July 12: On This Day in World History … briefly


1536:   Great scholar and humanist dies

Desiderius Erasmus, the great classicist of the Renaissance dies. He would be greatly missed for his cultivated common sense and his ability to criticise kings and churchmen. His greatest work ‘Colloquia’ opened new ground by exposing the abuses of the Church, paving the way for the likes of Martin Luther, Erasmus also published the first Greek text of the New Testament and a new Latin translation with the hope of reconciling faith and reason, so bringing Christianity and the culture of the Ancients closer together. An advocate of charity and moderation in all things, Erasmus was deeply critical of corruption in the church and fell out with Luther over methods of teaching; gentle reason and tolerance were his preferred tools. Erasmus spent much of his later life in Cambridge and Bäsel. Though always surrounded by controversy, he became widely known and respected and advanced the revival of learning.

“I have a Catholic soul and a Lutheran stomach.” Erasmus, on why he failed to fast during Lent

Portrait of Desiderius Erasmus by Albrecht Dürer, 1526, engraved in Nuremberg, Germany – Wikipedia

Martin Luther (1529) by Lucas Cranach the Elder – Wikipedia

1705:   Death of Anglican priest Titus Oates, anti-Catholic conspirator who alleged there was a plot to assassinate Charles II and place his Catholic brother James on the throne, thus causing the execution of 35 suspects and the exclusion of Catholics from parliament.

Titus Oates – Wikipedia


Oates reveals the plot to the King; one of a set of playing cards depicting the Plot by Francis Barlow circa 1679 – Wikipedia

1789:   Fire sweeps Paris after two days of rioting.

French Revolution riots – Pixabay

English cartoon attacking the excesses of the Revolution as symbolised by the guillotine, between 18 000 and 40 000 people were executed during the Reign of Terror – Wikipedia


1799:   Britain passes the Combination Act, which bars any combination of working men trying to improve the working conditions in an attempt to prevent the spread of revolutionary ideas from France and the formation of trade unions.

The Factory Acts were a series of UK labour law Acts passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom to regulate the conditions of industrial employment – Wikipedia

1878:   Turkey cedes Cyprus to Britain.

Hoisting the British flag at Nicosia, Cyprus – Wikipedia

1910:   First British pilot is killed in crash

British aviation claims its first victim when Charles Stewart Rolls (33) crashed his French-built Wright biplane at a flying competition in Bournemouth. According to one spectator, the rudders of the biplane seemed to break during a tilt, causing the machine to crash nose-first to the ground. Rolls was still in his seat after the crash, but all attempts to revive him failed. An accomplished aviator, Rolls was the first person to fly non-stop both ways across the Channel. He was also a partner in the Rolls Royce car manufacturing company and won the 1 000 mile (1 600km) motor-racing trial in 1900.

Charles Rolls – Wikipedia


Photograph on the front page of the Illustrated London News, 16 July 1910, showing the wreckage of the plane crash which killed Rolls – Wikipedia


1920:   Canal opens officially

The Panama Canal, the world’s largest engineering project, is officially opened by President Woodrow Wilson. Construction began in 1881, but halted with the financial collapse of the French contractor de Lesseps. President Roosevelt took up the project, and construction was resumed in 1904. The first vessel sailed through on January 7, 1914.

Woodrow Wilson in 1919 – Wikipedia

Woodrow Wilson and his cabinet in the Cabinet Room – Wikipedia

1930:   Bradman’s score breaks all records

Australia’s Don Bradman breaks all test cricket records with a score of 334 runs against England at Leeds, breaking RE Foster’s record at Sydney 27 years before. He also set a record for the number of runs scored in a single day of play – 309 of his 334 runs happened on this day.

Sir Donald Bradman – Wikipedia

Bradman is chaired off the ground by his opponents after scoring – Wikipedia


1944:   The RAF becomes the first air force to use jet aircraft in operational service.

A late-war version of the Spitfire, which played a major role in the Battle of Britain – Wikipedia

1952:   Dwight D Eisenhower resigns from the army in order to begin a presidential campaign.

ca. 1915 — Dwight D. Eisenhower (third from left) and Omar Bradley (extreme right) are shown in the line-up with part of the West Point Military Academy Football Team. Eisenhower and Bradley, who became General of the Army in 1950, both graduated from West Point in 1915. Image by Bettmann/Corbis – Wikipedia

Eisenhower speaks with men of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st Airborne Division on June 5, 1944, the day before the D-Day invasion – Wikipedia

Presidential candidate Eisenhower in the Hobo Day parade at South Dakota State University in 1952 – Wikipedia

1982:   Hostilities between Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands are officially ended.

A map from a world atlas published in 1794 complete with marginal notes describing sovereignty: the Falklands belonged ‘to Great Britain by right of first discovery’, the British had ‘a fort and settlement’ on ‘the North of Western Falkland’, while Spaniards ‘had a fort in the Eastern Isle’ – Wikipedia

The UK exercises both de jure and de facto control over the islands – Wikipedia

1987:   Sunday Times in court over ‘Spycatcher’

The Sunday Times newspaper found itself in the dock over the controversial book ‘Spycatcher’, written by former M15 agent Peter Wright. The government stopped publication of the book in England and attempted to prevent publication in Australia. The Sunday Times went against the government’s injunction and published excerpts of the book. The British government insisted that the book was a breach of confidentiality. Wright revealed the innermost workings of M15 and highlighted some of the illegal activities of the agency. It also suggested that Sir Roger Hollis, a former M15 boss, was a Soviet spy and that the agency attempted to undermine Harold Wilson’s Labour government in 1974-76. The political implications were embarrassing for the-then government and it imposed an injunction on The Guardian, The Observer, and the Sunday Times, forbidding even a mention of the book in the press.

Front cover of Spycatcher written by Peter Wright – Wikipedia



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