The Sunday Section: This Week in History - Jan 11-17

January 11

1569 – The first state lottery is held in England, with tickets on sale at the West Door of St Paul’s Cathedral.

1864 – Charing Cross railway station opens in London.

1922 – Insulin is used successfully for the first time in the treatment of diabetes.

1928 – Death of Thomas Hardy, aged 87.  His body is buried in Westminster, beside Dickens, but his heart is buried in his native Wessex, at the churchyard in Stinsfield, in the grave of his first wife, Emma.

Thomas Hardy

1989 – President Ronald Reagan leaves the presidency after serving two terms.


1519 – Death of Maximillian I, King of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor.

Maximillian I ~ Albrecht Durer

1879 – The British-Zulu War begins in South Africa.

1904 – Henry Ford, the automobile engineer and racing driver, achieves a new land speed record of 91.37mph on frozen Lake St Clair outside Detroit.

Henry Ford (standing) with Barney Oldfield in 1902, with the '999' racing automobile

1948 – The London Co-op opens the first British supermarket at Manor Park.

1970 – The 3-year war involving the secessionist Nigerian state of Biafra has ended after the Biafrans surrendered to Nigerian federal troops.  Disastrous as the war was, its aftermath is likely to be worse as starvation grips the population.

1970 – A Boeing 747 touches down at Heathrow Airport after its maiden transatlantic flight from New York.

Boeing 747 on display to the public for the first time

1976 – Death of Dame Agatha Christie, aged 85.

1977 – France releases the PLO terrorist Abu Davoud, leader of the Black September group who claimed responsibility for the killing of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics.


1599 – Death of Edmund Spenser, English poet who wrote ‘The Faerie Queene’.

1893 – James Keir Hardie officially forms the Labour Party, an alliance of British trade union and socialist movements.  Hardie started work as a miner at the age of 10, and educated himself at night school.

James Keir Hardie

1910 – Enrico Caruso is broadcast by radio singing at the New York Metropolitan Opera House.

Enrico Caruso

1926 – Death of Wyatt Earp, aged 81.

Wyatt Earp

1941 – Death of Irish author James Joyce, after surgery in Zurich.

James Joyce

1979 – Concorde begins regular flights from Washington DC to Dallas.

1982 – An Air Florida jet plunges into the frozen Potomac River near the White House, killing 78 people.

1991 – Soviet troops crack down on the Lithuanian pro-independence movement in Vilnius, killing at least 13 demonstrators.  Lithuania had lost its independence in 1939 through a deal between Stalin and Hitler.


1742 – Death of Sir Edmund Halley, British Astronomer Royal who gave his name to the comet.

Sir Edmund Halley

1814 – Crowds of Londoners braved the cold and flocked to, what could be, the city’s last Frost Fair on the frozen River Thames.

1878 – Queen Victoria is given a demonstration of Alexander Graham Bell’s new invention, the telephone.

1907 – An earthquake in Kingston, Jamaica, destroys most of the capital and kills over 1,000 people.

1938 – Walt Disney’s first full-length Technicolor cartoon, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ goes on general release in the USA.

1954 – Marilyn Monroe marries baseball hero Joe DiMaggio.

Monroe and DiMaggio

1957 – Humphrey Bogart dies of cancer.

1986 – Voyager 2 passes within 50,625 miles of Uranus’ cloud tops, having already been collecting data on the planet for four months.  About 4 times the size of the Earth, Uranus’ rings were only discovered in 1977.

1989 – Copies of Salman Rushdie’s book ‘The Satanic Verses’ are burned in Bradford by angry British Muslims.  Because of its alleged blasphemies against the Prophet Mohammed, the book has caused fury throughout the Islamic world, and indignation that western blasphemy laws only apply in a Christian context.


1559 – Elizabeth I is formally crowned Queen of England at the age of 26.

1759 – A “general repository for all arts and science” in Montague House, to be known as the British Museum, opens today.  The museum, the first great public assembly of antiquities, is based on the collection of books, manuscripts and objects of natural history amassed by the physician and naturalist Sir Hans Sloane, along with the collections of Edward and Robert Harley, and Sir Robert Bruce Cotton.

1790 – Fletcher Christian and other mutineers from the ‘Bounty’ land on Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific.

1797 – James Hetherington is fined £50 for wearing the first bowler hat.

1867 – Forty people drown when the ice gives way in frozen Regent’s Park.

1877 – Torrential rain causes the railway tunnel between Dover and Folkestone to collapse, but no lives are lost.

1878 – Women receive degrees for the first time at London University.

1880 – The first telephone directory is published in London.

1890 – The first performance of Tchaikovsky’s ballet ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ is given in St Petersburg.

1971 – President Sadat of Egypt officially opens the Aswan Dam on the River Nile.

Aswan High Dam

1971 – The currency of Britain changes from pounds, shillings and pence to the decimal pound.

1973 – President Nixon orders a halt to all bombing of Vietnam by American warplanes.  Less than a month before, the capital, Hanoi, had been subjected to massive US ‘Christmas bombing’ raids, which had been planned as a means of forcing Viet Cong leaders to moderate their demands at the imminent Paris peace conference.  More than 36,000 tons of bombs fell on the city in 12 days, killing 1,600 civilians and leaving Hanoi a wasteland.

Kham Thien Street, Hanoi, after bombing Dec 26 1972


1547 – Ivan the Terrible is crowned the first Tsar of Russia. 

'Ivan the Terrible' ~ Viktor Vasnetsov

1780 – British forces defeat the Spanish at Cape St Vincent and relieve Gibraltar.

1920 – The 18th Amendment to the Constitution comes into force, banning the consumption of alcohol in the United States.

1932 – Duke Ellington records ‘It Don’t Mean a Thing’ in New York.

Duke Ellington

1937 – A revolutionary “miracle” yarn made entirely from chemicals is patented today by the Du Pont Company; the new fibre is called Nylon.

1944 – General Dwight D. Eisenhower is appointed Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe.

General Eisenhower

1957 – The Sadler’s Wells Ballet is granted a royal charter and becomes the Royal Ballet.

1957 – The Cavern Club in Liverpool opens as a venue for rock groups.

1970 – Colonel Gaddafi becomes Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council in Libya.

1975 – Angola gains its independence from Portugal.

1979 – The Shah of Iran dies in exile in Egypt.

1991 – ‘Desert Storm’ breaks with US warships in the Gulf launching Cruise missiles at Iraqi targets.  In the next 4 hours, allied aircraft flew 400 missions against 60 targets in Iraq.


1773 – Captain James Cook’s ‘Resolution’ becomes the first ship to cross the Antarctic Circle.

Captain James Cook

1852 – The British recognise the independence of the Transvaal Boers.

1874 – Chang and Eng, the famous Siamese twins, have died within 3 hours of one another aged 62.  They were joined at the sternum by a small piece of cartilage.  Born in Thailand to Chinese parents, their names meant ‘left’ (Chang) and ‘right’ (Eng).  At the age of 17, they were taken to America, where they eventually married the Yates sisters and fathered 10 and 12 children respectively.

1912 – Captain Robert Falcon Scot’s party reaches the South Pole, only to discover they have been beaten by the Norwegian party of Roald Amundsen by a month.  “Great God, this is an awful place,” wrote Scott in his diary as disappointment weighed heavy on him and his men.  Poor logistics and unreliable equipment meant the ill-equipped party travelled more slowly than Amundsen, whose men raced along behind dog-sleds.

At the South Pole: (back L to R) Lawrence Oates, Scott (by flag), and Edgar Evans; (seated L to R) Henry Bowers, and Edward Wilson. Bowers took the photograph, using a piece of string to operate the camera shutter.

1934 – A ‘poor white’ called Pohl finds a 500-carat diamond near Pretoria in South Africa.

1966 – A B-52 carrying 4 hydrogen bombs collides with a refuelling tanker, killing 8 and releasing the bombs.

1979 – The Shah of Iran and his family Tehran for Cairo at the command of an aged priest, Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini, still living on the outskirts of Paris.

1989 – A self-styled ‘Rambo’ opens fire on a school playground in Stockton, California, killing 5 children and injuring 30 more.