Dates, dates, dates

Posted by Helen Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Tory Historian was brought up to believe that dates are the backbone of history. This is not a particularly popular view among school teachers and examiners nowadays, which may account for the number of people who find history boring. Boring? How can one find it boring? It’s about people and what they did and why.

Tory Historian was also, as mentioned in at least one previous posting, brought up by a historian father whose memory for historical dates was phenomenal and who related any date and any set of figures to a well-known historical event. Some things run in the family.

So, what have we for today? What happened on this day in history and how was the world affected by any of them?

1517, for all those who did Tudors’n’Stuarts for history A level was the year in which Martin Luther posted his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg and that was on October 31. The outcome is of undoubted importance as the beginning of the split in the Western Christian Church and growth of Protestantism.

Do we care about Houdini dying on this day in 1926 as a result of being punched in the stomach before he could prepare his muscles? Perhaps not, except maybe to point out that the man born, as Erik Weisz in Budapest, was another Hungarian who made his mark on the world. Well, no, that is not all that important.

1961, October 31 saw the removal of Stalin’s body from the Mausoleum after two denunciations by the then General Secretary of the CPSU, Nikita Khrushchev at the Twentieth Congress in 1956 and the Twenty-Second Congress in 1961, though it is possible that the body was beginning to smell a bit and, therefore, had to be burnt with the ashes placed into the Kremlin wall.
1776, October 31, saw King George III addressing the British Parliament (well, the House of Lords, to be precise) for the first time since the American Declaration of Independence. He announced the victory over George Washington’s forces at the Battle of Long Island, after which the War of Independence could have gone differently with, possibly, numerous Patriot officers executed as traitors. However, the defeated army was dealt with leniently and further negotiations were attempted. But the King was right: the campaign was going to be long and difficult and, as nobody fully realized at the time, victorious for the Patriots. A good day for the Anglosphere? Presumably, the Loyalists did not think anything was good about the War of Independence or its outcome.

On this day in 1956 the British and French troops landed in the Suez canal zone, the Israelis having already swept through the Sinai. Suez deserves a separate posting and an article in the next issue of the Conservative History Journal, being a turning point in the development of the Western alliance after World War II.

In 1984 on this day, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two of her Sikh guards in revenge for the attack on the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984.

However, the most exciting event took place on October 31, 1892 with the publication of “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” as a volume. The first novella, “A Study in Scarlet”, had been published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual of 1887 and the individual stories of the collection had been coming out in Strand Magazine since 1891. But this was the first collection. A great day for all of us.


  1. Simon Harley Says:
  2. Lord only knows what the school pupils of today "don't" know about their history. "What's a Clive of Plassey." they would say. "Were the Crusades against the French?" "Was Martin Luther the American who got shot?". It makes me shudder.
    And due to work I was unable to watch the BBC's 3 part documentary on the Suez Crisis, so I don't know whether it is still regarded by the BBC as a blot on our record or a last chance for global survival snatched by ignorance. I look forward to ToryHistorian's discourse on the Crisis.

  3. Helen Says:
  4. Yes, the Suez crisis will have to be covered (though there have been a few postings). I am hoping for a good discussion that involves various contributors.

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