This Week In History

The sinking of RMS Titanic. April 15, 1912.

      RMS Titanic was a British passenger liner that sank in the North Atlantic Ocean in 1912, after colliding with an iceberg during her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City. Of the estimated 2,224 passengers and crew aboard, more than 1,500 died, making it one of modern history’s deadliest commercial marine disasters during peacetime, followed by RMS Empress of Ireland two years later, when the passenger liner sank after colliding with a cargo ship on the Saint Lawrence River, killing 1,012 people. RMS Titanic was the largest ship afloat at the time she entered service and was the second of three Olympic-class ocean liners operated by the White Star Line. She was built by the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast. Thomas Andrews, chief naval architect of t...

The Venus de Milo is found. April 8, 1820.

The Venus de Milo is an ancient Greek statue and one of the most famous works of ancient Greek sculpture. Initially it was attributed to the sculptor Praxiteles, but from an inscription that was on its plinth, the statue is thought to be the work of Alexandros of Antioch. Created sometime between 130 and 100 BC, the statue is believed to depict Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty; however, some scholars claim it is the sea-goddess Amphitrite, venerated on Milos. It is a marble sculpture, slightly larger than life size at 203 cm high. Part of an arm and the original plinth were lost following its discovery. It is currently on permanent display at the Louvre Museum in Paris. The statue is named after the Greek island of Milos, where it was discovered. It is generally asserted tha...

The capture of Suvarnadurg. April 2, 1775.

Suvarnadurg is a fort that is located between Mumbai and Goa on a small island in the Arabian Sea, along the West Coast of India, in the Indian state of Maharashtra. The fort also includes another small land fort called the Kanakadurga at the base of headland of Harnai port on the coast. Building of the fort is credited to Shivaji Maharaj, founder of the Maratha Empire, in 1660. Subsequently, Shivaji, other Peshwas and the Angres further fortified the forts for defensive purposes. The literal meaning of Suvanadurga is “Golden Fort” as it was considered as the pride or the “feather in the golden cap of Marathas“. Built for the Maratha Navy, the fort also had a shipbuilding facility. The basic objective of establishing the fort was to counter enemy attacks, mainly by ...

Saladin in Egypt. March, 26 1169.

An-Nasir Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn, known as Salah ad-Din or Saladin, was the first sultan of Egypt and Syria and the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty. A Sunni Muslim of Kurdish ethnicity, Saladin led the Muslim military campaign against the Crusader states in the Levant. At the height of his power, his sultanate included Egypt, Syria, Upper Mesopotamia, the Hejaz, Yemen and other parts of North Africa. He was originally sent to Fatimid Egypt in 1164 accompanying his uncle Shirkuh, a general of the Zengid army, on orders of their lord Nur ad-Din, an atabeg of the Seljuks, to consolidate Shawar amid his ongoing power struggle for vizier to the teenage Fatimid caliph al-Adid. With Shawar reinstated as vizier, he engaged in a power struggle with Shirkuh, which saw the former realigning himself wit...

The death of Hypatia. March 8, 415 AD.

Hypatia was a Hellenistic Neoplatonist philosopher, astronomer, and mathematician, who lived in Alexandria, Egypt, then part of the Eastern Roman Empire. She was a prominent thinker of the Neoplatonic school in Alexandria, where she taught philosophy and astronomy. She is the first female mathematician whose life is reasonably well recorded. Hypatia was renowned in her own lifetime as a great teacher and a wise counselor. She is known to have written a commentary on Diophantus’s thirteen-volume Arithmetica, which may survive in part, having been interpolated into Diophantus’s original text, and another commentary on Apollonius of Perga’s treatise on conic sections, which has not survived. Many modern scholars also believe that Hypatia may have edited the surviving text of...

The Spanish Constitution, La Pepa. March 19, 1812.

The Political Constitution of the Spanish Monarchy (Constitución Política de la Monarquía Española), also known as the Constitution of Cádiz and as La Pepa (for it was signed on March 19, San José´s day, commonly Pepe in Spain), was the first Constitution of Spain and one of the earliest constitutions in world history. It was established on 19 March 1812 by the Cortes of Cádiz, the first Spanish legislature. With the notable exception of proclaiming Roman Catholicism as the official and sole legal religion in Spain, the constitution was one of the most liberal of its time: it affirmed national sovereignty, separation of powers, freedom of the press, free enterprise, abolished feudalism, and established a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system. It was one of the first constitut...

The Battle of Munda. March 17, 46 BC.

During the Civil Wars, the republicans had initially been led by Pompey, until the Battle of Pharsalus in 48 BC and Pompey’s death soon afterwards. However, in April 46 BC, Caesar‘s forces destroyed the Pompeian army at the Battle of Thapsus. After this, military opposition to Caesar was confined to Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula, comprising modern Spain and Portugal). During the spring of 46 BC, two legions in Hispania Ulterior, largely formed by former Pompeian veterans enrolled in Caesar’s army, had declared themselves for Gnaeus Pompeius (son of Pompey the Great) and driven out Caesar’s proconsul. Soon they were joined by the remnants of the Pompeian army. These forces were commanded by the brothers Gnaeus Pompeius and Sextus (sons of Pompey) and by the talente...

Odoacer fall and death. 25 February, 493.

In 476, the barbarian warlord Odoacer founded the Kingdom of Italy as the first King of Italy, initiating a new era over Roman lands. Unlike most of the last emperors, he acted decisively. He took many military actions to strengthen his control over Italy and its neighboring areas. He achieved a solid diplomatic coup by inducing the Vandal king Gaiseric to cede to him Sicily. When Julius Nepos was murdered by two of his retainers in his country house near Salona (May 480), Odoacer assumed the duty of pursuing and executing the assassins, and at the same time established his own rule in Dalmatia. As Bury points out, “It is highly important to observe that Odovacar established his political power with the co-operation of the Roman Senate, and this body seems to have given him their loy...

February 23, 303. The Diocletianic Persecution.

Christians had always been subject to local discrimination in the empire, but early emperors were reluctant to issue general laws against the sect. It was not until the 250s, under the reigns of Decius and Valerian, that such laws were passed. Under this legislation, Christians were compelled to sacrifice to Roman gods or face imprisonment and execution. After Gallienus‘s accession in 260, these laws went into abeyance. Diocletian‘s assumption of power in 284 did not mark an immediate reversal of imperial inattention to Christianity, but it did herald a gradual shift in official attitudes toward religious minorities. In the first fifteen years of his rule, Diocletian purged the army of Christians, condemned Manicheans to death, and surrounded himself with public opponents of Ch...

February 12, 1502. The Muslim Conversion or Expulsion.

Unlike the Muslims of Granada, who were under Muslim rule until 1492, Muslims in the rest of Castile had lived under Christian rule for generations. Following the conversions in Granada, Isabella decided to impose a conversion-or-expulsion decree against the Muslims. Castile outlawed Islam in a legislation dated July 1501 in Granada, but it was not immediately made public. The proclamation took place on February 12, 1502, in Seville, and then locally in other towns. The edict affected “all kingdoms and lordships of Castile and Leon“. According to the edict, all Muslim males aged 14 or more, or females aged 12 or more, should convert or leave Castile by the end of April 1502. The edict justified the decision by saying that after the successful conversion of Granada, allowing Mus...

Cromwell´s exhumation and execution. January 30, 1661.

In December 1648, in an episode that became known as Pride’s Purge, a troop of soldiers headed by Colonel Thomas Pride forcibly removed from the Long Parliament all those who were not supporters of the Grandees in the New Model Army and the Independents. Thus weakened, the remaining body of MPs, known as the Rump Parliament, agreed that Charles should be tried on a charge of treason. Cromwell was by that time in the north of England, dealing with Royalist resistance, when these events took place, but then returned to London. On the day after Pride’s Purge, he became a determined supporter of those pushing for the King’s trial and execution, believing that killing Charles was the only way to end the civil wars. Cromwell approved Thomas Brook’s address to the House of...

The Tottenham Outrage. January, 23 1909.

In the 19th century the Russian Empire, then including Latvia, was home to about five million Jews, the largest Jewish community in the world at the time. Subjected to religious persecution and violent pogroms, many emigrated, and between 1875 and 1914 around 120,000 arrived in the United Kingdom, mostly in England. The influx reached its peak in the late 1890s when large numbers of Jewish immigrants—mostly poor and semi-skilled or unskilled—settled in the East End of London; the concentration of Jews in some areas of London was almost 100 per cent of the population. Because of the influx of Jews and Russians into one part of Tottenham in North London, the area gained the nickname Little Russia. Several revolutionary factions were active in East and North London. One tactic often employed ...

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