National day of Libya, commemorating Colonel Gaddafi’s overthrow of King Idris I in 1969.

1864: Birth of Sir Roger David Casement, British diplomat. During World War I, in 1914, he organized Irish prisoners of war into a brigade, and led a Republican uprising. The Germans sent them to Ireland in a submarine, but as they tried to land, Casement was arrested by the British on charges of treason, for which he was later tried and executed.

1904: Helen Keller, deaf and blind from infancy, graduated from Radcliffe College with honours.

1920: France established the state of Lebanon, with Beirut as its capital.

1923: Over 300,000 people died in a huge earthquake in Japan, and Tokyo and Yokohama were devastated.

1933: Publication date of The Shape of Things to Come, the science fiction classic by H G Wells.

1939: Germany invaded Poland, starting the Second World War.

1951: The Premier supermarket opened in Earl’s Court, London, the first supermarket in Britain.

1972: Bobby Fischer won the world chess championships at Reykjavik against Boris Spassky. He was the first US player to win the world championships.


1666: In a bakery in Pudding Lane, the Great Fire of London began. The blaze was devastating, causing five times as much damage as the Blitz. The fire spread to a nearby warehouse filled with tar barrels, which exploded, and the flames burned for four days, destroying 13,000 buildings.

1726: Birth of John Howard, English prison reformer. As high sheriff, it was his job to inspect Bedford jail, and the conditions he found there were shocking. The physical environment was filthy, and the jailers were paid not in regular salaries but in prisoners’ fees. He persuaded Parliament to eliminate many of the abuses.

1858: In New York, a songwriter known only as J.K. copyrighted ‘The Yellow Rose of Texas’.

1906: Roald Amundsen sailed the last part of his journey around the Northwest Passage.

1914: Birth of Lord George Brown, British statesman, who brought his frank and colourful personality to his position as Foreign Secretary during Harold Wilson’s Labour government from 1966-8.

1923: The first elections were held in the Irish Free State.

1942: 50,000 Jews were killed by the German SS as they used flame-throwers and grenades to destroy the Warsaw Ghetto after weeks of resistance.

1945: On board the aircraft carrier Missouri in Tokyo Bay, General MacArthur accepted Japan’s surrender, which ended the Second World War. Ho Chi Minh became President of the new North Vietnam Republic.

1980: The BBC cricket commentator John Arlott retired after 35 years of broadcasting. This was his last day’s work, on the Lord’s Centenary Match.

1987: Philips introduced the video disc, called CD-video, which combined digital sound with high-definition video.


1728: Birth of Matthew Boulton, English engineer. He and James Watt collaborated to invent and manufacture the steam engine.

1752: Britain abandoned the Julian Calendar, which designated this day as 3 September, and adopted the Gregorian Calendar, making this day 14 September.

1783: Britain signed a treaty in Paris which acknowledged US independence, bringing the war to an end.

1899: Birth of Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet, Australian immunologist. He and Peter Medawar discovered acquired immunological tolerance to tissue transplants, and their work won them the Nobel Prize for Physiology in 1960.

1916: During a raid on London, Captain Leefe Robinson’s biplane attacked a Zeppelin, which caught fire and crashed in Hertfordshire. He was the first pilot ever to shoot down a Zeppelin, and thousands of witnesses on the ground cheered his victory. He won the Victoria Cross for his heroism.

1930: Diedonne Coste and Maurice Bellonte completed the first non-stop flight from Paris to New York.

1935: On Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, Malcolm Campbell drove his Bluebird at 301.13 mph, setting a new world landspeed record.

1939: The Second World War began as Britain and France declared war on Germany.

1950: Nino Farina of Italy won the Monza Grand Prix, the first ever world championship of drivers.

1966: Captain John Ridgway and Sergeant Chay Blyth of the Parachute Regiment completed a 91-day row across the Atlantic in the English Rose III, when they rowed into Inishmore on the isle of Aran.

1967: Sweden changed from driving on the left side of the road to the right side.

1976: The US spacecraft Viking 2 landed on Mars and began transmitting pictures to Earth.

1980: Peter O’Toole opened as Macbeth at the Old Vic in Bryan Forbes’ production. Panned by every critic, the production was a huge hit with audiences, who packed out the house and often burst out laughing at the quirky production.


1733: Britain’s first lioness died of old age in the Tower of London, where she had been cared for by the Keeper of the Lion Office. She had produced a litter of cubs every year for several years.

1736: Birth of Robert Raikes, English pioneer of Sunday Schools.

1870: The Emperor Napoleon III was deposed, and the Third Republic was proclaimed.

1871: The New York municipal government at Tammany Hall was accused of corruption on a large scale, in what became known as the Tammany Frauds.

1893: Beatrix Potter introduced Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail in an illustrated note to her governess’s five-year-old son, Noel Moore.

1909: The first Boy Scout rally took place at Crystal Palace, London.

1912: 22 people were injured in the London Underground’s first accident, when two Piccadilly Line trains collided.

1948: Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands abdicated in favour of her daughter Juliana.

1955: The first newsreaders appeared on British television: Kenneth Kendall and Richard Baker.

1957: Nine black students were trying to enter Central High School, an Arkansas school which had previously been whites-only, when they were turned away by the National Guard, called in by Governor Orval Faubus. In response to the incident, President Eisenhower sent in troops from the 101st Airborne Division to enforce the law.

1962: At EMI’s Abbey Road studios in London, the Beatles began their first recording session with their producer, George Martin.

1964: Opening of the Forth Road Bridge in Scotland, Europe’s longest bridge.

1970: While on tour with the Kirov Ballet, Natalia Makarova defected to the West.

1988: British customs officers intercepted a helicopter landing on its way in from Holland. It was the first helicopter known to have been used in an attempt to smuggle drugs into Britain.


1638: Birth of Louis XIV, King of France. He was known as the Sun King because he established a splendid court at Versailles which revolved around him. His reign brought tremendous prestige and established him as the greatest of the French kings.

1800: In Malta, the French occupying forces surrendered to the British.

1847: Birth of Jesse (Woodson) James, US outlaw. He and his older brother Frank led a former Confederate guerrilla unit, known as the Quantrill gang, that had degenerated into looting and criminality. They robbed banks in broad daylight, usually killing someone in the process, and also committed the first train robberies. In 1876, eight of the gang members were killed trying to rob the First National Bank at Northfield, but Jesse and Frank escaped. A reward of $10,000 dead or alive was offered, and Robert Ford, one of the gang’s new recruits, shot Jesse in the back of the head to get it. Frank lived to be 73, when he died of heart disease.

1922: US aviator James Doolittle was the first person to fly coast-to-coast across the US, a feat which he accomplished in 21 hours 19 minutes.

1951: 16-year-old Maureen Connolly (‘Little Mo’) won the US Tennis Championships, the youngest-ever winner.

1969: Britain’s commercial TV channel, ITV, began colour broadcasts.

1972: At the Olympic Village in Munich, a coach and an athlete were shot dead and nine others taken hostage when members of the Palestinian Black September movement attacked the Israeli building with sub-machine guns. The gunmen were allowed to take their hostages to the airport in a bus. Once there, a special squad failed in an attempt to rescue the hostages, and all nine were killed. Four Arabs and one German policeman were shot dead, and three gunmen were captured.

1980: Opening of the St Gotthard tunnel from Goschenen to Airolo, Switzerland; the world’s longest road tunnel.


1522: Juan del Cano and the 17 surviving crew sailed the Vittoria into San Lucar harbour in Spain, after a three-year journey, the first circumnavigation of the world. It was the only one of five ships to return. Ferdinand Magellan had been the original commander, but was killed in a battle when they reached the island of Mactan in the Philippines.

1666: The Great Fire of London was finally extinguished on its fourth day.

1757: Birth of the Marquis de Lafayette, French statesman and soldier. During the American War of Independence, he fought on the side of the American colonists. On 11 July 1789, he presented his famous Declaration of the Rights of Man to France’s revolutionary National Assembly.

1776: In a cricket match between Coulsdon and Chertsey in Surrey, three stumps were used for the first time.

1852: In Manchester, Britain’s first free lending library opened this day.

1880: The first cricket test match was played at The Oval, London, by England against Australia.

1888: Birth of Joseph (Patrick) Kennedy. He made his fortune in banking, and from 1937-40 was US ambassador to Britain. In 1940 he said that Britain had no chance of surviving Hitler’s aggression. A success in his own right, with his wife Rose he founded the Kennedy dynasty, which produced the first Catholic president of the United States, an attorney-general, and two senators.

1907: The Lusitania set sail for New York on her maiden voyage. She set a record, crossing the Atlantic in five days at an average speed of 23 knots.

1915: Birth of Franz Josef Strauss, Premier of Bavaria from 1978-88. He had a brilliant ministerial career in Germany’s parliament, but his reputation was darkened by unproven allegations of financial misconduct, and by his sympathies for right-wing regimes in South America and South Africa.

1936: British aviatrix Beryl Markham crash-landed at Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, after a solo flight across the Atlantic. She escaped without any serious injuries.

1941: Nazi Germany made it compulsory for all Jews to wear the hated yellow Star of David badge.

1952: At the Farnborough Airshow, a prototype de Havilland jet fighter exploded while breaking the sound barrier, and the debris fell onto the crowd. 26 people died as a result.

1966: Death of Dr Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, Prime Minister of South Africa. He was stabbed to death with a stiletto by a deranged white man, a parliamentary messenger, who thought his policies were not right-wing enough.

1970: Passenger jets from Britain, the US and Switzerland were hijacked by Palestinians and forced to fly to Jordan. After six days, the crews and passengers were released and the aircraft blown up.

1983: 269 people died when a Korean Airlines Boeing 747 flew into sensitive Soviet airspace despite warnings, and was shot down. There were no survivors.

1987: It was announced by Indian military scientists that they had perfected a recipe for a long-life chapati. The key ingredient was a preservative that kept the bread fresh for six months.

1987: Venice’s gondoliers did not participate in the regatta, the first time since 1315 that they had been excluded. The 230 gondoliers were on strike to protest the use of powerboats on Venice’s canals, which were causing damage to the city fabric.

1988: 11-year-old Thomas Gregory, From London, swam the channel, reaching Dover after 12 hours. He was the youngest person ever to achieve a cross-channel swim.

1989: A computer error resulted in 41,000 Parisians receiving letters charging them with murder, extortion and vice, instead of the traffic fines that should have been sent to them.


National day of Brazil, marking the anniversary of the 1822 declaration of independence from Portugal.

1533: Birth of Elizabeth I, daughter of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII. She was Queen of England from 1558 to 1603, known as the Virgin Queen because she never married, being too shrewd to share power with a foreign monarch. Her reign brought about innovations in almost every field, from exploration to the arts.

1735: Birth of Thomas Coutts, son of a wealthy Scottish merchant. He and his brother James founded a banking house in London.

1812: The Russians were defeated at the Battle of Borodino by Napoleon, who was marching his troops to Moscow, which lay 70 miles to the east.

1815: Birth in Scotland of John McDouall Stuart, who made six exploratory journeys into inland Australia.

1836: Birth of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, Scottish Liberal statesman. From 1905-8 he was the Prime Minister of Britain.

1838: During a storm off the Northumberland coast this night, the Forfarshire, a small steamship, struck rocks near the Longstone Lighthouse on the Farne Islands. Grace Darling, the lighthousekeeper’s daughter, rowed a mile in a small boat and rescued four men and a woman. Her heroism made her a legend in British history.

1892: ‘Gentleman Jim’ Corbett became the world’s first heavyweight champion under the Queensberry Rules when he beat John L Sullivan in 21 rounds at New Orleans. The Queensberry Rules introduced gloves, and specified a time of three minutes per round.

1895: Birth in England of Lieutenant-General Sir Brian (Gwynne) Horrocks, a writer who served in both World Wars.

1901: Signing of the Peace of Peking, which brought an end to the Boxer Rising in China.

1917: Birth of Group Captain (Geoffrey) Leonard Cheshire, the British airman. He was awarded the Victoria Cross during the Second World War. He and his wife Sue Ryder founded the Cheshire Foundation Home for the Incurably Sick in 1948.

1930: Birth of King Baudoin I of the Belgians, who ascended to the throne in 1951.

1940: On this night, and every night until 2 November 1940, German bombers carried out a blitz on London.

1943: Italy surrendered to the Allies.

1973: Jackie Stewart became the world champion racing driver for the third time.

1986: Bishop Desmond Tutu became the first black head of Anglicans in South Africa when he was enthroned as Archbishop of Capetown.


Since the year 600, this day has been observed as the Feast Day of the Blessed Virgin Mary throughout the West.

1157: Birth of Richard I Coeur de Lion, King of England. The Lion Heart ended three years of peace with Saladin when, in 1190, he set out on a crusade.

1664: The British fleet sailed into the harbour of New Amsterdam, a small Dutch colony led by Governor Peter Stuyvesant. The colony surrendered, and five years later was renamed New York, after the Duke of York.

1886: Founding of the town of Johannesburg. After permission was granted for members of the public to dig for gold, thousands of people went to the Witwatersrand to begin prospecting, and a town was formed. Johannesburg eventually became the largest city in South Africa.

1888: The first English Football League matches were held.

1901: Birth in Holland of Dr Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd. He was responsible for establishing South Africa’s policy of apartheid (racial separation). During his term as Prime Minister of South Africa (1958-66) the country became a republic. His term of office ended with his assassination when he was stabbed to death in the parliamentary chamber.

1935: Assassination of US Senator Huey Long. During his term as Senator of Louisiana, he ruled like a despot, and on this day he was shot dead by a member of an opposing faction. Long’s bodyguards shot the assassin dead; Long himself died two days later.

1944: Three people died when Britain was hit by the first V2 ‘flying bombs’, which landed in Chiswick, west London.

1945: General Tojo tried to shoot himself to avoid standing trial for war crimes he was charged with having committed as Prime Minister of Japan at the time of Pearl Harbour. US medics administered treatment which enabled him to stand trial after all.

1968: At the first US Open Tennis Championships, Virginia Wade of Britain won against the US’s Billie Jean King.

1974: Nixon was pardoned for his actions in the Watergate affair by President Ford.


1513: At the Battle of Flodden Field, Northumberland, the Earl of Surrey led English troops against James IV, King of Scotland. James’ troops were defeated, and he was killed.

1585: Birth of Cardinal de Richelieu, French statesman. From 1624 he was Chief Minister to Louis XIII, and he ruthlessly suppressed all opposition to the monarchy.

1754: Birth of William Bligh, English captain of the Bounty. He took part in Cook’s second voyage around the world. Then, in 1787, he took command of a ship of his own, and sailed it to Tahiti to bring back the breadfruit tree. On 24 April 1789 his men rose against him in history’s most famous mutiny. He recovered and in 1805 became Governor of New South Wales.

1835: The British Municipal Corporations Act came into force, bringing about the modern style of local government.

1850: California was the 31st state to join the Union.

1911: Britain’s first air mail service began, flying post between Hendon and Windsor.

1948: North Korea proclaimed its independence.

1958: In Notting Hill in London, race riots erupted. Television crews filmed reconstructions of events in the streets, laying themselves open to accusations of encouraging the riots.

1963: 27-year-old Scotsman Jim Clark was the youngest person ever to win the world motor racing championships, driving Colin Chapman’s Lotus.

1970: Palestinians, among them Leila Khaled, attempted a hijack on an El Al flight, but security guards overpowered them. The Israelis reluctantly handed over the would-be hijackers when the plane landed at Heathrow.

1971: ‘Our man in Uruguay’, Geoffrey Jackson, was released after eight months as a captive of the Tupamaros.

1971: 42 people, all guards and inmates of Attica jail in New York, died in a shootout after prisoners took 32 guards hostage.

1975: 18-year-old Martina Navratilova, a tennis player, defected from Czechoslovakia to the West and sought political asylum in the States.


1771: Birth of Mungo Park, Scottish surgeon. He is most famous for his first expedition to explore the true course of the Niger in Africa. On his second journey, however, he died.

1855: Birth of Robert Koldewey, German archaeologist. In his lifetime Babylon was considered by many to be mythical, but Koldewey discovered the actual site. In southern Iraq, he began excavations which went on for 18 years, carried out by 200 workers. He discovered the foundations of the Tower of Babel.

1894: The first-ever drunken driving conviction was served upon George Smith, the driver of an electric taxicab in Bond Street, London. He was fined 20s (£1).

1914: Birth of Lord (Terence) O’Neill of the Maine, who went on to become Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.

1942: In one raid, the RAF dropped 100,000 bombs on Dusseldorf.

1945: Vidkun Quisling, who had been Premier of Norway during the Second World War, was sentenced to death for collaborating with the Germans. His name has become synonymous with betrayal.

1962: Australian Rod Laver completed the Grand Slam when he won the US Tennis Championships.

1981: After 40 years in the States, Picasso’s painting Guernica was sent back to Spain. Picasso had forbidden exhibition of the painting in Spain until democracy was restored.

1987: Hypnotist Andrew Newton was permitted to perform on stage, as Westminster Council lifted a 35-year ban on acts of that type. Doctors raised objections to lifting the ban, but Newton was not allowed to demonstrate regression on stage (taking hypnotized people back to their childhood).

1989: Hungary opened its border to the West, a move which angered the East German government as thousands of East German refugees took the opportunity to leave.


1777: General Howe’s British troops defeated George Washington’s American troops at the Battle of Brandywine Creek during the American War of Independence.

1841: The first commuter train began operating as the London to Brighton express made its 105-minute journey.

1895: The FA Cup trophy was stolen from William Shillcock, the football outfitters, in Birmingham. 68 years later, an 83-year-old man confessed to the theft, and said that he had melted it down to make counterfeit half-crown coins.

1914: Publication of the ‘St Louis Blues’ by W C Handy. Since its publication almost 100 different recordings have been made of the piece.

1915: Opening of Britain’s first Women’s Institute at Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Anglesey, Wales.

1917: Birth of Ferdinand Marcos, former president of the Philippines. During his term of office, his administration was blatantly corrupt and his wife, Imelda, led a conspicuously extravagant lifestyle. He was eventually deposed by Cory Aquino.

1951: Venice saw the premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, with a libretto by W H Auden.

1973: The elected government of Chile, led by President Salvador Allende, was overthrown by a US-supported military junta. Allende supposedly shot himself, but most believed he was assassinated.

1978: Assassination in London of Georgi Markov, the Bulgarian defector. A Bulgarian secret agent stabbed him with a poisoned umbrella end; Markov fell into a coma and died four days later.

1987: Four men were arrested on charges of plotting to steal a dolphin worth £25,000 from the Marineland Oceanarium in Morecambe, Lancashire.


1852: Birth of Herbert Henry Asquith, British Liberal Prime Minister. It was Asquith who introduced old age pensions, and effected other radical changes. Lloyd-George was his Chancellor of the Exchequer.

1878: Cleopatra’s Needle was erected on the Thames Embankment in London. The obelisk of Thothmes III stands almost 69 feet high.

1908: Marriage of Winston Churchill to Clementine Hozier.

1910: Mrs Alice Stebbins Wells, formerly a social worker, became the world’s first policewoman, appointed by the Los Angeles Police Department.

1935: Howard Hughes, the US multimillionaire, flew a plane he had designed himself at a speed of 352.46 mph. This was a record, and he went on to set several more aviation records before he became a recluse.

1936: Britain’s Fred Perry won the US Tennis Championships against Donald Budge, the first non-US player ever to win.

1953: Nikita Khrushchev was elected First Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party.

1953: Marriage of John F Kennedy to Jacqueline Lee Bouvier in Newport, Rhode Island.

1960: From this day on, all cars in Britain that were over two years old would have to pass the MOT test.

1970: Concorde landed at Heathrow for the first time, but none of the people living within earshot considered it a cause for celebration. There were many complaints about the noise.

1972: Two British trawlers were sunk by Icelandic gunboats during the Cod War.

1974: The Lion of Judah, Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, was deposed by a military coup.

1987: US Jockey Steve Cauthen rode Reference Point to victory at the St Leger, setting a new record of 147 wins in a season for his trainer Henry Cecil. The previous record holder had been John Day, who had 146 wins in 1867.


490 BC: The Greeks won the Battle of Marathon against Darius’ Persian troops. Philippides had run 150 miles in two days to ask the Spartans to assist the Greek army. His mission came to nothing, but the Greeks won without their help.

1759: General Wolfe, the British commander, defeated Montcalm’s French troops on the plains of Abraham in a battle to defend Quebec. Wolfe died in the battle, Montcalm was fatally wounded and died the next day.

1788: New York became the federal capital of the US.

1845: The first baseball club, the Knickerbocker Club, was founded in New York.

1857: Birth of US manufacturer Milton Snaveley Hershey. In 1903 he built the world’s largest chocolate factory, where he produced Hershey Bars. The Hershey Foundation, which he established, used his wealth to support educational causes.

1860: Birth of John Joseph Pershing, US general. Nicknamed ‘Black Jack’, he enforced rigid discipline, and led the US Expeditionary Force in Europe to make a major contribution to the Allied Victory in the First World War.

1909: Premiere in New York of The Chocolate Soldier, the operetta by Oscar Straus and Stanislaus Strange, based on Shaw’s Arms and the Man. The operetta included the songs ‘My Hero’ and ‘Falling in Love’.

1955: In Los Angeles, Little Richard recorded a cleaned-up version of ‘Tutti Frutti’.

1957: The Mousetrap staged its 1,998th performance, making it Britain’s longest running play.

1970: While in Mexico for the World Cup, Bobby Moore, England’s captain, was placed under house arrest on charges of shoplifting a diamond bracelet. The charges were soon dropped, and he was released.

1970: Margaret Court of Australia won the Grand Slam of the US, Australian and French Open and the Wimbledon women’s singles title. She was only the second player ever to achieve this.

1989: Britain’s biggest ever computer error, at least in the field of banking, hit Citibank when customers received an extra £2 billion over a period of 30 minutes. A subsidiary of the bank stated that customers returned 99.3 per cent of the money.


1752: The 3rd became the 14th as the Gregorian Calendar was introduced into Britain, eliminating 11 days.

1759: The earliest dated board game in England was sold on this day at a price of 8s (40p), by its inventor John Jeffreys, from his house in Chapel Street, Westminster. The game was called A Journey Through Europe, or the play of Geography.

1812: Napoleon entered Moscow, which the Russians had abandoned as part of their ‘scorched earth’ policy. Later in the day a fire broke out which destroyed much of the city. With winter approaching, Napoleon had no choice but to retreat.

1814: Francis Scott Key wrote ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ when he saw the American flag still flying over Fort McHenry after it had been shelled by the British the day before. The poem was printed anonymously, with the title ‘Defence of Fort McHenry’, and was set to the tune of the English drinking song ‘To Anacreon in Heaven’. In 1931 the song became the US national anthem.

1868: At the Open Championships at Prestwick, the legendary Scottish golfer Tom Morris scored the first recorded hole-in-one, on the 8th hole (166 yards).

1886: Birth of Jan (Garrigue) Masaryk, Czech statesman and son of Czechoslovakia’s President. He was foreign minister in exile in London from 1940 until his return in 1945.

1891: Heath of Wolverhampton Wanderers took the first penalty kick in an English football game, while playing against Accrington.

1901: 42-year-old Theodore Roosevelt became the 26th and youngest President of the United States, twelve hours after the death of President McKinley.

1923: Miguel Primo de Riveira became dictator of Spain.

1959: Lunik II, a Soviet spacecraft, became the first to land on the moon.

1975: Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton became the first US saint, canonized by Pope Paul VI.

1987: It was revealed that the so-called Data Travellers, young German hackers, had broken into NASA’s secret network and into other top secret computers around the world.

1988: A London taxi reached New Delhi with the meter showing a fare of £13,200 (London rates). It was part of a six-man expedition on the way to Sydney.


Battle of Britain day. This was the most active day of the battle, during which the RAF claimed to have shot down 185 German aircraft.

53: Birth in Spain of Trajan (Marcus Ulpius Trajanus), Roman emperor who vastly extended the empire’s territories, and created a huge program of construction and social welfare.

1649: Birth of Titus Oates, English Anglican priest. In 1678 Oates fabricated tales of a ‘Popish Plot’ in order to stir up anti-Catholic feeling. Fearful Londoners looked to Oates as a saviour, and 35 people were executed before his stories were exposed as lies. He was pilloried, flogged and imprisoned.

1830: The Duke of Wellington, then Prime Minister, opened the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. The first person killed by a train was William Huskinsson, head of the Board of Trade, when he stepped out onto an apparently empty line as Stephenson’s Rocket approached.

1857: Birth of William Howard Taft, 27th US President, who held office from 1908 to 1912.

1871: The first British-based international mail order business was begun by the Army and Navy Co-operative. They published their first catalogue in February 1872.

1909: Birth of Jean Batten, New Zealand aviator. In 1935 she flew solo from Australia to Britain and back, the first woman ever to do so.

1916: At Flers in the Somme, the first tanks went into battle on the British side. Designed by Sir Ernest Swinton, they were a revolutionary force in battle strategy.

1917: Russia was declared a republic by Kerensky.

1928: Captain Rickards and A H Renfell demonstrated the first robot to be made in Britain, at the Model Engineering Exhibition in London.

1956: The Goons’ second hit, the ‘Ying Tong Song’, entered the UK charts, and eventually reached No. 3. This beat their previous hit, ‘I’m Walking Backwards for Christmas’.

1964: Closure of the socialist newspaper, the Daily Herald. It would be replaced by Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun to become the biggest selling newspaper in Britain.

1966: The HMS Resolution, Britain’s first nuclear submarine, was launched at Barrow by the Queen Mother.

1973: The Crown Prince Carl Gustaf became King of Sweden on the death of his father, King Gustavus VI.

1975: Beginning of the civil war between Christians and Muslims in Beirut.

1982: UEFA enforced disciplinary action against Aston Villa fans, with the result that there were no paying spectators at today’s European Cup match between Aston Villa and Besktas of Turkey.

1984: Birth of Prince Henry of Wales (Henry Charles Albert David), younger son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

1985: Tony Jacklin and his European team won the Ryder Cup, breaking a long run of US domination.

1988: Opening of the Museum of the Moving Image on London’s South Bank. It is the largest museum in the world to be devoted exclusively to cinema and television.


National day of Mexico, marking the 1810 revolt against Spanish rule.

1387: Birth in Wales of Henry V, King of England, son of Henry IV. He went on to win the Battle of Agincourt against the French on St Crispin’s Day.

1620: Myles Standish led the Pilgrim Fathers on their journey from Plymouth on the Mayflower.

1785: Birth of Thomas Barnes, editor of The Times. Barnes took over the editorship in 1817 and did much to improve it. The newspaper was nicknamed ‘the Thunderer’ because of the forcefulness of its content.

1847: The house in Stratford-upon-Avon in which Shakespeare was born, became the first building in Britain to bought for preservation when the United Shakespeare Company purchased it for £3,000.

1857: Jane Pierpont of Boston secured the copyright to the song ‘One Horse Open Sleigh’, better known as ‘Jingle Bells’. The song was originally written for a Sunday School presentation.

1858: Birth of Sir Edward Marshall Hall, English criminal lawyer. He was noted for his dramatic style in the courtroom, and he handled a number of important cases, such as the Seddon poisoning in 1912.

1861: The first Post Office Savings Banks opened in Britain.

1908: General Motors was formed in the US when Buick and Oldsmobile merged.

1923: Birth of Lee Kuan Yew, who trained in London as a barrister and who from 1959 was Prime Minister of Singapore.

1925: Birth of Charles Haughey, who served several terms as Prime Minister of Ireland: 1979-81, briefly in 1982, and again in 1986.

1953: 20th Century-Fox screened The Robe in New York, the first demonstration of Cinemascope.

1963: 100,000 people burned down the British Embassy in Malaysia as the country gained independence.

1969: Barbara Hulanicki opened her Biba store in Kensington High Street. Biba went down in history as London’s trendiest store of the 60s.

1987: John Khani was the first black actor in South Africa to play Otello, at the Market Theatre, Johannesburg, directed by Janet Suzman.

1988: The Elvis Presley credit card, with a limit of $3,500, was issued in the US by a Memphis finance house and Graceland, the Presley enterprise company. Thousands of people applied.


1787: 42 delegates remained in the convention, and of them 39 approved the US Constitution.

1894: Broadway’s first British musical, A Gaiety Girl, opened at Daly’s Theatre.

1901: Birth of Sir Francis Chichester, English yachtsman and aviator. He received his knighthood for his solo round-the-world trip in his yacht Gipsy Moth IV. He named all his yachts and planes Gipsy Moth. As an aviator, he was the first person to cross the Tasman Sea from east to west.

1906: Birth of Junius Jaywardene, who in 1977 became President of Sri Lanka.

1908: Death of Lieutenant Selfridge, the first passenger (as opposed to pilot) ever to die in a plane crash. He was investigating the possible military applications of the airplane by flying a test flight with Orville Wright, when the plane suddenly nosedived.

1918: Birth of Chaim Herzog, who in 1983 became President of Israel.

1931: RCA-Victor demonstrated the first 33 rpm long-playing records in New York. The record players were so expensive that the product flopped, and the first real records as we know them, did not come out until 1948.

1964: ‘Operation Market Garden’ began Britain’s air invasion of Arnhem, Holland. The intention was to secure a bridge over the Rhine to allow the Allies to invade Germany. The battle lasted until the 27th, but ended in failure.

1987: A Russian hunter aimed for a duck and caught a fish. The pike had been trying to catch and eat the duck, but the duck panicked and flew into the air. The fish was forced to let go and fell from the sky to be bagged by the hunter.


National day of Chile, on the anniversary of the revolt against Spanish rule.

1709: Birth of ‘Doctor’ Samuel Johnson, compiler of the first dictionary. Published in 1755, Johnson’s dictionary was the definitive reference for over a century.

1851: First edition of the New York Times.

1866: Nick Carter, one of the first ‘private eyes’, appeared in a story by John Coryell called The Odd Detective Pupil, in the New York Weekly. The character was a success, and featured in over 1000 stories by various writers.

1879: The famous Blackpool illuminations were switched on for the first time.

1895: Birth of John George Diefenbaker. A Progressive Conservative, he became Prime Minister of Canada in 1957 after 22 years of Liberal rule. He lost the 1963 election because of his proposal that Canada make its own nuclear weapons.

1909: Birth of Kwame Nkrumah, who became Prime Minister of Ghana in 1952. When Ghana gained independence in 1957, he became President and declared Ghana a one-party state. His rule was ended by a military coup in 1966, and he was exiled to Guinea.

1914: The Irish Home Rule Bill received Royal Assent.

1939: Lord Haw-Haw (William Joyce of Ireland) made his first broadcast of Nazi propaganda to Britain.

1949: Sir Stafford Cripps, Chancellor of the Exchequer, presided over the devaluation of the pound by 30% from USD 4.80 to USD 2.80.

1981: The guillotine was abolished in France.


1356: At the Battle of Poitiers in the Hundred Years War, Edward, the Black Prince, led the English to victory against the French.

1783: At Versailles, the Montgolfier brothers achieved the first manned hot-air balloon flight, watched by Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Also in the balloon were a sheep, a duck and a rooster.

1802: Birth of Lajos Kossuth, who proclaimed Hungarian independence from Habsburg rule in 1849.

1839: Birth of George Cadbury, the chocolate manufacturer. A Quaker, he believed in taking care of the welfare of his workforce, and he created a model village for his employees at Bourneville. His business, which he took over from his father, expanded to greatness.

1851: Birth of William Hesketh Lever, first Viscount Leverhulme. He changed the process of soap manufacture by using vegetable oils instead of tallow. Like Cadbury (q.v.) he cared about the welfare of his workers, and established the new town of Port Sunlight, Merseyside, to house them.

1876: The carpet sweeper was patented by the American Melville Bissell.

1888: 18-year-old Bertha Soucaret, a Creole from Guadeloupe, became the world’s first beauty queen at a contest in Belgium. The prize was 5000 francs.

1893: The women of New Zealand were granted the vote. New Zealand was the first country in the world to grant women’s suffrage.

1945: Lord Haw-Haw (William Joyce) was sentenced to death for treason.

1955: Juan Perón was overthrown by a military junta and was exiled from Argentina to Paraguay.

1960: ‘The Twist’, Chubby Checker’s cover version of a Hank Ballard song, began the dance craze as it entered the charts in the US.

1960: 344 parking tickets were issued by London’s new Traffic Wardens on their first day on patrol.

1975: The BBC screened the first episode of Fawlty Towers.

1981: Simon and Garfunkel played a concert together for the first time in 11 years, in Central Park in New York in front of 400,000 people.

1989: The New York Supreme Court ruled that the San Diego Yacht Club should retain the America’s Cup, reversing their previous decision to award it to New Zealand. The New Zealanders decided to appeal.

1989: A teddy bear broke a record when it fetched a price of £55,000 at Sotheby’s in London.


1258: Consecration of Salisbury Cathedral.

1519: Ferdinand Magellan began his attempt to sail around the world when he and his five small ships departed from Seville.

1854: In the Crimean War, the British fought the Russians in the Battle of Alma. Six Britons were awarded the Victoria Cross.

1878: Birth of Upton (Beall) Sinclair, US writer. Sinclair wrote 80 books, among them The Jungle and Oil!

1928: The Chamber of Deputies in Rome was replaced by Fascists.

1931: Devaluation set in when Britain came off the gold standard to prevent foreign speculation against the pound. It sparked off strikes, and in Scotland the crews of 15 navy ships nearly mutinied.

1961: Antonio Albertondo of Argentina set off to attempt the first non-stop swim across the English Channel and back. He succeeded, finishing in 43 hours and 5 minutes.

1967: At Clydebank, Scotland, the Queen launched the Queen Elizabeth 2.

1984: 40 people died when a suicide bomber drove into the US Embassy compound in Beirut with a truckload of explosives.


National day of Malta, celebrating its independence in 1964 from 164 years of British rule.

1327: Death of Edward II, deposed king of England. Imprisoned in the dungeon of Berkeley Castle, he was murdered with a red-hot poker to ensure the succession of his son Edward III.

1452: Birth of Girolamo Savonarola, Italian preacher who established Florence as a democratic republic after fighting the rule of the Medici, and who reformed the church in the face of a corrupt clergy. But his enemies had him tried and executed, and he became a martyr.

1745: At the Battle of Prestonpans in Scotland, the English were defeated by the Jacobite army led by Bonnie Prince Charlie.

1756: Birth of John Loudon McAdam, Scottish engineer. He was the inventor of the road surface known as tarmacadam, and was later appointed surveyor of roads in Britain.

1784: First edition of the US’ first successful daily newspaper, The Pennsylvania Packet and General Advertiser.

1902: Birth of Sir Allen Lane, founder of Penguin Books, who introduced paperbacks and revolutionized the publishing industry.

1903: Opening in the US of the first-ever western: Kit Carson, which was 21 minutes long.

1915: Mr C H Chubb bought Stonehenge and 30 acres of surrounding land for £6,600 at auction from Sir Edmund Antrobus. In September 1918, Chubb presented Stonehenge to the nation.

1949: England lost a home match against a foreign team for the first time at Goodison Park, when the Republic of Ireland beat them 2-0.

1987: Viscount Linley was banned from driving for six months after he admitted to travelling on the M4 at 98 mph. The son of Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon, he was the first member of the royal family to be banned.

1989: Hurricane Hugo swept across South Carolina and Georgia, causing much damage and many deaths.


1515: Birth of Anne of Cleves, fourth wife of Henry VIII. That marriage ended in divorce.

1735: Sir Robert Walpole was the first prime minister to live at 10 Downing Street, five minutes’ walk from the Houses of Parliament.

1827: Joseph Smith, the son of a poor New England farmer, claimed that an angel had given him some golden plates. He translated them into the Book of Mormon, and the Mormon sect was formed as a result.

1880: Birth of Dame Christabel Pankhurst, who followed in the footsteps of her mother Emmeline, leader of the suffragist movement.

1888: The units ‘ohm’, ‘volt’ and ‘ampere’ were made official at the Electrical Conference in Paris.

1920: The motorized ‘Flying Squad’ was formed as part of the Metropolitan Police in London.

1927: World heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney got up after being knocked down in the seventh round by Jack Dempsey. Dempsey delayed the count by five seconds when he failed to retire to a neutral corner, giving time for Tunney to recover. Tunney went on to win the fight.

1934: 262 miners died in an explosion as a result of a fire at the Gresford Mine near Wrexham, Wales. It was Britain’s worst pit disaster for 21 years.

1955: Britain’s first TV commercial, for Gibbs SR toothpaste, was transmitted on the new commercial ITV channel. Barbara Mandell was the first woman newscaster in Britain, on the lunchtime news.

1972: Idi Amin gave Uganda’s 8000 Asians 48 hours’ notice to leave the country.

1980: Polish workers had won the right to organize free trade unions, and today was the beginning of the Solidarity movement, with Lech Walesa as elected leader.

1985: 2000 people died when a serious earthquake hit Mexico.

1986: At Harefield Hospital, Middlesex, a two-and-a-half-month-old boy became the youngest patient ever to receive a heart and lung transplant.

1988: In a village in South Sumatra, two women who had apparently died and been buried by robbers, crawled out of their grave and reported the crime.

1989: 10 people were killed and 12 bandsmen injured by an IRA bomb at the Royal Marines School of Music in Deal, Kent.


National day of Saudi Arabia.

63 BC: Birth of Gaius Octavius Caesar, the first Roman emperor, adopted son and heir of his great-uncle Julius Caesar. He defeated Julius’ killers at the Battle of Philippi in 42 BC. He established an autocracy while making it appear that the Senate had more power than it did, and through his autocratic rule he stablized the empire.

1779: The Scottish-born American, John Paul Jones, commanded the Bonhomme Richard to a dramatic victory against the British Serapis and Countess of Scarborough in a battle in the North Sea off Flamborough Head. Jones declared ‘I have not yet begun to fight!’

1780: During the American War of Independence, British agent John André was carrying information that Benedict Arnold was about to surrender West Point, thereby betraying the revolution. He was captured by the Americans and hanged, his remains later buried in Westminster Abbey.

1846: The planet Neptune was discovered by astronomer Johann Galle.

1907: First performance of the first repertory theatre, the Manchester Repertoire Theatre, founded by Miss A Horniman.

1912: Release of Cohen Collects a Debt, Mack Sennet’s first Keystone Cops film.

1940: The George Cross was instituted, to be awarded to civilians for acts of courage.

1964: Premiere in New York of Fiddler on the Roof, with Zero Mostel singing ‘If I Were A Rich Man’.

1973: Juan Perón was re-elected President of Argentina, having been ousted a year and a half before.

1974: The world’s first teletext service began with BBC’s Ceefax.


1776: The first St Leger horserace took place at Doncaster.

1852: The first hydrogen-filled airship made its maiden flight at Versailles. It was powered by a three-horsepower steam engine built by Henri Giffard.

1930: Premiere in London of Noël Coward’s Private Lives.

1960: Launch at Newport, Virginia, of the USS Enterprise, the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

1975: Douglas Heston and Douglas Scott became the first all-British team to reach the summit of Everest, by the first steep ascent of the south-west face.

1980: Iraq blew up the Abadan oil refinery in Iran, escalating the conflict to full-scale war.


1690: Publication in Boston of Publick Occurrences, Both Foreign and Domestic, the US’s first newspaper.

1818: Guy’s Hospital, London, saw the first transfusion of human blood. Previous attempts had used animal blood.

1852: Birth of Field Marshal Sir John (Denton Pinkstone) French, first Earl of Ypres. From 1914-15 he was the supreme commander of the British Expeditionary Force in France; after that, of the Home Forces.

1897: Start of Britain’s first motorized (as opposed to horse-drawn) bus service, in Bradford.

1921: Birth of Sir Robert (David) Muldoon, who in 1975 became Prime Minister of New Zealand. He held office until 1984.

1932: Catalonia in Spain became autonomous, with its own parliament, flag and language.

1933: Birth of Adolfo Suarez, who in 1976 became Prime Minister of Spain. During his first term of office he expedited reforms, and was re-elected in 1977 and 1979.

1954: Dr François Duvalier (‘Papa’ Doc) was elected President of Haiti.

1957: Over 1000 National Guardsmen escorted nine black children into Central High School, Little Rock, Arkansas, to enforce desegregation. The children had been turned away from the previously all-white school.

1987: A Nigerian herdsman was sent to prison for life because he had chopped off the legs of his 12-year-old wife, who kept running away.


1580: Sir Francis Drake completed his round-the-world journey after 33 months as he sailed the Golden Hind into Plymouth.

1687: During a siege by the Venetian army against the Turks who were holding the Acropolis, a mortar bomb went off. The bomb set off the gunpowder supplies, and blew off the roof of the Parthenon, causing extensive damage to its walls. This was what turned the Parthenon into a ruin.

1769: The first cremation ever recorded in Britain took place at St George’s Burial Ground, Hanover Square, London, in an open grave at the funeral of Honoretta Pratt.

1861: The first British Open was held at Prestwick. The winner was Tom Morris.

1887: The Gramophone was patented by Emile Berliner.

1897: Birth of Pope Paul VI (Giovanni Battista Montini).

1907: New Zealand became a Dominion.

1929: The first goal direct from a corner was scored by Alex Cheyne of Aberdeen during the Scotland-England international at Hampden Park.

1934: At John Brown’s Yard, Clydebank, Scotland, Queen Mary launched the Cunard-White Star liner Queen Mary. It was the biggest and most powerful ship at that time.

1956: The highest score in a single match in the European Cup was won by Manchester United, who beat Anderlecht 10-1.

1957: Premiere in New York of Bernstein and Sondheim’s West Side Story.

1961: Bob Dylan made his debut at Gerde’s Folk City, Greenwich Village, New York.

1968: Jaguar unveiled the XJ-6 luxury saloon.

1977: Genuinely cheap flights began when Freddie Laker’s Skytrain took off from Gatwick for New York. The tickets cost £59, not including food.

1983: Alan Bond became the first non-US winner of the America’s Cup for 132 years with his Australia II.

1984: China and Britain agreed that Hong Kong would once again be governed by China in 1997.

1987: A doctor was fined nearly £2000 and banned from driving for two years, when he was caught on the M3 going 149 mph in his sportscar, which had two faulty tyres. He was the fastest speeder ever to be caught on that motorway.

1988: Ben Johnson was stripped of his gold medal after he failed a drugs test. The Canadian sprinter had won the medal at the 100 metres in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.


1722: Birth of Samuel Adams, American revolutionary. Adams played a major role in planning the Boston Tea Party, a raid on British ships to protest taxation without representation.

1825: The world’s first public railway service began with the Stockton and Darlington Railway’s first train. Built by George Stephenson, the track was 27 miles long, and the steam locomotive Active pulled 32 passenger wagons at ten miles per hour.

1862: Birth of Louis Botha, first Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa. Botha had encouraged reconciliation between the British and the Boers.

1922: Abdication of King Constantine I of Greece, as a result of Greece’s defeat in Turkey.

1930: The first grand slam in golf was achieved by Bobby Jones of the US, who on this day won the US National Amateur Championships.

1938: The Queen Mother launched a liner big enough to surpass the Queen Mary. It was the 80,000 ton Queen Elizabeth.

1960: Europe’s first travelator or ‘moving pavement’ was unveiled in Bank Underground Station in London.

1979: First broadcast of the BBC’s Question Time, with Robin Day, who stayed on the show for ten years.

1987: Tony Jacklin led a team of 12, including Sevvy Ballesteros, Sam Torrance, Howard Clark, Eamonn Darcy and Bernhard Langer, on behalf of Great Britain and Europe to win the Ryder Cup. It was the first time the US team had been defeated on their home ground.


Feast day of Wenceslaus, patron saint of Czechoslovakia. As Prince of Bohemia, he promoted Christianity in his country. He was murdered by his brother, but is remembered even today in the carol ‘Good King Wenceslas’.

1745: The new song ‘God Save the King’ was sung at a performance at Drury Lane Theatre in London, to show defiance against the Young Pretender, Bonnie Prince Charlie.

1789: Birth of English physician Richard Bright, who discovered ‘Bright’s Disease’, a kidney disorder.

1841: Birth of Georges Clemenceau, who was Prime Minister of France from 1917-1920.

1894: Opening in Manchester of the Penny Bazaar, run by Simon Marks, a Polish immigrant, and Tom Spencer from Yorkshire. Spencer had invested £300 in his partnership with Marks, who had started his first business in 1887 with a £5 loan.

1923: The first issue of Radio Times went on sale to Britain’s small radio audience.

1978: Pope John Paul I was found dead, having been pope for only 33 days.

1986: In Atlantic City, Lloyd Honeyghan, the British welterweight, forced US boxer Donald Curry to retire with a badly cut eye. Honeyghan became world champion.

1987: Premiere in Oslo of the first feature film to be written, directed and cast entirely by Lapps.


106 BC: Birth of Pompey the Great, Roman statesman and general. Pompey supported Julius Caesar at first, but became worried by his ever-increasing ambition. In 61 BC, on his birthday, Pompey captured Jerusalem and Syria became a province of Rome.

1399: Bolingbroke ascended the throne as Henry IV, after Richard II surrendered to him without a fight, the first British monarch to abdicate.

1725: Birth of Robert Clive, Baron Clive of Plassey. He became administrator of Bengal after he defeated the Indian forces there. His administration turned to corruption, but this did not prevent him from receiving an honourable welcome back in England.

1758: Birth of Horatio Nelson, Viscount, and British naval commander. He became a national hero. In 1797 he achieved distinction at Cape St Vincent, and made his mark again the following year at the Battle of the Nile.

1885: Britain’s first electric trams began running in Blackpool.

1899: Birth in South Africa of Sir (William Edmund) Billy Butlin. He conceived the idea of the holiday camp, and started his first in 1936 in Skegness.

1916: John D Rockefeller was the first person in the world to make a billion dollars, profiting from the US share boom.

1930: George Bernard Shaw refused to accept a peerage.

1943: Birth of Lech Walesa, leader of Poland’s Solidarity movement.

1946: First broadcast from the BBC’s Third Programme, which became Radio 3.

1950: Tests were carried out on the first automatic telephone answering machine, by the Bell Telephone Company in the US.

1952: Death of John Cobb, holder of the world water speed record. His Crusader hit waves on Loch Ness at 240 mph, and disintegrated.

1983: The first woman Lord Mayor of London was elected: Lady Donaldson.

1987: An Australian federal judge rejected the British government’s plea to extend the ban on Peter Wright’s Spycatcher, which had been blocked from publication for almost two years.


National day of Botswana, formerly Bechuanaland. Botswana achieved independence in 1966, with Sir Seretse Khama as its first president.

1788: Birth of Lord Raglan (Fitzroy James Henry Somerset, Baron Raglan). As an inexperienced field marshal at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War, he issued orders to the Earl of Cardigan which led to the disastrous ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’.

1791: Premiere in Vienna of Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

1929: Maiden flight of the first rocket-powered aircraft, invented by Franz von Opel.

1935: Premiere in Boston of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.

1936: Pinewood Studios opened in Iver, Buckinghamshire. They were the first film studios in Britain to compete with those in Hollywood.

1938: British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain stood before a crowd at Heston Airport, London, and waved the paper he had signed with Hitler. ‘I believe it is peace in our time,’ he declared.

1939: The German ‘blitzkrieg’ took a severe toll on Poland.

1967: Tony Blackburn opened BBC’s Radio 1 programmes with ‘Flowers in the Rain’.

1987: Keith Best, the British MP, was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment and a fine of £3000 for trying to obtain British Telecom shares by deception.

1988: Five astronauts returned to Earth in the space shuttle, completing the first manned space flight since the Challenger disaster in 1986.

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