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On this day March 18, 1789

Catherine Murphy was executed at Newgate prison on March 18, 1789, for coining. Her co-defendants, including her husband, were executed at the same time by hanging, but as a woman the law provided that she should be burnt at the stake.

She was brought out past the hanging bodies of eight men and made to stand on a foot high 10in square platform in front of the stake. She was secured to the stake with ropes and an iron ring. When she finished her prayers, the hangman piled faggots of straw around the stake and lit them.

According to testimony given by Sir Benjamin Hammett, then Sheriff of London, she was hanged before being burned. In part through his efforts, burning as a method of execution was abolished the next year.

On this day September 29, 1954

Eleven countries signed a convention establishing the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), currently the world’s largest particle physics laboratory.

Blue founding members

Blue founding members

The acronym CERN originally stood, in French, for Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (European Council for Nuclear Research), which was a provisional council for setting up the laboratory.

The organization was established by the following 11 European governments; Belgium, Denmark, West Germany, France, Greece, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Netherlands and United Kingdom.

Today the organization has twenty European member states, and is currently the workplace of approximately 2,600 full-time employees, as well as some 7,931 scientists and engineers (representing 580 universities and research facilities and 80 nationalities). Read More…

On this day September 26, 1580

Sir Francis Drake finishes his circumnavigation of the Earth when Golden Hind sailed into Plymouth with Drake and 59 remaining crew aboard, along with a rich cargo of spices and captured Spanish treasures.

Statue of Sir Drake in Plymouth

Drake's statue in Plymouth

The Queen’s half-share of the cargo surpassed the rest of the crown’s income for that entire year. Drake was hailed as the first Englishman to circumnavigate the Earth.

Drake was awarded a knighthood, but not by Queen Elizabeth aboard Golden Hind, as is commonly thought.

He was actually knighted by a French nobleman called Monsieur de Marchaumont, on 4 April 1581, and, in September 1581, became the Mayor of Plymouth.

He was also a Member of Parliament in 1581, for an unknown constituency, and again in 1584 for Bossiney.

The Queen ordered all written accounts of Drake’s voyage to be considered classified information, and its participants sworn to silence on pain of death; her aim was to keep Drake’s activities away from the eyes of rival Spain.

Drake was a navigator, slaver, a renowned pirate, his exploits were legendary, making him a hero to the English but a pirate to the Spaniards , King Philip II was claimed to have offered a reward of 20,000 ducats, about (US$6.5M) by modern standards, for his life.

He was second-in-command of the English fleet against the Spanish Armada in 1588, subordinate only to Charles Howard and the Queen herself. He died of dysentery in January 1596 after unsuccessfully attacking San Juan, Puerto Rico.

On this day May 21, 2006

The Montenegrin independence referendum was held in Montenegro, with 55.5 percent of the voters favoring independence from the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro.

Front page of Pobjeda

The total turnout of the referendum was 86.5%. 55.5 percent voted in favor and 44.5 were against breaking the state union with Serbia. Fifty-five percent of affirmative votes were needed to dissolve the state union of Serbia and Montenegro, an option favored by the coalition government (DPS and SDP).

By 23 May, preliminary referendum results were recognized by all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, indicating widespread international recognition of Montenegro once independence would be formally declared.

Montenegro’s referendum commission on Wednesday 31 May, officially confirmed the results of the independence referendum, verifying that 55.5% of the population of Montenegrin voters had voted in favor of independence. Read More…

On this day March 31, 1990

200,000 protestors take to the streets of London to protest against the newly introduced Poll Tax (Community Charge), introduced by the Conservative government led by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

By far the largest occurred in central London on Saturday March 31, 1990, shortly before the poll tax was due to come into force in England and Wales. Many believe the riot – the largest in the city in the 20th century – caused Thatcher’s downfall eight months later.

The disorder in London arose from a demonstration which began at 11am. The rioting and looting ended at 3am the next morning. This riot is sometimes called the Battle of Trafalgar, particularly by opponents of poll tax, because much of the rioting took place in Trafalgar Square. Read More…

On this day July 25, 1909

French aviator Louis Blériot crossed the English Channel in a heavier-than-air flying machine, flying from near Calais, France, to Dover, England receiving a prize of 1000 offered by the London Daily Mail for a successful crossing of the English Channel.Avion_Bleriot_XI_1909

Blériot was a pioneer of the sport of air racing and also is credited as the first person to make a working monoplane.

Blériot had two rivals for the prize, both of whom failed to reach the goal. The first was Hubert Latham, a French national of English extraction. He was favored by both the United Kingdom and France to win. Read More…

On this day July 22, 1894

First ever motorized racing event is held in France between the cities of Paris and Rouen. The race is won by Jules de Dion.

Motor racing was started in France, as a direct result of the enthusiasm with which the French public embraced the motor car.[8] Manufacturers were enthusiastic due to the possibility of using motor racing as a shop window for their cars.

The first motor race took place on July 22, 1894 and was organised by Le Petit Journal, a Parisian newspaper. It was run over the eighty mile (128 km) distance between Paris and Rouen. The race was won by Jules de Dion, although he was not awarded the prize for first place as his car required a stoker and the judges deemed this outside of their objectives. The de Dion Bouton that Jules piloted was a steam powered vehicle, and thus did not meet the intent of the competition.

On this day July 20, 1944

Adolf Hitler survived an assassination attempt by German Resistance member Claus von Stauffenberg, who hid a bomb inside a briefcase during a conference at the Wolfsschanze military headquarters in East Prussia.

The conference room after the explosion

The conference room after the explosion

The  plot was a failed attempt to kill Adolf Hitler, the leader of Nazi Germany, inside his “Wolf’s Lair” field headquarters near Rastenburg, East Prussia.

The plot was the culmination of the efforts of the German Resistance to overthrow the Nazi regime.

The failure of both the assassination and the military coup d’état which was planned to follow it led to the arrest of at least 7,000 people by the Gestapo. Read More…