This Week in History: July 25-31st

July 25th

On the 9th anniversary of first being declared Emperor by his troops, Constantine completed construction on his triumphal arch outside the Colosseum on this day in 315BCE. The Arch of Constantine mainly commemorated his victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge three years previous. That battle marked the first steps on Constantine’s journey to conversion to Christianity – the story goes that Constantine saw a vision the night before the battle, wherein he was promised victory if he painted the Chi-Rho (the first two letters of Jesus Christ’s name in Greek) on his soldier’s shields. Some scholars debate about whether the arch should still be named for Constantine, as many believe its construction began under Hadrian, Maxentius or even Domitian, the last of which was emperor over 200 years previously. The Arch of Constantine inspired similar arches in Paris, Potsdam and Pyongyang.

Births: ‘Friends’ actor Matt LeBlanc (1967).
Deaths: Father of Constantine the Great, and fellow Roman Emperor Constantius Chlorus (306BCE).
Holidays: Constitution Day (Puerto Rico).

July 26th

The first recorded game of women’s cricket took place on this day in 1745. The game, played between the villages of Bramley and Hambledon in Surrey, was reported by The Reading Mercury. The report went as follows: “The greatest cricket match that was played in this part of England was on Friday, the 26th of last month, on Gosden Common, near Guildford, between eleven maids of Bramley and eleven maids of Hambledon, all dressed in white. The Bramley maids had blue ribbons and the Hambledon maids red ribbons on their heads.” Hambledon won the match by six runs, and the reporter for The Mercury noted that the women played “as well as most men could do in that game.” The first women’s cricket club would not be founded until 1887. In 1890, a team known as the ‘Original English Lady Cricketers’ toured the UK, drawing massive crowds, but were forced to quit when their manager reportedly absconded with their profits. The first international women’s match was played between England & Australia in 1934.

Births: Former France and Arsenal footballer Gaël Clichy (1985).
Deaths: American serial killer Ed Gein (1984).
Holidays: Independence Day (Liberia).

July 27th

Artist Vincent van Gogh shot himself in the chest on this day in 1890, dying from his gunshot two days later. Van Gogh had struggled with his mental health throughout his life, reportedly experiencing ‘psychotic episodes’ and ‘delusions’ at times. He had multiple stays in psychiatric hospitals, including a stay in France’s Monastery Saint-Paul de Mausole; it was in Saint-Rémy where he painted one of his most famous works, The Starry Night (see above) among others. In his lifetime van Gogh was considered ‘a madman’ and a failure, only being appreciated as a great artist in the years following his death. Doctors & psychiatrists have attempted to diagnose van Gogh since his death, with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression being chiefly considered.

Births: ‘Orange is the New Black’ actor Taylor Schilling (1984).
Deaths: Stand-up comic, entertainer and actor Bob Hope (2003).
Holidays: Day of Victory in the Great Fatherland Liberation War (DPRK).

July 28th

The city of Hamburg, Germany was nearly entirely burned to the ground on this day in 1943. The damage was the result of an Allied ‘strategic bombing campaign’ known as Operation Gomorrah. There had been a drought in Hamburg prior to the bombings, which meant that the resulting firestorm quickly spread throughout the city. Over 42,000 civilians were killed as a result of Operation Gomorrah, with a further 37,000 being injured. In 1946, Major Cortez F. Enloe of the US Air Force stated that the fire effects of the Atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki was ‘not nearly as bad as the effects of the R.A.F. raids on Hamburg on July 27th 1943’.

Births: Former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez (1954).
Deaths: Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi (1741).
Holidays: World Hepatitis Day.

July 29th

The first congress elections to be held in Hawaii take place on this day in 1959. Hawaii had remained largely independent until the mid-late 19th Century, when wealthy white businessmen overthrew the Hawaiian royal family in 1887. In 1893 the last Queen of Hawaii, Liliʻuokalani, attempted a coup, but was foiled by the Euro-American ‘Committee of Safety’. Assisted by US government minister John L. Stevens, the Committee successfully petitioned the US government to annex Hawaii in 1897. Following annexation it remained a territory of the US (similar to Puerto Rico today) as the lack of constitutional & federal legislative guarantees helped the profitability of plantation owners on the islands. 94.3% of Hawaiian’s voted in favour of statehood, and the majority of Hawaiian’s supported the Democratic party against the GOP (who were supported by the plantation owners) in their first congressional elections in 1959.

Births: Italian dictator & fascist Benito Mussolini (1883).
Deaths: Singer ‘Mama’ Cass Elliot (1974).
Holidays: International Tiger Day.

July 30th

The world’s longest-running music show aired its final broadcast on this day in 2006. BBC’s Top of the Pops began in 1964, and is widely credited as being crucial in popularising artists throughout the UK and Ireland, and casting a long shadow over popular culture. Green Day hold the record for longest performance in the show’s 42-year history, with ‘Jesus of Suburbia’ lasting over nine minutes; The Undertones’ 1979 performance of ‘Here Comes The Summer’ holds the record for shortest song at just 84 seconds, and Cliff Richard holds the record for most prolific, appearing 160 times. Acts were not allowed to play live, having to ‘play’ along to a prerecorded backing track; this caused problems for many acts, including Jimi Hendrix, Shane MacGowan and Oasis. At the show’s height it received over 15 million viewers on a weekly basis. Its final broadcast featured clips from the shows archive and tributes from past acts, and closed with ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ by Shakira, which topped the charts that week (the last ‘live’ performance was actually Chasing Cars done by the Snow Patrol the week previous).

Births: US Olympic gold medalist and World Cup winner Hope Solo (1981).
Deaths: Irish writer Maeve Binchy (2012).
Holidays: International Day of Friendship.

July 31

The Miami Showband killings took place on this day in 1975 in County Down. The Miami Showband were a popular cabaret act of the time, and were returning to Dublin late at night following a gig in Banbridge. Their bus was stopped by what appeared to be a military checkpoint halfway between Banbridge and Newry. The men running the checkpoint, wearing British Army uniforms, were members of the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), and attempted to plant a time bomb on the band’s van. The bomb blew up, killing two of the UVF members, while the remaining soldiers shot and killed three members of the showband, injuring two others. It’s believed that the goal of the attack was for the bomb to go off later in the band’s journey, framing them as IRA members. It was believed for many years that members of the British intelligence services were involved in the attack, a claim that was confirmed by the Historical Enquiries Team report in 2011.

Births: English DJ and musician Norman ‘Fatboy Slim’ Cook (1963).
Deaths: ‘They Live’ & ‘Always Sunny’ actor and professional wrestler ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper (2015).
Holidays: Ka Hae Hawaiʻi Day (Hawaii, USA).


(You can read previous editions of ‘This Week in History’ by clicking here. You can also follow me on FacebookTwitterInstagram and now Medium for the latest news & updates related to my writing)

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