(Copyright 2004, Literary Liaisons, Ltd.  DO NOT REPRODUCE or distribute without permission.) 

For a more comprehensive list, including a Year by Year timeline, see our Research Guide.

Dec 1st. . .

1135--Stephen of Blois claimed the English throne upon the death of his uncle, Henry I.

1252--Blanche of Castile, Queen of France, died.

1581--Edward Campion (later St. Edward) and three other Jesuits were martyred.  He was tried on a charge of treason for promoting Catholicism and hanged in London this day.

1640--The Spanish were driven out of Portugal and the country regained its independence.

1761--Madame Marie Tussaud, French waxworks modeler, born in Switzerland.

1768--The Royal Academy of Arts was founded in London. 

1844--Queen Alexandra, wife of Edward VII and eldest daughter of King Christian of Denmark, born.

1887--Beeton's Christmas Annual went on sale on or about this day with "A Study in Scarlet" by A. Conan Doyle which first introduced the detective, Sherlock Holmes.


Dec 2nd. . .

1547--Hernan Cortes, Spanish conqueror of Mexico, died.

1594--Gerhardus Mercator, Belgian-born map maker, died.

1697--The rebuilt St. Paul's Cathedral, the work of Sir Christopher Wren, was opened.

1804--Napoleon was crowned Emperor in Paris by Pope Pius VII.

1805--Napoleon defeated the Austro-Russian force at the Battle of Austerlitz.

1814--Marquis de Sade, French novelist after whom sadism is named, died in the asylum at Charenton.

1823--U.S. President James Monroe's Monroe Doctrine was proclaimed, opposing foreign interference in U.S. politics. 

1859--Georges Seraut, French painter and a founder of the Neo-Impressionist school, born.

1859--John Brown, militant U.S. anti-slavery campaigner, hanged for his attack on the Federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry.


Dec 3rd. . .

1552--Francis Xavier, Jesuit missionary who was canonized in 1622, born.

1596--Niccolo Amati, Italian violinmaker, born.

1660--Margaret Hughes became the first professional actress to appear on the British stage when she played Desdemona in The Moor of Venice.

1753--Samuel Crompton, English inventor of the spinning-mule, born.

1795--Sir Rowland Hill, English postal pioneer who invented the idea of the Penny Post, born.

1818--Illinois became the 21st state of the Union.

1820--Thomas Beecham, English manufacturer and inventor of Beecham's pills, born.

1836--Three people died at Great Corby, near Carlisle in Cumbria, in the first fatal railway accident.

1857--Joseph Conrad, English author of Lord Jim, born in Poland. 

1894--Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish author of Treasure Island, died.


Dec 4th. . .

1154--The only Englishman to become a pope, Nicholas Breakspear, became Adrian IV.

1642--Cardinal Richelieu, French statesman and chief minister to King Louis XIII, died.

1732--John Gay, English playwright of The Beggar's Opera, died.

1791--The Observer, Britain's oldest Sunday newspaper, was first published.

1795--Thomas Carlyle, Scottish historian and writer, born.

1835--Samuel Butler, English satirical novelist of Erewhon, born.

1850--William Sturgeon, English physicist who built the first electromagnet, died.

1861--Lillian Russell, leading U.S. singer and actress, born.

1865--Edith Cavell, English nurse in Brussels who was accused of helping Allied soldiers escape, born. 

1875--Edgar Wallace, English thriller writer, born.


Dec 5th. . .

1766--The founder of the famous auctioneers, James Christie, held his first sale in London.

1782--Martin van Buren, 8th U.S. President, born.

1791--Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Austrian composer, died from typhus.  A pauper, he was buried in an unmarked grave with several others.

1830--Christina Rossetti, English poet, born.

1839--George Armstrong Custer, U.S. cavalry commander, born.

1839--The postage rate in Britain was changed to a standard charge of 4d a half ounce instead of being charged by distance.

1870--Alexandre Dumas pere, French author of The Count of Monte Cristo, died.

1872--The Marie Celeste was found abandoned, drifting in the Atlantic with a cargo of alcohol.  The captain and crew were never heard from again.


Dec 6th. . .

1421--Henry VI, youngest King of England to accede the throne (296 days), born.

1492--Christopher Columbus discovered Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican republic).

1732--Warren Hastings, first Governor General of Bengal, born.

1774--Austria became the first nation to introduce a state education system.

1778--Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac, French physicist and chemist who made balloon ascents to the weather, born.

1793--Madame du Barry, mistress of Louis XV of France, died by the guillotine for having wasted treasure of the state.

1863--Charles Martin Hall, U.S. chemist who pioneered the manufacture of aluminum, born.

1877--Thomas Alva Edison recited 'Mary Had a Little Lamb' into his Phonograph and made the world's first recording of a human voice.

1882--Anthony Trollope, English novelist of the Barsetshire Chronicles, died.


Dec 7th. . .

43BC--Cicero, Roman orator and opponent of Mark Antony, born.

1598--Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Italian sculptor, architect and painter, born.

1732--The first Covent Garden Opera House, then called the Theatre Royal, opened in London.

1783--William Pitt, the Younger, became the youngest British Prime Minister at age 24.

1787--Delaware became the first U.S. state.

1815--Marshal Ney, French soldier, was shot for high treason after supporting Napoleon when he was originally instructed to arrest him.

1817--William Bligh, rear-Admiral who was captain of the HMS Bounty at the time of the mutiny, died.

1863--Pietro Mascagni, Italian composer, born.

1876--Willa Cather, American authoress and Pulitzer Prize winner, born.

1889--The first performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Gondoliers, took place at the Savoy in London.


Dec 8th. . .

65BC--Horace, Roman poet, born.

1542--Mary, Queen of Scots, born.  Note: Some sources list her actual date of birth as December 7, however Mary herself referred to the 8th as her official birthday.

1765--Eli Whitney, U.S. inventor who patented the cotton gin, born.

1841--Prince Albert Edward, later Kind Edward VII, became the Prince of Wales.

1854--Pope Pius IX declared the dogma of the Immaculate conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary to be an article of faith.

1859--Thomas de Quincey, English author of Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, born.

1863--The world's first heavyweight boxing championship too place at Woodhurst, Kent.

1864--The Clifton Suspension Bridge over the River Avon at Bristol, designed by Brunel, was opened.

1894--James Thurber, U.S. humorist, writer and cartoonist, born.


Dec 9th. . .

1594--Gustavus II, King of Sweden, born.

1608--John Milton, English poet of Paradise Lost, born.

1641--Sir Anthony van Dyke, Flemish painter at the court of Charles I, died.

1783--The first executions took place in Newgate Prison.

1814--Joseph Brahmah, English inventor of the beer pump, born.

1847--George Grossmith, English actor and entertainer, born.

1848--Joel Chandler Harris, U.S. author of the classic Uncle Remus tales, born.

1868--Gladstone became the Prime Minister for the first time.

1886--Clarence Birdseye, U.S. inventor of a process to deep-freeze foodstuffs in small packages for retailing, born.


Dec 10th. . .

1495--Hans Memling, Flemish painter of portraits and religious subjects, born.

1787--Thomas Gallaudet, American educator of the deaf, born.

1817--Mississippi became the 20th state of the Union.

1819--Count Felice Orsini, Italian political activist who was a member of a group trying to assassinate Napoleon III, born.

1822--Cesar Auguste Franck, Belgian composer, born.

1830--Emily Dickinson, U.S. poet who published only seven of her 800 poems in her lifetime, born.

1845--Civil engineer Robert Thompson patented pneumatic tires in London.

1851--Melvil Dewey, U.S. librarian who devised the library cataloguing system which bears his name, born.

1868--Whitaker's Almanac was published for the first time.

1896--Alfred Bernhard Nobel, Swedish chemist who made a fortune from his invention of dynamite and founded the Nobel prize, died.


Dec 11th. . .

1282--Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, prince of Gwynnedd in northern Wales, and the only native to be recognized by the English as the Prince of Wales, died.

1475--Giovanni de Medici, who as Pope Leo X excommunicated Martin Luther, born.

1688--James II was forced to abdicate after William of Orange had landed in England on November 5.

1757--Charles Wesley, English composer and organist, born.

1769--Venetian blinds were patented by Edward Beran of London.

1781--Sir David Brewster, Scottish physicist who did work with optics and polarized lights, born.

1803--Hector Berlioz, French composer, born.

1810--Alfred de Musset, French poet, novelist and playwright, born.

1816--Indiana became the 19th State of the Union.

1894--In Paris, the first motor show opened.  There were nine exhibitors.


Dec 12th. . .

1724--Admiral Samuel Hood, first Viscount, British naval commander, born.

1731--Erasmus Darwin, English scientist and poet, born.

1786--Carl Maria von Weber, German composer, born.

1787--Pennsylvania became the second state of the Union.

1800--Washington D.C. became the permanent home of the U.S. government.

1821--Gustave Flaubert, French novelist of Madame Bovary, born.

1837--John Richard Green, British historian and librarian of Lambeth Palace, born.

1863--Edvard Munch, Norwegian painter of The Scream, born.

1889--Robert Browning, English poet of 'The Ring and the Book', died.


Dec 13th. . .

1577--Francis Drake set sail from Plymouth in the Golden Hind on his circumnavigation of the world.

1642--Abel Tasman, Dutch navigator, sighted New Zealand, but several of his men were killed when he attempted to land.

1730--Sir William Hamilton, English diplomat and husband of Emma, Lady Hamilton, Lord Nelson's mistress, born.

1784--Dr. Samuel Johnson, English writer and dictionary compiler, died.

1797--Heinrich Heine, German Romantic poet and writer, born.

1816--Ernst Werner von Siemens, German inventor and founder with his brothers of the Siemens electrical firm, born.

1847--On or about this day, Wuthering Heights by Ellis Bell (Emily Bronte) was published, as was Agnes Grey by Acton Bell (Anne Bronte).

1878--The Holborn Viaduct in London was illuminated by electricity, the first street lighting in Britain.


Dec 14th. . .

1503--Nostradamus, French astrologer and physician who published his book of prophecies, born.

1546--Tycho Brahe, Danish astronomer and mathematician, born.

1553--Henry IV, called Henry of Navarre, King of France, born.

1799--George Washington, first U.S. president, died.

1819--Alabama became the 22nd state of the Union.

1861--Prince Albert, consort to Queen Victoria, died of typhoid fever.

1866--Roger Fry, English painter who coined the phrase 'Post-Impressionism', born.

1895--King George VI, second son of George V and Mary, born.


Dec 15th. . .

37AD--Nero, fifth Roman emperor, born.

1654--A meteorological office established in Tuscany began recording daily temperature readings.

1675--Jan Vermeer, Dutch painter, died.

1683--Izaak Walton, English author of The Compleat Angler, died.

1734--George Romney, English portrait painter, born.

1832--Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, French engineer who built the landmark that bears his name for the Paris Exhibition of 1899, born.

1840--The remains of Napoleon returned from St. Helena were interred at Les Invalides, Paris.

1859--Dr. Lazarus Zamenof, Polish oculist and linguist, born.

1888--Maxwell Anderson, U.S. playwright of What Price Glory, born.

1890--Chief Sitting Bull, Sioux Indian, died.


Dec 16th. . .

1485--Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII, born.

1653--Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector of England.

1742--Gebhard Berecht von Blucher, Prussian general, born.

1770--Ludwig von Beethoven, German composer and pianist, born.

1773--Taxes by Britain on tea and other commodities led Samuel Adams and his 'Sons of Liberty' to toss tea chests into Boston Harbor.

1775--Jane Austen, English novelist of Sense and Sensibility, born.

1790--Leopold I, King of Belgium, born.

1809--Napoleon divorced his wife Josephine to marry Marie Louise, daughter of the Hapsburg Emperor.

1838--The Boers defeated the Zulus at the Battle of the Blood River.

1850--The first immigrant ship, the Charlotte Jane, arrived at Lyttleton, New Zealand.

1853--Santa Anna became dictator of Mexico.

1859--Wilhelm Grimm, German folklorist, died.


Dec 17th. . .

1619--Prince Rupert, nephew of Charles I and generalissimo of the royalist army, born.

1749--Domenico Cimarosa, Italian composer, born.

1778--Sir Humphrey Davy, English chemist and inventor of the miner's safety lamp, born.

1807--John Greenleaf Whittier, American Quaker poet, born.

1830--Simon Bolivar, South American revolutionary leader, died.

1843--A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens was published.

1849--Thomas and William Bowler, felt hatmakers, sold their first bowler to William Coke.

1874--William Lyon Mackenzie King, three-times Prime Minister of Canada, born.

1892--The Nutcracker with music by Tchaikovsky, was performed for the first time at St. Petersburg.


Dec 18th. . .

1707--Charles Wesley, English hymn writer and evangelist, born.

1737--Antonio Stradivari, Italian violin maker, died.

1779--Joseph Grimaldi, English pantomimist who created the white-faced clown known ever since as a 'Joey', born.

1786--Carl Maria von Weber, German composer, born.

1787--New Jersey became the third state of the Union.

1835--William Frederick Yeames, English historical painter, born.

1856--Sir Joseph Thomson, English physicist, born.

1861--Lionel Monckton, English composer of musical comedies, born.

1865--The U.S. officially abolished slavery with the ratification of the 13th Amendment.

1879--Paul Klee, Swiss painter, born.


Dec 19th. . .

1154--Henry II became King of England.

1562--The French wars of Religion between the Huguenots and the Catholics began with the battle of Dreux.

1741--Vitus Jonassen Bering, Danish-born explorer, died of scurvy when his ship was wrecked on the shore of Bering Island.

1777--George Washington went into winter quarters at Valley Forge.

1790--Sir William Edward Parry, English sailor and Arctic explorer, born.

1848--Emily Bronte, English novelist of Wuthering Heights, died at age 30 from tuberculosis.

1851--Joseph William Turner, English land and seascape painter, died.

1852--Albert Abraham Michelson, first American scientist to be awarded the Nobel prize, born.

1863--Linoleum was patented by Frederick Walton of London.

1886--Tyrus Cobb, American baseball player, born.


Dec 20th. . .

1590--Ambroise Pare, French surgeon and founder of scientific surgery, died.

1803-- France formally transfers authority over the territory of Louisiana to the United States.

1804--A new game, 'Emulation' was published, in which the player had to pass through various virtues and vices, eventually reaching the center where 'Virtue was its own reward'.  It never caught on.

1805--Thomas Graham, Scottish chemist who discovered the principle of dialysis, born.

1860--George Galvin, English music-hall artist known as Dan Leno, born.

1860--South Carolina becomes the first Southern state to secede from the United States.

1868--Harvey Samuel Firestone, American manufacturer of rubber products, born.

1894--Sir Robert Menzies, Australian Prime Minister, born.


Dec 21st. . .

1375--Giovanni Bocaccio, Italian author of the Decameron, died.

1620-- The Pilgrim Fathers in the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts.

1719--The first edition of the Boston Gazette was published.

1804--Benjamin Disraeli, first Earl of Beaconsfield, British Prime Minister and novelist, born.

1846--Robert Liston used anesthetic (ether) for the first time in a British operation at University College Hospital, London to perform an amputation of a leg.

1879--The first performance of Isben's A Doll's House at the Royal Theatre, Copenhagen, took place, but with a specially revised happy ending to oblige the leading lady.

1880--An act passed by the House of Keys on the Isle of Man granted women the vote, provided they were widows or spinsters with a property rated annually at 4 pounds sterling or over.

1879--Joseph Stalin, Russian revolutionary, born.


Dec 22nd. . .

1639--Jean Racine, French playwright, was baptized.

1715--James Stuart, the Old Pretender, landed at Peterhead to lead a Jacobite rebellion which failed.

1767--John Newberry, English publisher of small storybooks for children, died.

1839--John Nevil Maskelyne, English magician who advanced modern presentation of magic, born.

1858--Giacomo Puccini, Italian composer of popular operas such as La Boheme, born.

1864--Savannah, Georgia fell to General Sherman's Union troops in the American Civil War.

1877--Liquid oxygen was formulated by Raoul Pictet of Geneva.

1880--George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), English author of The Mill on the Floss, died.

1895--Rontgen made the first radiographic or x-ray of his wife's hand.


Dec 23rd. . .

1732--Sir Richard Arkwright, English inventor of the 'spinning frame', born.

1777--Alexander I, Tsar of Russia, born.

1790--Jean-Francois Champollion, French Egyptologist who deciphered the Rosetta Stone, born.

1805--Joseph Smith, U.S. leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, born.

1810--Karl Richard Lepsius, German Egyptologist, born.

1812--Samuel Smiles, English author of Self Help, born.

1827--'Lord' George Sanger, English circus proprietor, born.

1834--English architect Joseph Hansom patented his 'safety cab', better known as the Hansom cab.

1848--The London Illustrated News published the first Christmas supplement with advice on 'making the Christmas pudding'.

1888--Vincent Van Gogh, suffering severe depression, cut off his ear.


Dec 24th. . .

1167--King John of England, who was forced by the barons to sign the Magna Carta, born.

1524--Vasco da Gama, Portuguese navigator, died in India.

1582--Water piped to private houses by the London Bridge Waterworks began flowing.

1491--Ignatius Loyola, Spanish soldier and religious convert who formed the Jesuits, born.

1809--Kit Carson, U.S. frontiersman, trapper and scout, born.

1814--The War of 1812 between the U.S. and Britain was brought to an end with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent.

1818--The first performance of the song 'Silent Night', was at a church in Obertsdorf, Bavaria.

1818--James Prescott Joule, English physicist, born.

1828--The trial of William Burke, body-snatcher, began in Edinburgh.

1851--Part of the Capitol building in Washington and the entire Library of Congress was destroyed by fire.

1871--The first performance of Verdi's opera Aida was presented in Cairo.


Dec 25th. . .

1066--William the Conqueror was crowned at Westminster Abbey.

1176--The first eisteddfod (festival of the arts) took place at Cardigan Castle.

1642--Sir Isaac Newton, English mathematician and founder of modern physics, born.

1741--The Centigrade temperature scale was devised by Anders Celsius and incorporated into a Delisle thermometer in Sweden.

1771--Dorothy Wordsworth, sister of English romantic poet, William, born.

1800--The first Christmas tree in Britain was erected at Queen's Lodge, Windsor by the German-born Queen Charlotte.

1864--The traditional swim in the ice-cold Serpentine in London's Hyde Park was initiated.

1866--The U.S. yacht Henrietta sailed in to Cowes harbour, Isle of Wight, the winner of the first transatlantic yacht race.

1887--Conrad Hilton, U.S. hotelier who founded one of the largest groups in the world, born.


Dec 26th. . .

1716--Thomas Gray, English poet, born.

1717--The traditional starting day for English pantomimes, the first, Harlequin Executed, was presented at Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre, London.

1734--George Romney, English portrait and historical painter, born.

1776--The Battle of Trenton took place in the American War for Independence.

1792--Charles Babbage, English inventor of a calculating machine, born.

1806--The advance of Napoleon's army was checked by the Russians at the battle of Pultusk.

1822--Dion Boucicault, Irish actor and playwright, born.

1890--Heinrich Schliemann, German archeologist who discovered Troy, died.

1891--Henry Miller, American novelist of Tropic of Cancer, born.

1898--Marie and Pierre Curie discovered radium while experimenting with pitchblende.


Dec 27th. . .

1571--Johannes Kepler, German astronomer who discovered and confirmed Copernicus's theory that the earth and planets circle around the sun, born.

1773--Sir George Cayley, English pioneer of the study of aerodynamics, born.

1800--Sir John Goss, English organist at St. Paul's, born.

1822--Louis Pasteur, French chemist and bacteriologist who developed a vaccine for rabies, born.

1831--Charles Darwin set sail in the Beagle from Plymouth on his voyage of scientific discovery.

1834--Charles Lamb, English poet and essayist, died.

1879--Sydney Greenstreet, English actor, born.


Dec 28th. . .

1694--Queen Mary II of England died from small pox, leaving William III to reign alone.

1708--Charles Wesley, English Methodist preacher and hymn writer, born.

1734--Rob Roy (Robert Macgregor), legendary Scottish Robin Hood immortalized by Sir Walter Scott, died.

1832--John C. Calhoun resigned from his office as Vice President, citing political differences with President Andrew Jackson.  He was the first vice president in U.S. history to do so.

1846--Iowa became the 29th state of the Union.

1856--Woodrow Wilson, 28th U.S. president, born.

1860--Wilson Steer, English painter, born.

1879--The Tay railway bridge collapsed when the Edinburgh to Dundee train was crossing.  The engine and carriages plummeted into the icy river below, killing 90 people.

1882--Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, English astronomer, born.


Dec 29th. . .

1170--St. Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered in his cathedral by four knights on the orders of Henry II.

1720--The Theatre Royal, Haymarket, opened.

1721--Jeanne Antoinette, Marquise de Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV, born.

1766--Charles Macintosh, Scottish chemist and inventor of waterproof clothing, born.

1800--Charles Goodyear, U.S. inventor of vulcanized rubber, born.

1808--Andrew Johnson, 17th U.S. President, born.

1809--William Gladstone, four-times British Prime Minister, born.

1813--Alexander Parkes, English chemist and inventor of celluloid, born.

1845--Texas became the 28th state of the Union.

1860--The first iron-clad screw-driven British warship, HMS Warrior, was launched.


Dec 30th. . . 

1460--At the battle of Wakefield in the War of the Roses, the Duke of York was defeated and killed by the Lancastrians.

1672--The first public concert was held in London.  The musicians performed behind a curtain while patrons ate cakes and drank ale.

1853--The Gadsen Purchase outlining a new boundary treaty between Mexico and the United States, was ratified.

1865--Rudyard Kipling, English author of The Jungle Book, born in India.

1867--Simon Guggenheim, American capitalist and philanthropist, born.

1879--The first performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance was at Paignton, Devon.

1880--The first iron-clad screw-driven British warship, HMS Warrior, was launched.

1880--Transvaal became a republic with Paul Kruger as the first president.

1887--A petition addressed to Queen Victoria, with over one million women's signatures, asked for public houses to be closed on Sundays.

1894--Amelia Jenks Bloomer, U.S. social reformer, died.


Dec 31st. . .

1491--Jacques Cartier, French navigator who explored the St. Lawrence river, born.

1687--The first Huguenots set sail from France for the Cape of Good Hope where they would escape religious prosecution.

1695--The window tax was imposed in Britain which resulted in many being bricked up.

1720--Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Young Pretender, born in Rome.

1738--Charles Cornwallis, British soldier whose surrender to George Washington ended the War of Independence, born.

1805--The French Revolutionary calendar, which had been in use since 1793, was last used officially.

1815--George Gordon Meade, American soldier who defeated Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg, born.

1860--John Thompson, American soldier who invented the tommy-gun, born.

1869--Henri Matisse, French painter, born.

1890--Ellis Island in New York was opened as the immigration depot to handle the 'huddled masses'.