The Sunday Section: This Week in History - April 05-11

April 05

1793 – George Washington has approved plans for new public buildings and roads in the capital city, to include the meeting place of the US Congress, to be called the Capitol, after the centre of government in ancient Rome.

1794 – Death of Georges Jacques Danton, one of the fathers of the Revolution.  It’s most dazzling speaker was guillotined for corruption, along with 14 members of his group, called ‘The Indulgents’.

Georges Jacques Danton

1874 – The premiere of Johann Strauss’ ‘Die Fledermaus’ in Vienna.

1915 – Jack Johnson, the first black world heavyweight boxing champion, has lost his title to Jess Willard, the so-called ‘great white hope’.

1955 – Resignation of Sir Winston Churchill.

1960 – The film, ‘Ben Hur’, wins 11 Oscars.

1964 – Death of General Douglas MacArthur, one of only 5 men in the US Army to rise to the rank of General of the Army, and the only man ever to become a field marshal in the Philippine Army.

1975 – Death of Chiang Kai-shek, Chairman of the Nationalist Government of China, aged 87.

Chiang Kai-shek

1976 – Death of Howard Hughes, on a plane while being flown to hospital.  He is reputed to have left a fortune of just over $2 billion.

Howard Hughes

1982 – The British Naval Task Force sets sail for the Falkland Islands in response to Argentina’s invasion.

British Naval Task Force

1989 – A historic political pact between the independent trade union federation, Solidarity, and the government of Wojciech Jaruzleski, brings to an end communist rule in Poland.


1199 – Death of Richard I, the Lionheart, from an infected wound while besieging Chateau de Châlus-Chabrol, part of his campaign against King Philip of France, who was contesting Angevin lands.

Richard I statue outside Houses of Parliament

1520 – Death of Raphael on, possibly, his 37th birthday.


1528 – Death of Albrecht Dúrer, aged 56, in Nuremburg.

Albrecht Dúrer

1580 – St Paul’s cathedral has been damaged by an earthquake.

1814 – Napoleon Bonaparte has been forced to abdicate, having received news of the French people’s enthusiasm for the return of the Bourbons, and his own Marshals’ reluctance to continue the struggle against Britain, Russia, Prussia, and Sweden.  He does not leave empty-handed for the allies have given him sovereignty over Elba, the island to which they are exiling him.

1843 – William Wordsworth is appointed Poet Laureate.

William Wordsworth

1896 – A modern version of the ancient Olympic Games has been opened in Athens.  The ancient Games had been held every 4 years, from the first recorded date of 776BC, until Greece lost its independence and the Christian Roman emperor, Theodosius, abolished them in 394 to discourage paganism.

1909 – US Navy Commander Robert Peary has become the first man to reach the North Pole, on his 3rd attempt.  But on his return to civilization, he discovered that Dr Frederick Cook, a surgeon on Pear’s 1891 expedition to Greenland, claimed to have reached the pole in 1908.

Robert Peary (1909)

1917 – The United States has entered WW1 on the side of Britain and France with the signing of the resolution by President Woodrow Wilson.

1939 – Britain, France and Poland have signed a Polish defence pact, formalising the pledge that had been made earlier on March 31st.

1944 – Pay As You Earn Income Tax is introduced in Britain.

1965 – The US launches the first commercial communications satellite, ‘Early Bird’.

INTELSAT I 'Early Bird' communications satellite

1971 – Death of Igor Stravinsky in New York, aged 88.

Igor Stravinsky


1739 – Death of Dick Turpin.  The notorious highwayman was hanged today.

Thomas Kyll's pamphlet, published 10 days after Turpin's execution

1827 – John Waller, a chemist, sells his invention, matches.

1862 – General Ulysses Grant’s troops defeat the Confederate army at the Battle of Shiloh.  With nearly 100,000 troops facing each other, and almost 24,000 casualties, the battle had been a slaughter on both sides, with corpses littering the field.  General Grant described the scene thus: “… it would have been possible to walk across the clearing in any direction stepping on dead bodies without a foot touching the ground.” 

1906 – Mount Vesuvius has erupted, killing hundreds of Italians, and destroying the nearby town of Ottaiano.  Buildings in Naples, 9 miles away, have collapsed under the weight of the debris.

Mount Vesuvius 1906

1943 – Albert Hoffman, a chemist, has synthesized the drug lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) at his laboratory in Switzerland.

Albert Hoffman

1943 – John Maynard Keynes, the economist, has launched a plan for post-war reconstruction.

John Maynard Keynes

1947 – Death of Henry Ford, the car manufacturer.

Henry Ford

1948 – The World Health Organisation is founded in Geneva.

1949 – ‘South Pacific’, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, opens on Broadway.

1958 – Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children, supporters of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, have taken part in a ‘ban the bomb’ march, walking from London to Aldermaston, the site of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, where nuclear warheads are made.

1968 – Death of Jim Clark, the British world racing champion.  The 32-year-old’s Lotus hurtled out of control at an estimated 120mph in the first race at Hockenheim, Germany.

Jim Clark

1971 – President Richard Nixon has promised to withdraw 100,000 troops from Vietnam by Christmas.

1989 – More than 40 Soviet submariners have died after a nuclear-powered submarine caught fire, and it refused the assistance from nearby Western merchant ships.


1838 – ‘Great Western’, the massive steamship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, left Bristol today on her maiden voyage across the Atlantic to Boston, which Brunel estimates will take her about 15 days.

'Great Western'

1904 – Britain and France have signed the ‘Entente Cordiale’, mutually recognising each other’s colonial interests, especially France’s in Morocco, and Britain’s in Egypt.

1950 – Death of Vaslav Nijinsky, aged 61.


1953 – Jomo Kenyatta, the alleged leader of the Mau Mau, the secret terror organisation in Kenya, has been sentenced to 7 years’ hard labour.

Jomo Kenyatta

1973 – Death of Pablo Picasso, aged 91, after suffering a heart attack.

Pablo Picasso

1986 – Clint Eastwood becomes mayor of Carmel, the up-market Californian resort.

Clint Eastwood

1990 – Nick Faldo wins his second successive US Masters.

Nick Faldo


1626 - Death of Francis Bacon, aged 65.

Francis Bacon

1865 – General Robert E. Lee has surrendered to his opposite number in the Union army, General Ulysses S. Grant, at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia.  Lee’s Confederate army has been drastically reduced, thanks to mass desertions; he could call on no more than 9,000 troops at the end.  Although the surrender is unconditional, still Grant has allowed Lee’s men to keep their guns.

General Lee signing the surrender, watched by General Grant

1882 – Death of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, aged 53.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (by William Holman Hunt)

1940 – Germany invades Norway and Denmark.

1959 – Death of Frank Lloyd Wright, aged 91.

"The physician can bury his mistakes, but the architect can only advise his client to plant vines." ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

1963 – The film, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, has won 7 Oscars.

1970 – Paul McCartney has issued a High Court writ winding up the business partnership of the Beatles, following months of squabbling over money and power with the record company, Apple.


1633 – Bananas are sold in British shops for the first time.

1809 – Austria declares war on France, and invades Bavaria.

1810 – Ching Shih, the pirate chief known as ‘Dragon Lady’, has surrendered herself and the 1,800 junks under her command to the Chinese authorities.

Ching Shih

1820 – The first British settlers arrive in Algoa Bay (now Port Elizabeth), South Africa.

1841 – The ‘New York Tribune’ is published for the first time.

1849 – Walter Hunt of New York patents the safety pin.

Walter Hunt

1912 – The ‘Titanic’ sets sail from Southampton on her maiden voyage.

1919 – Death of Emiliano Zapata, aged 39, the people’s champion, in an ambush by soldiers.  Never wavering from his principles, and his plan to return to a communal system of land ownership, under the slogan ‘Land and Liberty’, Zapata died untainted by the desire for power and money.

"It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees." ~ Emiliano Zapata

1956 – Nat King Cole has been subjected to a violent racial assault during a live appearance before an audience of 4,000 in Birmingham, Alabama.  Onlookers were shocked when 3 white men, part of a Klan offshoot group, knocked Cole to the ground on stage.  The attackers were apprehended by police waiting on the sides of the stage.  In what was seen as a courageous move, Cole returned to the stage to finish his performance.

Nat King Cole


1689 – William III, Prince of Orange and champion of Protestantism, and his wife, Mary, the Protestant daughter of the deposed James II, have been jointly crowned.  Their coronation sets the seal on a transition of power within the British government, with the passing of a Bill of Rights which excludes Roman Catholics from the throne, and gives political and civil rights to the people, and supremacy to parliament.

Coronation of William and Mary

1713 – France cedes Newfoundland and Gibraltar to Britain.

1919 – The International Labour Organisation is founded in affiliation with the League of Nations to improve living standards and working conditions.

1960 – Death of Sir Archibald McIndoe, the New Zealand-born pioneering plastic surgeon who developed new techniques while treating RAF pilots burned in WW2.

Sir Archibald McIndoe

1961 – Adolf Eichmann, the alleged Nazi war criminal, is in court in Jerusalem to hear the 15 charges against him, 12 of which carry the death penalty.

1974 – Golda Meir resigns as Israeli prime minister.