vizier of the realm, locally born Joseph ibn Naghrela, son of Granada’s rabbi and, until this point, the second most powerful man in the Moslem kingdom. With blood on their hands, the mob then surged down into the city and conducted a brutal pogrom against the rest of the Jewish population there, killing upwards of 4,000 of them. It was not the first mass murder of its kind, and it wasn’t the last, but it was seared into European memory by the character of its initial attack against a very well respected and highly placed Jew serving in the heart of the Moslem court.
1229: James I of Aragon enters the port city of Palma de Majorca, completing the reconquista of the Baleric Islands from the invading Moors of North Africa.
1466: The Wars of the Roses, the long-running English civil war fought between the ruling Lancaster family (current King Henry VI) versus the house of York (Richard Duke of York, who had a quite legitimate claim to the throne). Five years into the scheming and periodic violence of the conflict, was fought the Battle of Wakefield, where York impetuously sallied from his castle against what he thought was a middling Lancaster army, but was actually a force twice his size, the bulk of which was concealed in the woods abutting the field of battle. York himself was killed, as were over 2,500 of his soldiers and noble retainers. But the victory did not seal the end of the conflict, as the bloodletting from this moment increasingly began to include the non-combatant family members of the vanquished leaders who fell over the next 21 years.
1492: Formal relinquishment and abandonment of Grenada, the final remaining stronghold and capitol of Moslem Al-Andalus, to the Spanish thrones of Castile and Aragon (i.e., Ferdinand and Isabella). The act of surrender completed the requirements of the Treaty of Grenada, negotiated the previous November, which lifted the Spanish siege of that citadel, and completed the Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula from over 400 years of Moorish conquest. Most historians consider this to be the most important event of 1492, since it consolidated Western Europe under a single major religion. You are correct to remember that significant tensions remained between the Church and Spain’s extensive Jewish populations, and that cultural tensions remained between Portugal and the dominions of Castile and Aragon, but from the civilizational perspective, the final expulsion of the Moors from Grenada confirmed the concept of Europe for Europeans.
1600: Queen Elizabeth I grants a Royal Charter to “Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading with the East Indies” better known today as the British East India Company. As a measure of its political power (and its potential for conflict), the charter awarded a monopoly on all trade with all countries east of the Cape of Good Hope and west of the Strait of Magellan. Wikipedia summarizes: “Any traders, in breach of the charter without a license from the Company, were liable to forfeiture of their ships and cargo (half of which went to the Crown and the other half to the Company), as well as imprisonment at the ‘royal pleasure’.” You can safely assume that the ambitious traders of the Netherlands, France, Portugal and Spain did not see eye-to-eye with this assertion of particular trading rights. You probably also recognized that a commercial entity of this magnitude would soon press against the technological limits of existing ocean navigation, and the legal limits of unbridled global competition for markets.
1687: The first organized group of approximately 180-200 French Huguenots, fleeing the continuing religious persecution of Cardinal Richelieu and the Edict of Fountainebleau, set sail for the Cape of Good Hope, where they are warmly welcomed by their coreligionist Dutch settlers in the Cape Colony. They eventually settle in the area of West Cape in an area quickly known as le Coin Francais (i.e., the French Quarter) and within a generation, Franschhoek, the Dutch version of the same name. Not surprisingly, the region is one of South Africa’s premier wine districts, and many place names retain their original francophone place names.
1759: Irish brewer Arthur Guinness begins commercial production of a particularly robust dark ale from his brewery in St. James’ Gate, Dublin.
1772: The world’s first traveler’s cheques, are issued by the London Credit Exchange Company, for use in 90 cities in Continental Europe.
1773: First use in public worship of the venerable and lovely hymn, Amazing Grace, sung in the parish of its author, the Reverend John Newton, in Olney, England.
1775: The Battle of Quebec. An American army under the command of General Richard Montgomery and supported by Colonel Benedict Arnold, who had just completed an astonishing forced march through the Maine wilderness with about 1,100 veterans of the Siege of Boston, 600 of whom completed the arduous trek The two forces combined at the base of the city walls, and on this night initiate an attack on the fortified British Canadian redoubt of Quebec, with the intention of driving the British away from the Saint Lawrence River and claiming Canadian lands for the nascent United States. The night attack in a blinding snowstorm seemed like a good idea, and might have even worked if the plan wasn’t betrayed to the British garrison, who set up a devastating ambuscade that shattered any hope for a concentrated offense. 34 Americans were killed, including General Montgomery, and another 50 wounded and 431 captured, against 19 casualties for the British, who not only successfully defended their position, but also captured virtually the entire American force, keeping them out of the fight for the remainder of the hostilities.
1776: Incensed by his being run out of his royal colonial
1781: The Pennsylvania contingent of the Continental Army, suffering in winter quarters near Morristown, New Jersey, mutinies against its officers and General “Mad” Anthony Wayne over not only the dire living conditions in camp, but also for the failure of Pennsylvania legislature to provide current and adequate pay and some positive indication concerning the legal status of their enlistments, whose supposed three-year term was long expired. Other regiments sent in to suppress the insurrection agreed with their grievances and instead of suppressing, joined them instead. And here’s an interesting twist: during negotiations between the mutineers and Pennsylvania authorities, British Commanding General Sir Henry Clinton sent over an emissary who offered immediate full back pay to the Americans if they would join forces with the British army. Clinton, however,
1804: After a vicious uprising against their French masters, and supported in part by the infant United States, the former plantation colony of Haiti declares its independence from France, becoming the Western Hemisphere’s second independent state and the first one governed as a free black republic.
1833: Great Britain re-asserts its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands by landing a permanent colonizing population.
1863: Three months after announcing his intent to do so, President Abraham Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation, legally freeing slaves from their servitude in the states still in rebellion on this date.
1853: Less than five years after annexing by conquest a massive swath of Mexico’s North American territory, the United States completes the Gadsen Purchase, adding nearly 30,000 square miles of railroad-friendly geography to the southern tier of the Arizona and New Mexico territories. It is the final annexation of new continent-spanning United States, specifically negotiated with the government of Mexico to create a viable transcontinental railroad route that could service the economies of the southern states. Final cost was $10,000.000.00. Railroad interests aside, the purchase became yet another flashpoint in the increasingly bitter sectionalism that was dividing the country into explicit slave and free states. James Gadsen, you should know, was the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico.
1857: Britain’s Queen Victoria, easing her Canadian subjects towards
1862: President Abraham Lincoln signs an enabling act that admits West Virginia into the Union as a Free State.
1865: Birth of English author Rudyard Kipling (d.1936), whose work remains embedded in the subconscious of most of the English-speaking world to this day. Much of his writing came as a direct result of his journalistic adventures in Great Britain’s far-flung south-Asian empire. The British paid a steep price for their control of the northern approaches to India, the jewel in the British crown. Kipling noted: “As you lay dying in Afghanistan’s plains, and the Afghan women pick over your remains, pull out your pistol and blow out your brains, and go to your death like a soldier.” Many may recall the recording of the endlessly repeated refrain of “BOOTS- BOOTS- Marching over Africa…There’s no discharge from the war!” He also wrote The Jungle Book, The Story of Rikki-Tiki-Tavi, and other stories about the
1879: Inventor Thomas Alva Edison publicly demonstrates the incandescent light bulb in his Menlo Park laboratory.
1884: Birth of Hideki Tojo (d.1948), Prime Minister of Japan during World War II, he assumed the Prime Ministership f
1885: Twenty-five industrialized nations adopt the concept of “standard time,” which we now know as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) or “Zulu” time, from which all other clock times are derived, basing their local times on the concurrent establishment of 24 time zones
1904: Death of Confederate General James Longstreet (b.1821).
1909: Birth of Arizona Senator and 1964 Republican Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater (d.1998). An unapologetic conservative, particularly when it came to the Cold War, he was viciously lambasted by the Democrats as an “extremist” in foreign policy and by extension,
1935: Birth of the Dodger left-handed pitcher, Sandy Koufax.
1951: After a
1964: Birth of Norfolk native Pernel “Sweet Pea” Whitaker, recently named as #10 in a list of the 100 greatest boxers of all time.
1968: First flight of the Tupolev TU-144 Charger supersonic transport aircraft. Its basic design echoed the Anglo-French Concorde, but in typical Russian fashion, the machine’s designers met their most intractable problems with predictable brute force. Including a massive steel (yes) plate shielding the underbody from runway debris. After its 1977 commercial introduction, the plane saw the majority of its service on the domestic Moscow-Vladivostok run, which makes sense if your country is 11 time zones wide. It had a miserable mishap rate and pathetic reliability record, which only hastened its commercial demise in 1983 after only 55 (yes) paying flights. As a point of reference, the Concorde dropped its landing gear for the last time in 2003. One of the last flyable TU-144s was offered to NASA & Boeing as a supersonic test bed by an independent contractor. It made 27 flights in 1996-97 before losing funding.
1974: In response to an Arab (OPEC) oil embargo, President Richard Nixon issues an Executive Order mandating a national speed limit of 55 mph in order to “save gas.” Correct: this “Republican” President threatened the Several States with a loss of federal highway funding unless they complied. The “double nickel” was purported to reduce consumption by 2.2% but
1983: Formal break-up date for the AT&T – Bell Labs regulated monopoly, an act that freed AT&T to exploit all of its lab work into the burgeoning field of digital telecommunications, to say nothing of personal computing.
1992: Death of Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, USNR (b.1906), one of the visionary thinkers who ushered the U.S. into the computer age. In the early 1950s, she worked on the design team for the original UINVAC 1 system, which included her particular input, a functional compiler, a capability long considered beyond the reach of computing machines. Ten years later, she spearheaded the design and application of COBOL, the first computer language designed around more natural English as opposed to machine language. She retired in 1986, the oldest commissioned officer in the Navy at 79 years of age. USS Hopper (DDG-70) is named in her honor.
1999: Introduction of the EURO as a continent-wide common currency.