This Week in History: July 11-17th

July 11th

On this day, in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird was published in the United States. Written by Harper Lee, the book won the Pulitzer Prize, and has become a cornerstone of American literature, being (controversially) covered in schools to this day. It was adapted to film in 1962, and went on to win three Academy Awards: Best Actor (Gregory Peck), Best Set Design, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It was Harper Lee’s only book until a sequel, based on an earlier draft of To Kill a Mockingbird, was controversially released in July 2015. The sequel, Go Set a Watchman, received middling to poor reviews, and Harper Lee passed away shortly after its publishing.


Births: Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland (1274).
Deaths: Satoru Iwata, President of Nintendo & game developer (2015).
Holidays: Free Slurpee Day (North America).

July 12th

Captain James Cook set out on his third (and final) voyage on this day in 1776. Publicly, the purpose of the voyage was to return Omai, a Ra’iatean man who had become a “curiosity” in London, to his home in Tahiti. In reality, they hoped to discover the famed Northwest Passage between the Atlantic & Pacific oceans. They sailed from Plymouth to New Zealand and the Hawaiian islands via Cape Town and the Canary Islands. They fell afoul of the Hawaiians when, responding to the theft of a small boat, Cook attempted to kidnap Kalaniʻōpuʻu, a Hawaiian king, and was stabbed to death. Cook’s replacement, Charles Clerke, died of tuberculosis while piloting the crew through the Bering Strait, and the ships had to be transported overland to eventually arrive in London to an incredibly mild welcoming.

Births: Julius Caesar, Roman dictator & general (100BCE).
Deaths: Douglas Hyde, first President of Ireland (1949).
Holidays: Independence Day (Kiribati).

July 13th

The Hollywood Sign was dedicated in Los Angeles, California on this day in 1923. It originally read “Hollywoodland” and was intended as an advertisement for a property development in the area. With the rise of cinema, and the industry being based in Hollywood, the sign became a symbol of the ‘golden age of cinema’. The ‘land’ part of the sign was removed in 1949, but the sign had already significantly deteriorated by then. It continued to crumble until 1978, when Playboy owner Hugh Heffner led a restoration campaign.

Births: Tom Kenny, ‘Spongebob Squarepants’ voice actor (1962).
Deaths: Frida Kahlo, Mexican artist (1954).
Holidays: Statehood Day (Montenegro).

July 14th

French citizens stormed the Bastille prison on this day in 1789. The Bastille was built as a fortress in the 14-15th Century to defend Paris on its eastern front, but over time had become a prison principally for people who had offended or insulted the King. Though the prison only held seven prisoners at the time of its storming, it was seen by the peasantry as a symbol of the royal family & their abuses of power, and its seizing became a flashpoint for the French revolution. The Bastille was destroyed between 1789 and 1790, and was replaced by Place de la Bastille. July 14th is celebrated as Bastille Day in France.

Births: Irish Mixed-Martial Arts star Conor McGregor (1988).
Deaths: American outlaw Billy the Kid (1881).
Holidays: Black Country Day (United Kingdom).

July 15th

The Spanish Inquisition was disbanded on this day in 1834. It had been established in the late 15th Century by the Catholic royal family of Spain (headed by Aragon & Isabella of Castile) with the purpose of maintaining Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms. It replaced the Papal-controlled Medieval Inquisitions, and was charged with discovering heretics within the Catholic faith, namely those who had converted from Judaism and Islam. Historians estimate it prosecuted over 150,000 people during its three centuries of activity, with around 3000-5000 of those being executed. The Spanish Inquisition was famously featured in a sketch by British comedy troupe, Monty Python, though contrary to the sketch, the actual Spanish Inquisition had to give its ‘victims’ notice, thus everybody expected the Spanish Inquisition.

Births: Rembrandt, Dutch painter (1606).
Deaths: ‘North by Northwest’ actor Martin Landau (2017).
Holidays: Elderly Men Day (Kiribati).

July 16th

The Apollo 11 mission was launched on this day in 1969 from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. It would be the first space flight that successfully allowed people to land on the moon and safely return home. It was manned by three astronauts: Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins, with the former two actually setting foot on the surface of the moon. The crew landed on the moon on July 20th, and safely returned home on the 24th. The landing was broadcast live on television, and the mission effectively led to the end of the ‘Space Race‘ between the US and the Soviet Union.

Births: Norweigan explorer Roald Amundsen (1872).
Deaths: Anne of Cleves (1557).
Holidays: Engineer’s Day (Honduras)

July 17th

The opening of the Summer Olympics in Montreal in 1976 took place on July 17th, and are noted more for the absence of several African nations from the opening ceremony. 25 African teams boycotted the games due to the participation of New Zealand, who had defied the United Nations to participate in rugby tour in South Africa during the apartheid regime. Many other international sporting bodies had excluded New Zealand from various international tournaments, but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had declined to do so. 29 total countries boycotted the Olympics because of New Zealand, including Afghanistan, Albania, Iraq and Sri Lanka. The Soviet Union topped the medal table at the 1976 Olympics, with East Germany and the United States finishing in second and third respectively.

Births: Baywatch and Knight Rider star David Hasselhoff (1952).
Deaths: American pro-wrestler Frank ‘Bruiser Brody’ Goodish (1988).
Holidays: World Emoji Day.

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