The Sunday Section: This Week In History - January 01-10

I’ve decided to indulge my love of history by turning the ‘Sunday Section’ into a dedicated ‘history highlights’ segment.  It won’t cover everything that happened in history over the years, neither will it venture into the 21st century as I think those happenings are recent enough, but I hope it will still prove interesting.  If there are any mistakes that have slipped past me, I do apologise, and please feel free to point them out.

January 01

1600 – Queen Elizabeth I grants a charter, establishing the British East India Company, which is to trade in the Eastern Hemisphere, with the purpose of breaking into the Indonesian spice trade, dominated by the Dutch.

British East India Company logo

1804 – Haiti declares its independence after an 11-year slave rebellion against France, becoming the first Latin-American state to gain its freedom.

1863 – In the midst of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln declares freedom for all slaves in the southern states that have rebelled against his government, showing that the Civil War is really being fought to end slavery.  But his order does not apply to slaves in border states fighting on the side of the Union, nor does it affect slaves in southern areas already under Union control.

1958 – The European Economic Community, an alliance between France, Italy, West Germany, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg, comes into being.

1959 – The revolutionary forces of Fidel Castro topples Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista, bringing to an end Castro’s 25-month struggle against the hated Batista regime.

Fidel Castro 1959


1492 – Granada falls to the Christian army of Queen Isabella I of Castile, bringing to an end 700 years of Arab rule in Spain.  What is regarded by Christians as “the most blessed day in Spain’s history” is seen by Muslims as Islam’s worst-ever catastrophe.

1896 – A 3-day raid by Leander Starr Jameson and 500 British soldiers into the Boer republic of the Transvaal, supposedly in support of British settlers, has ended in defeat and capture with 17 men killed and 55 missing.  Jameson, a close associate of the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, Cecil Rhodes, had planned to overthrow the Boer government of President Paul Kruger.  Instead, Jameson’s folly could now tip Britain into war with the Boer republics.

Sir Leander Starr Jameson

1900  – The first electric omnibus runs in New York City.

1900 – Queen Victoria writes her famous line, “We are not amused.”

1959 – The Soviets launch ‘Luna I’, the first unmanned space rocket to pass close to the moon.

1971 – 66 people die at the Ibrox Park Stadium in Glasgow.  200 fans are crushed when metal barriers give way as supporters leave the stadium.


1924 – British archaeologist Howard Carter discovers the tomb of Tutankhamun, filled with treasures that include a solid gold coffin and a gold mask.

Howard Carter opens the tomb of Tutankhamun

1946 – The Nazi propagandist, William Joyce, known as Lord Haw-Haw, is hanged for treason.  He broadcast reports from Germany, usually false, of Hitler’s military advances.  When the war ended, he was captured by the British.  Though born in the United States, he had a British passport and was sent for trial at a British military court.

The capture of William Joyce, Germany 1945

1958 – British explorer Sir Edmund Hillary reaches the South Pole.

Sir Edmund Hillary (L) with Rear-Admiral Geroge Dufek at Scott Base 1957

1967 – Jack Ruby, the killer of Lee Harvey Oswald, dies in hospital, thus avoiding execution.

Jack Ruby

1980 – The naturalist, Joy Adamson, author of ‘Born Free’, is murdered in a Kenyan game park.

Joy Adamson with Elsa


1944 – Berlin issues an order mobilising all children over the age of 10 to be ready to fight in the war.  The order makes clear the rising desperation of Hitler’s military commanders; allied troops have already been capturing boy-soldiers as young as 15 at the front line.

1961 – Apprentice barbers in Copenhagen end a strike which began in 1938, the longest-running industrial dispute in history.

1967 – British speed king, Donald Campbell, dies when his jet-powered speedboat, ‘Bluebird’, goes out of control on Coniston Water.  He was attempting to beat his own record of 276mph.  He’d made a good first run, then turned for a second attempt without stopping to refuel.  His boat ran into its own wake at 300mph, lifted out of the water, and somersaulted.  Divers searching for Campbell’s body found only his helmet and his teddy bear mascot.  His body and the boat were eventually recovered in 2001.

Donald Campbell; in Bluebird K7 on the final run (Sheppane)


1066 – King Edward the Confessor, dies.

1818 – The first regular trans-Atlantic service begins between New York and Liverpool.

1896 –Wilhelm Röntgen, a German physicist, demonstrates what he calls the X-ray, a form of high-energy radiation which allows him to see through solid objects.

Wilhelm Röntgen

1919 – The National Socialist German Workers’ party is formed by an Austrian-born former soldier in the defeated German Army who won an Iron Cross for bravery.  Adolf Hitler forms the tiny faction amidst the political turmoil of the Weimar Republic, stating that he will direct the organisation with an iron hand, and use its meetings to deliver forceful rhetorical assaults on Germany’s ‘enemies’.

1922 – Sir Ernest Shackleton has died at sea while on his way to lead a 4th expedition to the Antarctic.

Sir Ernest Shackleton

1941 – The British aviator, Amy Johnson, who flew solo from Britain to Australia, crashes and dies on a flight across the Thames estuary; she was 37 years old.

Amy Johnson


1540 – Henry VIII today married his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, in an alliance that could secure him, not only an heir, but also powerful friends, while deepening his rift with Rome.  Anne’s brother, the Duke of Cleves, is a powerful German Protestant prince with whom Henry shares political interests.  Henry’s reaction on seeing his wife for the first time – “You have sent me a Flanders mare!”  The bride’s thoughts were not recorded.

1838 – Samuel Morse demonstrates an electromagnetic telegraph that sends a pulse of current down a line, energizing an electromagnet at the receiving end which pulls an iron armature attached to a pencil.  The pulses are short or long, producing ‘dots’ and ‘dashes’ which can be used as a code to represent the letters of alphabet.  This promises to open up a new world in long-distance communications.

Samuel Morse

1919 – American president, Theodore Roosevelt, dies.  He served two terms, first coming to power after the assassination of William McKinley in 1901, then elected in his own right in 1904, serving until 1909.  As president, he restrained big business, pushed through anti-Trust legislation, and was responsible for widening America’s international influence.  He won a Nobel Prize for mediating peace between Russia and Japan.

Theodore Roosevelt

1928 – The Thames bursts its banks, drowning 4 people.

1945 – Germany’s attempt to break the advancing Allied line by pushing through the Ardennes forest has failed.  The Battle of the Bulge saw the German army try to drive their wedge of tanks (the Bulge) into Allied lines; they were halted with the loss of 10 German armoured divisions.


1536 – Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII, dies.

1610 – The Italian mathematician, scientist and astronomer, Galilei Galileo, announces his discovery of the 4 moons circling Jupiter.

1789 – George Washington, hero of America’s revolutionary wars, is unanimously elected as the first president of the United States.

George Washington

1905 – The US Senate approves the first government appointment of a black man, as head of South Carolina customs services.

1927 – A transatlantic telephone link between London and New York is opened.


794 – Danish Vikings attack Lindisfarne Island and destroy its church.

1642 – Galileo Galilei dies.  He was the first to use the telescope to gaze on lunar mountains, the Milky Way, and the moons of Jupiter.  He was convinced that Copernicus had been right – the earth rotates around the sun, not the other way around as taught by the Bible.  The Holy Office at Rome issued an edict against Copernicanism, and in 1632, Galileo was called to Rome by the Inquisition.  Condemned to life imprisonment for heresy, he was forced to recant, yet was reported to have said, under his breath, “But it still goes around the sun.


1889 – Dr Herman Hollerith of New York patents the first computer.

1941 – Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts, dies.

1942 – Defeated by the Russian winter, German troops begin the retreat from Leningrad.

1989 – A Boeing 737 crashes on the M1 motorway, killing at least 44 people.  The plane was on a flight to Ireland when the pilot reported engine trouble.

British Midland M1 crash (Claire Mackintosh - Empic Sports PA)


1806 – Lord Horatio Nelson is buried at St Paul’s Cathedral.

1920 – Alexander Fleming pioneers the use of penicillin at St Mary’s Hospital, London.

Alexander Fleming

1972 – British miners strike for the first time since 1926.

1972 – One of the greatest of the trans-Atlantic liners, the ‘Queen Elizabeth’, is destroyed by a mysterious fire in Hong Kong harbour.

Pride of the Cunard ablaze (AP)


1840 – The Penny Post is introduced, ending the system where the recipient of the letter pays for the postage.

1863 – London’s first underground railway, the Metropolitan, opens today, heralding a new era in city travel.

(Getty Images)

1917 – William Frederick Cody, known as ‘Buffalo Bill’, who presented to the world the romantic image of the Wild West, dies, aged 71.

1918 – In Britain, women over 30 are given the vote.

1920 – The League of Nations, an international organisation for the prevention of war, is inaugurated in Geneva.

1937 – Britain announces a ban on its nationals joining the International Brigades gathering in Spain; the Brigades aim is to defend the Constitutionalist Republican forces against General Franco’s Nationalists in the country’s civil war.

1946 – The League of Nations is dissolved and replaced by the United Nations.

1949 – RCS and Columbia launch the vinyl record in America.

1957 – Sir Harold Macmillan becomes Prime Minister in Britain, replacing Sir Anthony Eden.