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This Day In History

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11 October

1311 – The peerage and clergy restrict the powers of King Edward II of England with the Ordinances of 1311.  We are loyal subjects of the King.  We just don't trust him with our money.

1649 – Cromwell's New Model Army Sacks Wexford killing over 2,000 Irish Confederate troops and 1,500 civilians.  Silly thing, Cromwell and the Wexford leaders were attempting to negotiate Wexford's surrender, but both were being incredibly stubborn and slow.  Then someone in the Parliamentary Army lost patience and started the attack.  So the 3,500 casualties?  The devastated city and port?  It was all just a mistake.

1767 – Surveying for the Mason–Dixon line separating Maryland from Pennsylvania is completed.  In less than a hundred years, this little survey party would get blamed for everything.

1910 – Former President Theodore Roosevelt becomes the first U.S. president to fly in an airplane. He flew for four minutes with Arch Hoxsey in a plane built by the Wright brothers at Kinloch Field (Lambert–St. Louis International Airport), St. Louis, Missouri.  So much for the idea that the first time Teddy Roosevelt flew, he was carried by a flock of Bald Eagles he raised himself in their native environment at the peak of a mountain.

1957 – Space Race: Operation Moonwatch scientists calculate Sputnik 1's booster rocket's orbit.  This was the work of amateur American astronomers.

1958 – Pioneer program: NASA launches the lunar probe Pioneer 1 (the probe falls back to Earth and burns up).  This was the work of professional American engineers.

1962 – Second Vatican Council: Pope John XXIII convenes the first ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church in 92 years.  Those who want change will complain that the council does not change enough.  Those who do not want change will complain that the council changes too much.

1968 – Apollo program: NASA launches Apollo 7, the first successful manned Apollo mission, with astronauts Wally Schirra, Donn F. Eisele and Walter Cunningham aboard.  The professional American Rocket Scientists finally get one right.

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A bit of language in this one.

On October 12 in History:

529 BCE - Cyrus the Great enters Babylon, solidifying the power of his new Achaemenid Persian Empire. Interestingly, he might be the most magnanimous ruler in terms of cultural sensitivity and human rights the world will see until the twentieth century. Speaking of which, wait for it...

633 - King Edwin of Northumbria is killed at the Battle of Hatfield Chase. He must have been absolutely terrible, since an alliance of English Mercia and Welsh Gwynedd was formed to take him down. Normally those two groups can't agree what color the sky is. (Grey. It's always grey.)

1492 - Some idiot lands in the Bahamas and thinks he's in Indonesia. No one can convince him otherwise. In the short term it makes little difference; raping and pillaging is the same everywhere.

1537 - Henry VIII of England finally hears those three beautiful words: "It's a boy!" This is great news for him, since now he won't have to divorce and/or kill his wife.

1654 - Cornelis Soetens, keeper of a gunpowder storehouse in the Dutch town of Delft, opens the door to check on the powder. A spark ignites it, creating an explosion that blows up most of the city. You had one job, dude.

1692 - "What the hell are you idiots doing? Stop that this instant!" ~ Letter from Massachusetts governor William Phips to the properly chastised people of Salem (Paraphrased)

1792 - For the first time, the people of New York city celebrate that time some Italian guy came and killed or enslaved a bunch of people and took all their stuff. Killing natives so white people can take their stuff remains all the rage even 300 years later. One can only hope the holiday doesn't catch on.

1798 - Prince Pedro of Portugal, full name Pedro de Alcântara Francisco António João Carlos Xavier de Paula Miguel Rafael Joaquim José Gonzaga Pascoal Cipriano Serafim, is born.

1822 - Happy birthday, Pedro! You're Brazil's first emperor now! Shit, all I got him was a gift card.

1892 - The Pledge of Allegiance, which is TOTALLY NOT FORCED PATRIOTISM, you guys, is first recited by American schoolchildren to commemorate that same f*****g Italian guy. God DAMMIT.

1901 - Theodore Roosevelt officially renames the Executive Mansion to what everyone has been calling it anyway.

1960 - Nikita Khrushchev kills a fly with his shoe and is unfairly maligned by the world as a raving madman.

1968 - Hugh Jackman's "official" date of birth, though we all know he's been alive since at least the early 1800s.

1971 - Iran begins a five-day festival to celebrate the 2,500th anniversary of the founding of their empire. No one can say they haven't had a good run. Meanwhile, some buzzkill cleric named Khomeini derides the festival as decadent and overly extravagant. Pfft. Who cares what some fringe wack job thinks?

1998 - Matthew Shepard dies as a result of a hate crime so vile that I couldn't think of anything flippant to say about it even if I wanted to. What's wrong with people?

1999 - Abkhazia declares independence from Georgia. Georgia disagrees.

2017 - The United States leaves UNESCO, immediately followed by Israel, one can only guess because "to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom" is for suckers.

2018 - A British royal wedding involving a couple most people have never heard of takes place. Even the Americans aren't interested, and that's saying something.

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13 October

AD 54 – Emperor Claudius dies from poisoning under mysterious circumstances, supposedly after eating mushrooms.  One legend claims his final words were "Damn it!  I can feel myself becoming a god."  His 17-year-old stepson Nero succeeds him.  Strangely enough, the "Poisoning" may have been a purely accidental case of food poisoning, or even some other natural causes.  While there isn't usually too much nice to say about Nero, it doesn't look like he was directly involved with the death of Claudius.  Nero's mother, Agrippina the Younger, on the other hand...

1307 – Hundreds of Knights Templar in France are simultaneously arrested by agents of Phillip the Fair, to be later tortured into a "confession" of heresy.  To be fair to Philip, "Fair" has several meanings.  It would be unfair to say that Philip received "the Fair" as an epithet for his behavior towards the Templars, or the Jews, or the English, or the Papal Court...

1773 – The Whirlpool Galaxy is discovered by Charles Messier.  This is the Galaxy now known as M51a.  Not a washing machine.

1884 – The International Meridian Conference, in Washington, votes on a resolution to establish the meridian passing through the Observatory of Greenwich, in London, as the initial meridian for longitude.  Most of Europe and the Americas would have their clocks synchronized with Britain, ± n hours, within a decade.  Most.  France would take their time, keeping their own time for some time.

1903 – The Boston Red Sox win the first modern World Series, defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates in the eighth game.  For a World Championship, teams from outside the United States have won it only twice.

1923 – Ankara replaces Istanbul as the capital of Turkey.  If the capital is not Constantinople, it might as well be Ankara.  Even though they didn't include that town in the song.

1983 – Ameritech Mobile Communications launched the first US cellular network in Chicago.  Finally, we can drive around the city and never need to put down our phones.

2010 – The mining accident in Copiapó, Chile comes to an end as all 33 miners arrive at the surface after surviving a record 69 days underground awaiting rescue.  While this was a compelling story with a happy ending, an even better result would have occurred if the mine had been run with safety standards in the first place.

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On October 14 in History:

1066 - Still exhausted from stabbing Norsemen in the testicles (among other places) and then marching the full length of the country in two weeks, King Harold Godwinson's English army falls to Duke William's Normans at the Battle of Hastings, and that's why we call cow meat "beef".

1322 - Robert the Bruce, a.k.a. "the other guy, not Mel Gibson" from Braveheart, defeats Edward II and forces England to recognize Scotland's independence. It lasts forever.

1773 - A bunch of British tea ships are burned in the harbor of Annapolis. Bostonians will later deride the perpetrators for a lack of showmanship and branding.

1805 - France beats the crap out of Austria.

1806 - France beats the crap out of Prussia.

1808 - France annexes the Republic of Ragusa. Is...is anybody going to do anything about this?

1894 - poet e e cummings is born in cambridge massachusetts

1908 - The Chicago Cubs win the MLB World Series for the second year in a row. I tell you, we might just be witnessing the birth of a dynasty!

1912 - Before a campaign speech in Milwaukee, former U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt is shot in the chest. Unconcerned and not about to let a petty thing like a seeping bullet wound disrupt his schedule, Roosevelt proceeds to deliver his 90-minute speech as planned, though the crowd presumably has difficulty hearing him over the sound of his massive, thunderous balls.

1927 - Roger Moore is born spotless, calm and quiet, wearing a tuxedo.

1958 - In a shockingly progressive move, the Bar Association of the federal district of the freest nation on Earth decides that it's okay if black people want to be lawyers.

1962 - "Oh, shit." ~Pilot of an American U-2 reconnaissance plane flying over Cuba.

1982 - President Ronald Reagan declares a War on Drugs. It remains one of his most resounding success stories; members of his party to this day have yet to find a better way to keep minorities from voting.

1991 - Aung San Suu Kyi, a.k.a. the lady who took the "both sides are at fault" route [redacted] regarding the persecution and possible genocide of Rohingya Muslims and refugees in her country of Myanmar, is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

2012 - Some dude jumps from space. I guess so we'll all drink more Red Bull?

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On October 15 in History:

70 BCE - Virgil is born. If it weren't for him, we'd only know about one made-up story of the founding of Rome.

1066 - The day after Harold Godwinson's death, Edgar Ætheling is proclaimed King of England. Come, brothers! We shall drive these Norman dogs back into the sea!

1529 - Austria and Christian Europe to Suleiman and the Ottomans at the Siege of Vienna: "All right, that's far enough."

1582 - Some countries start adopting the Gregorian calendar. Not all, just some. Because the goal is to make this whole thing as confusing for everyone as possible.

1815 - Napoleon begins his exile on St. Helena, which is about as physically far from anywhere as it's possible to get. If he gets out of this one, we'll have to figure out a way to send him to the moon.

1894 - French army officer Alfred Dreyfus is arrested for being Jewish during another man's treasonous espionage. It's an obscure charge.

1917 - Mata Hari is executed by firing squad for the crime of spying so masterfully that she single-handedly caused all of France's hardships in the war thus far. Or for being a "woman of loose morals" and thus a convenient scapegoat for a country about to collapse from war exhaustion. One of those. France, you're really bad at this.

1945 - Former Vichy prime minister Pierre Laval is executed for treason. Okay, at least this one sounds reasonab...wait, I'm being told that his trial was rushed in about a week to get it in before elections, and he was sentenced in absentia without speaking in his own defense. God dammit, France.

1953 - The British test their nuclear weapon Totem I at Emu Field in Australia. Damn, this Emu War has gotten entirely out of hand.

2011 - Protesters around the globe have had enough, and now they're going to make sure everyone hears about it. It is the most organized complaint in the history of humanity.

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On October 16 in History:

690 - Wu Zetian comes to power in China. She would later be declared emperor - not empress. Because having a woman in charge would be silly.

1384 - In an odd coincidence, King Louis the Great's daughter Jadwiga is crowned King of Poland. Yes, King. Apparently pretend penises are worth more than real vaginas when it comes to ruling places.

1793 - Marie Antoinette loses her head. Understandable, as she's being led to her death. Then she is executed.

1841- Queen's University is founded in...Kingston, Ontario. Okay, now they're just messing with us.

1859 - Abolitionist John Brown attempts to incite a slave rebellion by attacking a U.S. fort at Harper's Ferry with a contingent of 21 men. He is as unsuccessful as you are imagining.

1923 - The Walt Disney company is founded by Roy Disney and his brother whose name escapes me. Several Academy Award Statuettes are prepared in advance.

1995 - The Eight Hundred Thirty-Seven Thousand Man March on Washington takes place. History book editors would round up for the sake of expediency.

2002: The Library of Alexandria is reestablished after roughly 1800 years of absence. Library cards from the old building are not accepted.

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Just now, Illjwamh said:

1841- Queen's University is founded in...Kingston, Ontario. Okay, now they're just messing with us.

If you really want to be technical, the University of Western Ontario is more on the Eastern side.

Though I imagine it's just a remnant of when Ontario was just the southern portion back in 1878.

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On October 17 in History:

1091 - A massive freaking tornado hits right in the middle of London. I dunno, this feels like a really sloppy cover-up for some wizard shenanigans.

1534 - A bunch of signs go up all over France railing against Catholicism, including one on King Francis's bedroom door. Ironically, he's so freaked out by this that he stops trying to protect Protestants from persecution. Whoops.

1660 - The new king of England's restored monarchy shows us that revenge is a dish best served cold, having the 9 men who signed the execution order of his father hanged, drawn and quartered. Charles in charge, indeed.

1781 - George Washington captures Yorktown, effectively defeating the greatest empire on the planet with what - in comparison - is little more than a ragtag band of misfits. This explains every American sports movie ever made.

1806 - Former Haitian revolutionary leader Emperor Jacques I is assassinated in response to his oppressive rule. I feel like he ought to have seen this coming.

1814 - Several vats burst, leading to a literal flood of beer in London. Now I'll make an obvious joke about it! Except eight people die, you monster.

1931 - Al Capone, one of America's most notorious organized crime bosses, is finally arrested...for tax evasion. Punchline redacted.

1961 - As many as 100 to 400 Algerian protesters are beaten, thrown into the river, or straight-up killed by police, under personal direction of chief of police Maurice Papon. Fun fact, he got that job while under the Nazi collaborationist regime and nobody ever thought to replace him. Whoops.

1973 - "No oil for you!" ~OPEC

2018 - Canada, already one of the most chill, laid-back places on Earth, legalizes recreational marijuana use. Word is still out on whether they have achieved some sort of friendly Nirvana.

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Just for some context, today's ma birfday.


On Oct. 18 in History:

320 - Observation of a solar eclipse leads to one of the most definitive explanations on the workings of the universe until Copernicus came along. Like 99.9% of things people have claimed to know about the universe in our relatively short history, it's laughably wrong.

614 - The Edict of Paris is issued, laying out the rights of Frankish nobles. This is great if you are a Frankish noble. Not so much if you are a Jew - or, you know, anyone other than a Frankish noble.

629 - Dagobert I is crowned king of the Franks. Naturally, he still must answer to an incompetent, pointy-haired Pope.

1009 - The armies of the Fatimid Caliphate completely destroy the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Like, literally, completely. Down to the bedrock. I'm thinking there are some bitterness issues being worked through here.

1648 - Shoemakers in Boston form the first American labor organization. They are immediately blamed for every problem in the entire Massachusetts Bay colony.

1775 - Early in the American Revolution, the Royal Navy burns the town of Falmouth, Massachusetts. This prompts the 2nd Continental Congress to say, "We should maybe have a navy, or something."

1851 - Moby Dick is first published (as "The Whale") in London. An entire country full of schoolchildren become inexplicably drows...zzzzzzzzzzzz

1867 - Alaska is purchased for the U.S. from Russia at a price of $7.2 million. In 1867 dollars, that's like the equivalent of Zeus's diamond-encrusted golden testicles. Everyone thought it was a worthless purchase and William Seward, who oversaw the deal, would never live it down. No, really. Because even though gold and oil and down-to-earth folksy hockey-moms were later found in abundance, he would die nearly five years to the day (Oct. 10) later and never got to see any of that. He may have lucked out on that last one.

1898 - The United States takes Puerto Rico from Spain. Because we feel like it. If the pattern holds, this means Sarah Palin 2.0, now in Latina form, has already been born.

1922 - The BBC is founded, which among other things eventually leads to the creation of both Dr. Who and Monty Python. And there was much rejoicing.

1929 - I won't bore you with the details, but long story short: The Supreme Court of Canada is overruled and it is determined that women are, in fact, considered "persons" under Canadian law. What were they considered before? Given Canada's national animal, I'm trying REALLY hard not to make the obvious joke. You're welcome.

1945 - Up and coming Argentine politician Juan Perón marries actress Eva "Evita" Duarte. Several Tony Award statuettes are prepared in advance.

1983 - The first human being to live to the age of 150 is born. Interestingly, that is also his I/Q. Rumor has it he is also very witty and charming.

1991 - Azerbaijan officially declares independence from the USSR. Hipster Baltic states scoff at them for merely following a trend.

2013 - Former U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives Tom Foley dies at 84. I like to imagine that with his last breath, he shook his fist at the sky and cried out, "Nethercutt!"

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19 October

202 BC – Second Punic War: At the Battle of Zama, Roman legions under Scipio Africanus defeat Hannibal Barca, leader of the army defending Carthage.  This sounds very impressive...

439 – The Vandals, led by King Gaiseric, take Carthage in North Africa.  Wait a minuet.  Carthage fell to Vandalism?  I am much less impressed with General Scipio.

1216 – King John of England, yes the King John who was the younger brother of Richard the Lionheart.  The King who committed the unforgivable sin of not being Richard the Lionheart.  The King who suffered countless insults with every retelling of the Robin Hood legend.  The King began the long British tradition of surrendering Royal power to the minor nobles by signing the Magna Carta (not the Japanese comic version of the Manga Carta).  The King who was the youngest of five sons of King Henry II of England and Duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine.  The King who proved unable to hold his mother's territories in France.  This King dies at Newark-on-Trent and is succeeded by his nine-year-old son Henry III.  It would be several more Henrys before England found a king more notorious than John.

1453 – The Hundred Years' War ends with the French recapture of Bordeaux, leaving English control only on Calais.  Maybe there is some place other than France England could try conquering?

1469 – Ferdinand II of Aragon marries Isabella I of Castile, a marriage that paves the way to the unification of Aragon and Castile into a single country, Spain.  It also permits Ricky Ricardo to frequently exclaim "Lucy!  You got some Spaining to do!"

1781 – At Yorktown, Virginia, representatives of British commander Lord Cornwallis hand over Cornwallis' sword and formally surrender to George Washington and the comte de Rochambeau.  Why were the British fighting so hard to keep these troublesome colonies in the first place?

1805 – Napoleonic Wars: Austrian General Mack surrenders his army to the Grande Armée of Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Ulm; 30,000 prisoners are captured and 10,000 casualties inflicted on the losers.  Careful Monsieur Bonaparte.  Not every battle will go so well for the Grande Armée.

1812 – Napoleon Bonaparte retreats from Moscow.  Tough loss, but a great musical score.

1813 – The Battle of Leipzig concludes, giving Napoleon Bonaparte one of his worst defeats.  Maybe there is some place other than Europe France could try conquering?

1933 – Germany withdraws from the League of Nations.  But how does Germany expect to peacefully resolve its diplomatic issues without league backing?

1973 – President Richard Nixon rejects an Appeals Court decision that he turn over the Watergate tapes.  He's sure to rethink this position and release all the tapes, complete and unedited.

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On October 20 in History:

1720 - Pirate Calico Jack Rackham is captured by the royal navy. He is notable for having not one but two famous female pirates in his crew, and for being one of the chief inspirations for Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow. It is unknown whether infusing him with Keith Richards made him more or less eccentric.

1740 - Maria Theresa takes the throne of Austria. France, Prussia, Saxony, and Bavaria say that's ridiculous because she has lady parts. A war begins.

1781 - The Habsburgs declare that you can Christian however you want, but if you're not Catholic we don't want to see it.

1819 - Birth of the Báb, one of the most important religious figures you've never heard of.

1944 - "Told you." ~Douglas MacArthur, Philippines

1973 - U.S. President Richard Nixon fires Attorney General Elliot Richardson and his deputy, William Ruckelshaus, for their refusal to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox. I feel like there's a relevant parallel that I could call attention to, but I just can't put my finger on it.

2011 - Rebel forces in Libya reenact the deposition of King Edward II of England.

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