History and the Everlasting Present
History is infinite, Culture diffuse. To aid our sense of perspective, however, to use the past to process the everlasting present, we have to start somewhere; a sketch, in linear fashion, with what we think are key (often approximate) dates, including taking ‘B.C.’ (sorry, we still prefer ‘BC’ and ‘AD’) as modern year zero, rather than 4 years before. Needless to say, this is a work in progress. ‘Years ago’ based on year of first publication – 2019.
Too long ago to tell – Fire. The first cave art. Harvest of wheat and grains. The Wheel.
7000 years ago
Egypt develops its line of Pharaohs under the Old Kingdom.
6500 years ago
Sumeria: first cities, organised agriculture; the written word; First Empire and a Tower like that of Babel. Dravidian civilisation in India.
4500 years ago
First Chinese Emperors appear; Minos founded; The Amorites make a Mesopotamia and create a great city in Babylon: King Hammurabi creates the first code of laws. Tribes forming in Britain. The Greeks are starting to stir.
4000 years ago
Iberians and Celts in Britain (see below). Initial development of Mayan civilisation. Horses agree to let men ride them. The Epic of Gilgamesh develops the idea of an ark of salvation.
3500 years ago
Shang Dynasty in China; Egypt’s liberation from foreign control: the New Kingdom. Moses leads his people out. Shiva meanwhile directs its Indo-European believers to southern Asia.
3000 years ago
Assyrians, having battled Hittites et al, take over Babylon as a sister city to Ninevah, but their relentless search for growth is stopped to the north by Arameans (now Syria) and to the south (Egypt) by plague. Carthage built. Rameses II (pictured) becomes Ozymandias. Chow Dynasty in China.
2772 years ago – (753BC) Rome built (it took more than a day).
2599 years ago – (570BC) Pythagorus born. Laozi writes (maybe) the Tao-te Ching.
2542 years ago – (523BC) Æschylus born.
2514 years ago – (495BC) Sophocles born.
2509 years ago – (490BC) Battle of Marathon – (below) the Persians control the Cyclades but Greece drives Darius and Co. from mainland Greece.
2503 years ago – (484BC) Herodotus, the first historian, born.
2500 years ago – (481BC)
Chaldean Empire takes control of Babylon (below) under Nebuchadnezzar the Great, which gives way to the Persian Empire under Cyrus. Cities, money, trade. The Iliad and The Odyssey are bestsellers. Buddha’s about, and Confucius. Gods come and go.
2499 years ago – (480BC) The Greeks turn the Persians back again, losing at Thermopylæ but winning at Salamis. Pericles runs Greece and oversees a golden age of plastic and written art. Euripides born. Persian King Xerxes, meanwhile, licking his wounds, is murdered.
2469 years ago – (450BC) Aristophones, playwright and inventor of literary criticsim, born.
2457 years ago – (438BC) Parthenon completed.
2450 years ago – (431BC) Peloponnesian War – Greeks v Spartans (for 27 years).
2446 years ago – (427BC) Plato, forbear of philosophy students everywhere, is born.
2445 years ago – (426BC) Andromache by Euripides.
2444 years ago – (425BC) Oedipus Rex by Sophocles.
2434 years ago – (415BC) The Trojan Women by Euripides: “For, from his home beneath Parnassus, Phocian Epeus, aided by the craft of Pallas, framed a horse to bear within its womb an armed host, and sent it within the battlements, fraught with death; whence in days to come men shall tell of ‘the wooden horse,’ with its hidden load of warriors.”
2425 years ago – (406BC)The Bacchae, last play of Euripides.
2420 years ago – (401BC) Thucydides dies, leaving behind his great History of the Peloponnesian War.
2406 years ago – (387BC) Plato starts his school (depicted here in Raphael‘s painting).
2375 years ago – (356BC) Alexander the Great (below), who ran out of worlds to conquer, tutored by Aristotle, succeeds his father, Philip of Macedon.
2319 years ago – (300BC) Epicurus develops his principled but hedonistic philosophy. Ptolemy builds his museum.
2299-2298 years ago – (280BC) Pyrrhic victories against the Romans at Heraclea and Asculum.
2283 years ago – (264BC) 118 years of war start between Rome and Carthage (the Punic Wars).
2269 years ago – (c.250BC) King Asoka conquers all but then spurns violence.
2233 years ago – (214BC) They start to built a big wall in China (and it doesn’t work).
2225 years ago – (206BC) Aristarchus of Samos devises the heliocentric model. Everyone laughs ’til Copernicus proves it right 700 odd years later.
2125 years ago – (106BC) Cicero born.
2092 years ago – (73BC) Everyone is Spartacus.
2079 years ago – (60BC) The Roman Triumvirate formed with Julius Caesar, Pompey and Crassus.
2063 years ago – (44BC) Julius Caesar is stabbed in the forum, and the oesophagus, and the stomach.
2060 years ago – (41BC) Eclogues by Virgil.
2057 years ago – (38BC) Creation of the Laocoön.
2054 years ago – (35BC) Horace’s Satires.
2050 years ago – (31BC) Battle of Actium ends Cleopatra and Marc Anthony and paves the way for the Roman Empire.
2049 years ago – (30BC) Virgil’s Georgics.
2038 years ago – (19BC) The Aeneid.
2019 (really 2023 or so) years ago – (0BC) Jesus of Nazareth born.
2018 years ago – (1AD) Ovid on The Art of Love.
2005 years ago – (14) Emperor Tiberius, starting a nasty line of Roman rulers.
1989 years ago – (30)The Crucifixion (Grünewald’s version below).
1980 years ago – (39) Lucan born.
1956 years ago – (63) Seneca’s Epistles.
1955 years ago – (64) Emperor Nero fiddles about while Rome burns.
1953 years ago – (66) Satyricon by Petronius.
1946 years ago – (73) Mass suicide at Masada.
1940 years ago – (79) Natural History by Pliny the Elder. Pompeii conflagration.
1919 years ago – (100) Romans build the aqueduct at Segovia.
1904 years ago – (115) Tacitus writes his bloody history of the Emperors.
1899 years ago – (120) Plutarch’s Lives.
1898 years ago – (121) Suetonius writes his even bloodier history of the Caesars.
1893 years ago – (126) Juvenal’s Satires.
1858 years ago – (161) Emperor Marcus Aurelius (see below) increases the calibre of Roman Emperors, but his rule is accompanied by a Great Plague, and after him, things get worse.
1830 years ago – (189) Column of Marcus Aurelius completed in Rome.
1799 years ago – (220) Han dynasty in China ends (and for China, ends badly). But a cup of tea is now popular.
1707 years ago – (312) Battle of the Milvian Bridge – Constantine sees a cross in the sky with in hoc signo vinces (by this sign you will conquer).
1705 years ago – (314) Emperor Constantine decides the Christians aren’t so bad; lightens up on them and stops throwing them to the lions.
1665 years ago – (354) St Augustine, key philosopher of Christianity, born. ‘Make me chaste, but not yet…’
1622 years ago – (397) Augustine writes his Confessions.
1600 odd years ago – (419) Vandals and Visigoths make plenty trouble for the grandeur that was Rome.
1564 years ago – (455) The Vandals sack Rome.
1538 years ago – (481) The Merovingian Kings wend in to power in France and thereafter wend their way out to eternity…
1526 years ago – (493)The Goths (and later, the Lombards) control Italy.
1497 years ago – (522) While in prison, Boethius writes The Consolation of Philosophy.
1491 years ago – (528) One of the vilest Kings ever, Mihiragula, is overthrown in India.
1449 years ago – (570) Mohammad born.
1409 years ago – (610) Heraclius insinuates Greek culture in Byzantium.
1397 years ago – (622) Mohammad leaves Mecca for Medina.
1387 years ago – (632) Mohammad dies, starting a long spat among the family.
1321 years ago – (698) Beowulf written.
1271 years ago – (748) Todai Temple at Nara, Japan, completed.
1234 years ago – (785) Great Mosque at Cordoba built.
1219 years ago – (800) Charlemagne unites Middle Ages western Europe under the Holy Roman Empire (‘neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire’).
1070 years ago – (949) A Thousand and One Nights.
1035 years ago – (984) First Astrolabe.
1019 years ago – (1000) Alhazen works out that light comes to the eye from the object.
953 years ago – (1066) William the Conqueror in England.
939 years ago – (1080) The Bayeux Tapestry is started.
924 years ago – (1095) The First Crusade. The Song of Roland.
904 years ago – (1115) Héloïse (see below)& Abelard have a fling, demonstrating that men and women of the cloth are flesh and blood.
899 years ago – (1120) The Rubaiyat.
893 years ago – (1126) Averroes born.
882 years ago – (1137) Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain.
879 years ago – (1140) Song of the Cid.
872 years ago – (1147) The Second Crusade (and they’re not doing much good).
856 years ago – (1163) Work starts on Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
849 years ago – (1170) Thomas Becket is murdered in Canterbury Cathedral.
834 years ago – (1185) Oxford University up and running.
832-833 years ago – (1187) The Third Crusade; Saladin captures Jerusalem.
817 years ago – (1202) The Fourth Crusade (!?!)
809 years ago – (1210) Tristan und Isolde.
804 years ago – (1215) Magna Carta. Genghis Khan occupies Beijing.
799 years ago – (1220) The centre of Persian Ceramics is destroyed by Mongols.
798 years ago – (1221) The Fifth Crusade (this is getting ridiculous).
797 years ago – (1222) Snorri Sturluson writes The Edda.
794 years ago – (1225) Thomas Aquinas born. (“Beware of the person of one book.”)
793 years ago – (1226) St Francis of Assisi dies.
792 years ago – (1227) Genghis Khan (see below) dies. They would find his grave (possibly) 792 years later.
791 years ago – (1228) The Sixth Crusade.
782 years ago – (1237) The Romance of the Rose.
775 years ago – (1244) The Seventh Crusade (Lucky last).
774 years ago – (1245) Bacon’s work on Aristotle.
759 years ago – (1260) Kublai Khan brings some decency to Chinese governance; gets ready to host Marco Polo (perhaps).
754 years ago – (1265) Dante born.
753 years ago – (1266) Giotto born (see painting below). Early stirrings of the Renaissance.
746 years ago – (1273) The Alhambra Palace in Spain.
744 years ago – (1275) Marco Polo presents at the Court of Kublai Khan (or says he did).
739 years ago – (1280) Cimabue paints Madonna Enthroned by Angels.
726 years ago – (1293) Roger Bacon, idealiser of experimental science, dies.
715 years ago – (1304) Petrarch’s Life.
710 years ago – (1309) The ‘Anti-Popes’ set up shop at Avignon, leading later to the Great Schism.
709 years ago – (1310) Building begins on the Doge’s Palace in Venice (finished 55 years later).
698 years ago – (1321) Dante dies, leaving behind his great work, The Divine Comedy.
674 years ago – (1345) Notre Dame completed.
671 years ago – (1348) The Black Death. Bloodletting the popular cure.
667 years ago – (1352) First King of the Aztecs crowned.
666 years ago – (1353) Boccaccio’s The Decameron.
665 years ago – (1354) Rienzi killed in Rome, providing Richard Wagner with his first big opera idea (below).
651 years ago – (1368) The Mongol Empire falls in China; the Ming Dynasty starts.
650 years ago – (1369) Tamerlane the Great.
638 years ago – (1381) Wat Tyler leads a peasant revolt in England that ends badly for him.
636 years ago – (1383) Noh theatre developed in Japan.
633 years ago – (1386) Donatello born.
632 years ago – (1387) The Canterbury Tales.
604 years ago – (1415) Agincourt.
600 years ago – (1419) Brunelleschi invents early Renaissance architecture.
599 years ago – (1420) Jan & Hubert van Eyck revivify the ancient art of painting in oils.
587 years ago – (1432) The Ghent Altarpiece.
585 years ago – (1434) The Arnolfini Portrait.
584 years ago – (1435) van der Weyden’s Descent From the Cross.
583 years ago – (1436) The Brunelleschi cathedral dome at Florence (below) is completed.
573 years ago – (1446) The first printed books (Gutenberg, Coster).
567 years ago – (1452) Leonardo da Vinci born.
566 years ago – (1453) The Ottoman Turks capture Constantinople – last vestige of the Roman Empire giveth way to new.
564 years ago – (1455) War of the Roses begins its 30 year course.
549 years ago – (1470) Le Morte d’ Arthur written.
548 years ago – (1471) Albrecht Dürer born.
544 years ago – (1475) Michelangelo born.
542 years ago – (1477) Spanish Inquisition established.
536 years ago – (1483) The Princes in the Tower of London ‘disappear’. Botticelli’s Venus and Mars. Raphael born.
534 years ago – (1485) Richard III killed at the Battle of Bosworth.
533 years ago – (1486) Bartolomeu Diaz of Portugal sails around the Cape of Good Hope.
527 years ago – (1492) Columbus crosses the Atlantic.
521 years ago – (1498) Vasco da Gama sails from Portugal to India. The Incas build Machu Picchu (see below). Michelangelo’s a Pietà.
520 years ago – (1499) Switzerland becomes an independent republic.
519 years ago – (1500) Birth of Cellini. Ship of Fools by Hieronymus Bosch.
516 years ago – (1503) Work started on the Mona Lisa.
511 years ago – (1508) Giorgione’s The Tempest.
508 years ago – (1511) In Praise of Folly by Erasmus. Art biographer Giorgio Vasari born.
506 years ago – (1513) Machiavelli writes The Prince. Michelangelo starts on his Moses statue.
504 years ago – (1515) Henry VIII appoints Thomas Wolsey cardinal and Lord Chancellor. He commissions Hampton Court.
503 years ago – (1516) More’s Utopia. Orlando Furioso. Titian paints The Assumption at Venice.
502 years ago – (1517) Martin Luther pins up a list of grievances concerning Catholic practices, starting The Reformation.
501 years ago – (1518) Tintoretto born; goes for baroque.
500 years ago – (1519) Cortez brings trouble to Mexico and the South Americas. Magellan starts the first circumnavigation of the world, but won’t live to finish it.
499 years ago – (1520) Suleiman the Magnificent becomes Sultan till 1566, building the great Ottoman Empire.
496 years ago – (1523) Hans Holbein jnr. paints Erasmus. Hans Sachs writes the Wittenberg Nightingale.
491 years ago – (1528) Paolo Veronese born at Verona. Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier.
486 years ago – (1533) Holbein the Younger paints the terrifying allegory, The Ambassadors.
485 years ago – (1534) Henry VIII starts his own Reformation for personal convenience. The Jesuits form to start a Counter-Reformation, leading to the Council of Trent. Gargantua and Pantagruel by Rabelais.
484 years ago – (1535) Thomas More executed.
483 years ago – (1536) Michelangelo begins The Last Judgment. Jean Calvin disavows free will.
474 years ago – (1545) Cellini’s Autobiography. (His famous salt cellar below).
472 years ago – (1547) Ivan takes title of Czar, shows the Russians just how terrible he could be. Another dread monarch, Henry VIII, dies. Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, born.
470 years ago – (1549) Christian proselytising begins in the Americas. Palladio’s construction company is hard at work.
461 years ago – (1558) Tobacco starts appearing in Europe.
460 years ago – (1559) Catholic Church issues an Index of Prohibited Books.
458 years ago – (1561) Francis Bacon, inventor of the Scientific Method, born.
453 years ago – (1566) Nostradamus dies. He didn’t see it coming.
449 years ago – (1570) The potato spreads obesity to Europe. The First modern atlas.
448 years ago – (1571) Battle of Lepanto. Kepler born. Caravaggio born. Cellini dies.
447 years ago – (1572) Massacre of the Huguenots. John Donne, Ben Jonson born.
439 years ago – (1580) Camões dies. Palladio dies. Montaigne’s Essays. Tasso’s Aminta.
433 years ago – (1586) Elizabeth I has her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, put down. El Greco’s Burial of Count Orgaz.
431 years ago – (1588) Spanish Armada fails to invade England. But colonisation is about to reach its height.
429 years ago – (1590) Spenser starts The Faerie Queene. Arcadia by Sidney published.
427 years ago – (1592) Ruins of Pompeii found.
423 years ago – (1596) Descartes born.
422 years ago – (1597) Shakespeare’s first history plays performed.
420 years ago – (1599) Anthony van Dyck and Velasquez born. Hilliard’s Portrait of a Young Man. As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, and Julius Caesar performed. Also Henry V, possibly the first play at the new Globe Theatre.
419 years ago – (1600) Giordano Bruno burned by the Inquisition for error of thought. Landscape master Claude Lorraine born. Caravaggio’s Doubting Thomas (see below) and upside-down Crucifixion of St. Peter.
418 years ago – (1601) Hamlet performed.
415 years ago – (1604) Measure for Measure performed.
414 years ago – (1605) The Gunpowder Plot fizzles, leaving only Guy Fawkes Night in its wake. Othello performed.
412 years ago – (1607) Galileo, on a roll, having previously discovered that gravity affects everything the same way, invents the thermometer. Next year, the microscope, then a telescope. Later still, a pendulum clock. Monteverdi invents Opera.
411 years ago – (1608) John Milton born.
403 years ago – (1614) Pocahontas and John Rolfe start the Virginia tobacco trade.
404 years ago – (1615) Don Quixote completed.
403 years ago – (1616) Shakespeare and Cervantes die within a day of each other.
401 years ago – (1618)The Thirty Years’ War starts as a conflict between Catholics and Protestants and ‘degenerates’ into a fight for land and loot.
399 years ago – (1620) Mayflower pilgrims land at New Plymouth.
398 years ago – (1621) Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy.
397 years ago – (1622) Molière born.
387 years ago – (1632) Vermeer, Spinoza born.
385 years ago – (1634) First Oberammergau passion play.
384 years ago – (1635) Calderón’s Life is a Dream; van Dyck’s Charles I.
382 years ago – (1637) Descartes’ Discourse on Method.
381 years ago – (1638) Poussin’s painting Et in Arcadia Ego (see below). Japan shuts its door to foreigners for a couple of hundred years.
380 years ago – (1639) Rubens‘ Judgement of Paris.
377 years ago – (1642) Isaac Newton born. Civil War in England as The King and Parliament struggle for supremacy. In France, Cardinal Richelieu’s machinations reach their zenith. The Dutch ‘discover’ Tasmania. Rembrandt’s The Night Watch.
376 years ago – (1643) Louis XIV, The Sun King, starts his 72 year reign (under Regent).
375 years ago – (1644) End of the Ming Dynasty.
371 years ago – (1648) Claude Lorraine’s masterpiece, Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba.
370 years ago – (1649) Charles I of England loses the Civil Wars, his crown, and his head.
368 years ago – (1651) Hobbes’ Leviathan.
366 years ago – (1653) The Compleat Angler.
365 years ago – (1654) Theory of Probability.
363 years ago – (1656) Pascal’s Provincial Letters. Las Meninas. The Procuress by Vermeer.
359 years ago – (1660) Cromwell‘s death in 1658 opens the way for the English Monarchy to make a comeback. Pepy’s Diary.
354 years ago – (1665) Poussin dies. Molière’s Don Juan. Rembrandt’s The Jewish Bride. Vermeer’s The Artist’s Studio (below).
353 years ago – (1666) Great Fire of London goes hand in hand with the bubonic plague. Molière’s The Misanthrope.
352 years ago – (1667) Paradise Lost. Racine’s Andromache.
350 years ago – (1669) Rembrandt dies.
345 years ago – (1674) New Amsterdam becomes New York.
342 years ago – (1677) Spinoza’s Ethics.
341 years ago – (1678) The Pilgrim’s Progress.
339 years ago – (1680) Stradivarius makes a cello. The Comédie Française is established.
337 years ago – (1682) Halley’s comet first flashes into our consciousness.
331 years ago – (1688) The Glorious (more-or-less) Revolution in England.
330 years ago – (1689) Peter the Great (see below) starts the task of bringing Russia into the 13th century. Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas.
329 years ago – (1690)The Battle of the Boyne. Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding.
327 years ago – (1692) Salem Witch Trials.
307 years ago – (1712) Pope’s The Rape of the Lock.
305 years ago – (1714) The Monadology by Leibniz.
302 years ago – (1717) Handel’s Water Music performed on the Thames.
300 years ago – (1719) Daniel Defoe writes Robinson Crusoe.
298 years ago – (1721) Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.
294 years ago – (1725) Vico’s The New Science. Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons.
293 years ago – (1726) Gulliver’s Travels.
292 years ago – (1727) Handel’s Zadok the Priest.
284 years ago – (1735) Hogarth’s The Rake’s Progress.
280 years ago – (1739) Hume begins his Treatise on Human Nature.
279 years ago – (1740) Frederick the Great becomes King of Prussia.
278 years ago – (1741) Handel’s Messiah. Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Laclos’ Dangerous Liaisons.
271 years ago – (1748) Hume’s Essays Concerning Human Understanding. Dr Johnson works on his Dictionary.
270 years ago – (1749) Goethe born. Fielding’s Tom Jones.
269 years ago – (1750) Fanny Hill, the first porn novel.
268 years ago – (1751) Diderot commences his Encyclopaedia. Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard. Benjamin Franklin gets a charge from flying a kite. Hogarth’s Gin Lane.
265 years ago – (1754) Royal St Andrews golf club established, to drive generations of men insane.
263 years ago – (1756) The Seven Years War (the real First World War) begins. Mozart born in Salzburg.
260 years ago – (1759) Voltaire‘s Candide. The first Guinness is brewed.
259 years ago – (1760) Start of the Industrial Revolution. Tristram Shandy.
257 years ago – (1762) Catherine the Great begins her reign over Russia. Rousseau’s The Social Contract (“Man is born free but everywhere is in chains.”) Gluck’s Orfeo ed Eurydice.
256 years ago – (1763) Mozart first performs in public. First Wedgwood on tables.
254 years ago – (1765) First gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole. Fragonard’s The Swing (below).
253 years ago – (1766) Famous hater of crowds, Thomas Malthus, born.
250 years ago – (1769) Famous killer of crowds, Napoleon, born.
248 years ago – (1771) Encyclopaedia Britannica.
247 years ago – (1772) Lord Mansfield abolishes slavery in England and Wales.
246 years ago – (1773) The Boston Tea Party.
245 years ago – (1774) Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther.
244 years ago – (1775) Paul Revere’s ride; American War of Independence begins.
243 years ago – (1776) American Declaration of Independence. Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. The Illuminati formed. Klinger’s Sturm und Drang. Gibbon starts his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
240 years ago – (1779) ‘Amazing Grace.’ Gainsborough’s Blue Boy (below).
238 years ago – (1781) Effective end of American War of Independence. Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.
235 years ago – (1784) The Marriage of Figaro by Beaumarchais insinuates the Enlightenment.
234 years ago – (1785) The Affair of the Necklace.
233 years ago – (1786) Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro further insinuates the Enlightenment.
232 years ago – (1787) Mozart’s Don Giovanni and A Little Night Music.
231 years ago – (1788) Australia claimed in the name of Mad King George III, giving Great Britain somewhere else to send their undesirables.
230 years ago – (1789) French Revolution starts with the ‘storming’ of the Bastille. Declaration of the Rights of Man. Jeremy Bentham develops Utilitarianism. Blake’s Songs of Innocence.
229 years ago – (1790) Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte.
228 years ago – (1791) Sade’s Justine. Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
226 years ago – (1793) Louis XVI loses his head. Marat has his last bath.
225 years ago – (1794) Robespierre and Co. guillotined. Blake’s Songs of Experience.
224 years ago – (1795) Bonaparte starts his endless war campaigns.
221 years ago – (1798) Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey.
220 years ago – (1799) Rosetta stone unearthed. Schiller’s Wallenstein sagas staged. Goya’s Los Caprichos.
218 years ago – (1801) Paganini on tour. Beethoven‘s Moonlight Sonata.
216 years ago – (1803) Morphine identified. Elgin marbles start rolling. Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata.
214 years ago – (1805) Battle of Trafalgar (see below). Fidelio.
211 years ago – (1808) Caspar David Friedrich’s Cross in the Mountains. Beethoven’s Pastoral.
210 years ago – (1809) Washington Irving invents Santa Claus. Goya works on his Peninsular war pictures.
207 years ago – (1812) Napoleon retreats from Moscow; Tchaikovsky writes the overture (in 1880). Dickens born.
205 years ago – (1814) Jane Austen publishes Mansfield Park. First of Scott’s Waverley novels.
204 years ago – (1815) Napoleon meets his Waterloo.
201 years ago – (1818) Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage by Byron. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Ozymandias by Percy Shelley.
200 years ago – (1819) Cotton Mills and Factories Act 1819 in England – kids 9 to 12 could only work a 12 hour day. Peterloo Massacre. Raffles swans in to Singapore. Ode to a Nightingale by Keats. Schopenhauer’s World as Will and Idea. Géricault’s Raft of ‘The Medusa.’
198 years ago – (1821) Rise of Nationalism. The Greek Revolt. Napoleon poisoned. Simón Bolivar and Co. pretty much kick the Spanish out of South America. Michael Faraday strikes sparks. Death of Keats. De Quincy’s Confessions of an Opium Eater. Weber’s Der Freischütz. Constable’s The Hay wain (below).
197 years ago – (1822) Champollion translates the Rosetta Stone. Schubert fails to finish Symphony No. 8.
196 years ago – (1823) Monroe unveils his doctrine. William Webb Ellis invents rugby. Pushkin starts Eugene Onegin.
195 years ago – (1824) RSPCA formed. Byron dies for Greece. Beethoven, deaf as a post, creates the sublime Symphony No. 9 (Ode to Joy).
194 years ago – (1825) The Spirit of the Age by Hazlitt. The Betrothed by Manzoni.
192 years ago – (1827) Beethoven completes his journey. Schubert completes his Winter Journey.
190 years ago – (1829) The body snatchers: ‘Burke’s the murderer; Hare’s the thief, and Knox the boy who buys the beef.’ Balzac starts his series of novels that make up The Human Comedy.
189 years ago – (1830) Joseph Smith and The Book of Mormon. Uprising in France. Nikolai Lobachevski works on geometry and provides the basis for a Tom Lehrer song. Stendhal’s Le Rouge et le Noir.
188 years ago – (1831) Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle begins. The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Norma by Bellini at Milan.
187 years ago – (1832) Goethe completes Faust.
186 years ago – (1833) Clausewitz On War. Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony.
184 years ago – (1835) Robert Owen uses the word “socialism” in a political sense.
183 years ago – (1836) Arc de Triomphe finished.
182 years ago – (1837) Queen Victoria begins her reign. Carlyle’s history of the French Revolution.
180 years ago – (1839) Turner’s Fighting Temeraire, tugged to her last berth to be broken up.
179 years ago – (1840) Proudhon claims property is theft. Lermontov’s A Hero of our Time. Poe’s Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque.
177 years ago – (1842) Gogol’s Dead Souls. Verdi’s Nabucco.
176 years ago – (1843) Skiing invented. A Christmas Carol. The Flying Dutchman.
175 years ago – (1844) Dumas – The Three Musketeers. Turner paints the silliest painting to that time, Rain, Steam and Speed.
173 years ago – (1846) Potato famine in Ireland.
172 years ago – (1847) Chopin’s Minute Waltz. Wuthering Heights.
171 years ago – (1848) Gold fever in California. The Communist Manifesto. Vanity Fair. Pre-Raphaelites.
169 years ago – (1850) Wordsworth’s The Prelude. David Copperfield. Lohengrin (see below).
168 years ago – (1851) The Crystal Palace. Moby Dick. The Gold Rush that never ended starts in New South Wales, Australia. 1st America’s Cup. The New York Times established. Rigoletto.
167 years ago – (1852) Napoleon III becomes French Emperor. Roget’s Thesaurus published (printed / issued / brought out / produced…). Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
165 years ago – (1854) Commodore Perry opens up Japan, and inspires Madam Butterfly. A pretty pointless war in Crimea at least gives Florence Nightingale a chance to show that proper nursing is as important as proper doctoring. Thoreau’s Walden.
164 years ago – (1855) Leaves of Grass.
162 years ago – (1857) The Flowers of Evil. Madame Bovary.
161 years ago – (1858) A case of asthma cured at Lourdes. Gray’s Anatomy.
160 years ago – (1859) Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of the Species. J.S. Mill, On Liberty. A Tale of Two Cities. Turkish Bath by Ingres.
154 years ago – (1865) Gregor Mendel identifies the gene. Alice in Wonderland. Tristan und Isolde.
153 years ago – (1866) First Larousse encyclopaedia. Crime and Punishment.
152 years ago – (1867) A bad day for publishing – Das Kapital. ‘On the other hand: ”Dover Beach,” Peer Gynt.
151 years ago – (1868) The Moonstone. Die Meistersinger.
150 years ago – (1869) War and Peace. Little Women. The Ring and the Book. Das Rheingold.
149 years ago – (1870) Schliemann ‘finds’ Troy. Mendeleyev creates the periodic table. Italy unites.
148 years ago – (1871) Franco-Prussian War ends badly for France, and for Napoleon III: Germany is created. Aida.
144 years ago – (1875) Dvorák’s 5th symphony.
143 years ago – (1876) Phones and corn-flakes. Tom Sawyer. The Ring in Bayreuth.
142 years ago – (1877) First Wimbledon tennis championship. Australia beats England by 45 runs in the first test match (5 years later, the burning of a test-match wicket portrays English cricket in ashes. Subsequent test series winners between England and Australia hold the urn containing those ashes). Edison invents the record-player. Anna Karenina. Swan Lake.
139 years ago – (1880) Ned Kelly hanged (good thing too). The Brothers Karamazov. Cologne Cathedral finished. Böcklin’s Island of the Dead (below).
138 years ago – (1881) Portrait of a Lady and Washington Square by Henry James (when novels were about character). Impressionism’s wrongful turn is confirmed by Renoir’s egregious ‘Rower’s Lunch‘ and Monet’s dreary ‘Sunshine and Snow.’
133 years ago – (1886) Les Illuminations. Beyond Good and Evil. Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte. Emily Dickinson writes her last gnomic poem.
130 years ago – (1889) Strindberg’s Miss Julie. Eiffel Tower built. Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh.
129 years ago – (1890) Frazer’s The Golden Bough. Sleeping Beauty. Cavalleria rusticana. Les Troyans.
128 years ago – (1891) News from Nowhere (Morris), New Grub Street (Gissing), The Picture of Dorian Gray (Wilde), Tess of the d’Urbervilles.
126 years ago – (1893) The Master Builder. Munch’s The Scream. The New World Symphony by Dvorák.
125 years ago – (1894) Durkheim’s Rules of Sociological Method. The Jungle Book. Arms and the Man.
124 years ago – (1895) Freud’s Studies in Hysteria. Wilde’s Importance of Being Earnest is a prelude to The Danger of Suing for Libel.
123 years ago – (1896) The Seagull. A Shropshire Lad. La Bohème. Modern Olympics.
122 years ago – (1897) What Maisie Knew. Dracula. Gauguin’s Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?
120 years ago – (1899) Elgar’s Enigma Variations. Finlandia by Sibelius. Boer War starts.
119 years ago – (1900) Boxer rebellion in China. Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams. Tosca.
118 years ago – (1901) Victorian Era in British Empire gives way to the Edwardian. Australian Commonwealth created. US President McKinley assassinated.
117 years ago – (1902) The novel transmogrifies:The Admirable Crichton (Barrie) Anna of the Five Towns (Arnold Bennett) Hound of the Baskervilles (Conan Doyle) Heart of Darkness (Conrad) The Immoralist (Gide) The Wings of the Dove (James). Caruso cuts a disc; G.B. Shaw has his play (Mrs Warren’s Profession) shut down by the cops. Mahler’s 5th Symphony.
116 years ago – (1903) Wright Brothers’ Kitty Hawk flight. Miss Pankhurst starts the suffragettes in England. The Way of All Flesh, The Riddle of the Sands, The Ambassadors, The Call of the Wild.
115 years ago – (1904) Entente Cordiale galvanises a series of disastrous overlapping war agreements. Dali born. Tea bag invented. ‘Tea-bagging’ comes along later. Peter Pan. The Cherry Orchard. Nostromo. The Golden Bowl. Madam Butterfly.
114 years ago – (1905) Einstein publishes his theory of relativity. Rilke, Book of Hours. Major Barbara. The Merry Widow.
113 years ago – (1906) Dreyfus exonerated. San Francisco earthquake. Galsworthy starts his Forsyte Saga.
111 years ago – (1908) Auto-biography of a Super Tramp. A Room with a View. The Wind in the Willows. The Blue Bird by Maeterlinck. Anne of Green Gables. Klimt and Brancusi Kiss.
110 years ago – (1909) Futurism. The Robie House. V & A Museum opens.
109 years ago – (1910) Post-impressionism. Boccioni’s The City Rises (below). Sheherazade.
108 years ago – (1911) Amundsen reaches the South Pole. Scott gets there the following year (but doesn’t come back).
107 years ago – (1912) China’s Last Emperor. First, and last, voyage of the “Titanic”. Morse code adopted for 85 years. Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase # 2. Death in Venice.
104 years ago – (1913) President Taft eaten by wolves.* [*This is not true.] Gandhi imprisoned. Dr. Schweitzer starts his African hospital. Pygmalion. Le Grand Meaulnes. Proust starts remembering. Stravinsky, with Rites of Spring, starts the long, slow campaign to poison Music.
105 years ago – (1914) Start of World War I. The Vatican Cellars. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Tarzan. Wyndham Lewis starts the vorticist magazine Blast.
104 years ago – (1915) Einstein publishes his general theory of relativity. Absinthe banned in France as it causes Impressionism. Dada. Picasso’s Harlequin. D.W. Griffith’s film Birth of a Nation.
103 years ago – (1916) Holst’s The Planets. Blake’s Jerusalem set to music.
101 years ago – (1918) End of World War One. Lewis’ Tarr. Strachey’s Eminent Victorians. Bartok’s Bluebeard.
99 years ago – (1920) Agatha Christie creates Hercule Poirot.
98 years ago – (1921) Chanel # 5 created. Not as good as # 19. Women in Love. Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author. Piet Mondrian goes all square. Káta Kabanová. Pictures are getting BIG: Charlie Chaplin starts a miraculous run of Victorian sentimental comedy films with The Kid. Rudolph Valentino.
96 years ago – (1923) Mussolini takes control for real. Hitler starts putsching and shoving. Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet, Rilke’s Duino Elegies.
92 years ago – (1927) Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse. Mein Kampf. Elmer Gantry. The Jazz Singer introduces talkies; Napoleon by Abel Gance is the swan-song for silent films.
90 years ago – (1929) Valentine’s Day Massacre. The Great Depression. Penicillin. All Quiet on the Western Front, A Farewell to Arms, Berlin Alexanderplatz, Goodbye to All That, A High Wind in Jamaica, Les Enfants terribles, The Sound and the Fury. Museum of Modern Art opens in New York.
89 years ago – (1930) Gandhi makes salt. Narziss and Goldmund. The Man Without Qualities (Book One). Little Caesar with Edward G. Robinson, shows us the end of Rico and reflects actual gangsterland in the U.S. American Gothic (below).
86 years ago – (1931) Building Boom in NYC defies the Depression – Empire State Building, George Washington Bridge, Chrysler Bldg, Rockefeller Center. The Good Earth, Tropic of Cancer, Mourning Becomes Electra. Dali’s Persistence of Memory gives the world an aesthetic for the relativity of Time (i.e. melting clocks). Landowski’s Christ in Rio. Films further develop genres: Horror (Dracula, Frankenstein) Crime (M, The Public Enemy) and Comedy (City Lights, Monkey Business). A scandal and fight breaks out in Vienna at a concert by the ‘atonalists.’
87 years ago – (1932) Franklin D. Roosevelt elected U.S. President. Apart from a perennial re-painting schedule, they finish the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Journey to the End of the Night, Cold Comfort Farm, Brave New World, The Radetzky March, Black Mischief, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Grand Hotel popularises the All-Star-Cast.
85 years ago – (1934) The Night of the Long Knives. Mao’s Long March. Stalin’s Great Terror. It Happened One Night.
84 years ago – (1935) The Triumph of the Will. A Night at the Opera.
83 years ago – (1936) Spanish Civil War. Edward VIII abdicates in order to marry Wallis Simpson, described as ‘a woman climber from a boarding house in Baltimore.’ An Actor Prepares. Camille with Garbo; Show Boat with Paul Robeson.
82 years ago – (1937) George VI becomes a reluctant King of Britain. Guernica. The Rape of Nanking. The Hobbit. Berg’s Lulu. ‘Degenerate Art’ Exhibition in Munich. Lost Horizon (the good version), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pépé le Moko, The Grand Illusion.
80 years ago – (1939) Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Germany and the USSR; English authorities fail to give Lieutenant-General Noel Mason-MacFarlane permission to shoot Hitler as his 50th birthday parade passes the English military attaché’s Berlin flat; World War II begins. Einstein writes to President Roosevelt, floating the idea of an atomic bomb. Novels: The Big Sleep, Black Narcissus, Finnegan’s Wake, Goodbye to Berlin, The Grapes of Wrath, The Little Foxes, Party Going, Ten Little N*****s. Films: Gone With the Wind, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Idiot’s Delight, Stagecoach, The Wizard of Oz.
79 years ago – (1940) Churchill becomes British P.M. Germany occupies France. Dunkirk. Battle of Britain. Vera Lynn sings “We’ll Meet Again.” Rodrigo’s Aranjuez. His Girl Friday, The Great Dictator, Fantasia, The Grapes of Wrath. Darkness at Noon, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, To the Finland Station.
76 years ago – (1943) LSD found to pack a wallop. The Glass Bead Game. The Little Prince. Sartre wills existentialism to simulate a real philosophy. The Jefferson Memorial is built so far from the Mall that hardly anyone visits.
75 years ago – (1944) D-Day landing by the allies at Normandy. Game Theory. The Road to Serfdom.
74 years ago – (1945) Betrayal at Yalta. Mussolini strung-up like a rabid dog. Hitler suicides. Japan gets bombed. End of World War II. Christ Stopped at Eboli. Animal Farm. La Mer. I Know Where I’m Going! The Lost Weekend.
73 years ago – (1946) The Nuremberg Trials.
72 years ago – (1947) India’s independence. Dead Sea Scrolls found. Strange doings at Roswell, New Mexico. All My Sons, Bend Sinister, Diary of Anne Frank, Doctor Faustus, The Plague, Under the Volcano.
71 years ago – (1948) The Iron Curtain is drawn across Eastern Europe. The Berlin airlift. Israel created. The Kinsey Report. Don Bradman ends his career with a duck. The Browning Version, The Heart of the Matter, The Naked and the Dead. The Beggar’s Opera. Bicycle Thieves, Hamlet, Key Largo, Oliver Twist, The Red Shoes, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
68 years ago – (1951) Powell starts his Dance to the Music of Time. Runciman starts his History of the Crusades. The Catcher in the Rye, The Day of the Triffids.
67 years ago – (1952) High Noon, Singin’ in the Rain.
62 years ago – (1957) Sweet Smell of Success. Treaty of Rome. Endgame by Samuel Beckett.
60 years ago – (1959) Castro takes power in Cuba. The Dalai Lama flees Tibet. Henderson the Rain King, The Naked Lunch, The Tin Drum, Memento Mori. Guggenheim finished. The Day the Music Died (3/2/’59). Breathless, North by Northwest.
58 years ago – (1961) The Soviets build a wall to stop people fleeing to West Berlin. Algerian conflict. Yuri Gagarin goes around the world in an hour and a half. Catch-22, A House for Mr. Biswas. Victim does more for gays in the UK than the Wolfenden Report.
57 years ago – (1962) Cuban Missile Crisis – for 13 days the world hovers on the brink of World War Last. Eichmann executed. Vatican II. Sex and the Single Girl, Pale Fire, A Clockwork Orange, The Golden Notebook, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. “Blowin’ in the Wind.” The Manchurian Candidate, Lawrence of Arabia, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
56 years ago – (1963) President John F. Kennedy assassinated in Dallas, Texas. The Clown, The Collector, The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea, V. “Please Please Me”. The Leopard, The Servant. “I Have a Dream.”
55 years ago – (1964) Gulf of Tonkin ‘Incident.‘ Entertaining Mr. Sloane, Marat / Sade. “A Hard Days Night,” “Baby Love,” “House of the Rising Sun.” Séance on a Wet Afternoon, My Fair Lady, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Zulu, Becket, Dr Strangelove.
54 years ago – (1965) Soup Cans, mini-skirts, and the Moog. “Like a Rolling Stone,” “The Sound of Silence,” “Unchained Melody,” “Satisfaction,” “Help!”
53 years ago – (1966) The West swings; Blood and Thunder in the East. Mao emulates Robespierre and Stalin with his Cultural Revolution. In Cold Blood. The Fixer. “Pet Sounds,” “Revolver,” “Blonde on Blonde.” “River Deep, Mountain High.” Andre Rublev, Blow-Up, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
52 years ago – (1967) Six Day War. Che Guevara killed. Australian PM Holt disappears. Hockney’s A Bigger Splash. A Hundred Years of Solitude. “Hair”, “Sgt Pepper’s,” “Velvet Underground with Nico,” “Are You Experienced.” Accident.
51 years ago – (1968) A year of upheaval: Tet Offensive in Vietnam; War Riots; Sectarian violence; Immigration concerns; Student protest; USSR invades Czechoslovakia; Assassinations of Rudi Dutschke, Martin Luther King Jnr. & Robert Kennedy. 2001: A Space Odyssey, If, Shame, The Producers, Romeo and Juliet, Rosemary’s Baby. “Astral Weeks,” The White Album.
50 years ago – (1969) Apollo 11 lands men on the Moon. Charles de Gaulle resigns as President of France. “Abbey Road,” “Let it Bleed,” “Space Oddity.” Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy, Satyricon, The Wild Bunch.
47 years ago – (1972) Troubles in Ireland grow. Death at the Munich Olympics. A ‘third-rate burglary‘ presages the fall of President Nixon. World Trade Centre completed. The Tate displays a pile of bricks, heralding the start of the Post Eternal Phase of Art. “Ziggy Stardust,” “Catch a Fire,” “Transformer.” Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Cabaret, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, The Godfather.
46 years ago – (1973) OPEC oil crisis. Negotiated end of the Vietnam War. Roe v Wade. Coup against Allende in Chile. The rise of Structuralism replaces plot, form, character, individual genius and the idea of The Novel. Burr, The Castle of Crossed Destinies, Gravity’s Rainbow, The Siege of Krishnapur, “Berlin,” “Dark Side of the Moon,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “Tubular Bells.” Badlands. Glenelg Football Club narrowly defeats North Adelaide in the Greatest Game of Football Ever Played.
44 years ago – (1975) Collapse of South Vietnam. Constitutional Crisis in Australia. Civil War in Lebanon begins. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Dog Day Afternoon, Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. “Blood on the Tracks,” “A Night at the Opera,” “Born to Run,” “Wish You Were Here,”
43 years ago – (1976) Apple Computers started. Dye thrown over the Tate bricks in an almost forgivable act of vandalism. A new wave of pop rolls in and breaks into two streams, punk and disco. All the President’s Men, Taxi Driver.
42 years ago – (1977) Elvis dies. My Aim is True, Rumours.
40 years ago – (1979) Theocratic Revolution in Iran and US hostage crisis. The Soviets invade Afghanistan. “Armed Forces,” “London Calling,” “Unknown Pleasures,” “More Songs About Buildings and Food.” The Tin Drum.
37 years ago – (1982) “Thriller.” Fitzcarraldo.
36 years ago – (1983) America loses the America’s Cup for the first time, to Australia II.
30 years ago – (1989) The Chinese Communist Party murders citizens en masse in Tiananmen Square. The Iron Curtain across Eastern Europe is shredding. So is the Berlin Wall. I. M. Pei’s glass pyramid at the Louvre is completed.
29 years ago – (1990) Soviet-Sponsored Communism dies with a bang and a whimper, leading to “the agony of little nations” as boundaries are re-drawn. Gulf War I.
26 years ago – (1993) War in the-former-Yugoslavia. The End of History. Tribal violence in Rwanda and several other African States. The World Wide Web is to go public. So, unfortunately, is Rap.
23 years ago – (1996) The Unabomber is caught.
22 years ago – (1997) Death of Princess Diana. The Hong Kong lease lapses back to China. The World’s chess champ is beaten by a computer. Harry Potter books begin to infect the literary landscape.
21 years ago – (1998) The Starr investigation sets a poor precedent for what is, and what isn’t, the nation’s business regarding the President’s private affairs. The Blair Witch Project demonstrates how modern technology can fool most of the people much of the time. Affliction.
18 years ago – (2001) Hijacked planes fly into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York, the Pentagon, and one is downed in Pennsylvania. Some folks still think it was a giant set-up, an inside job, but apart from some ingenious inferences, there seems to be no evidence of this.
16 years ago – (2003) Iraq invasion.
15 years ago – (2004) Fundamentalism and nihilism are wrapped up in a cinematic bundle: The Passion of the Christ, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
13 years ago – (2006) Start of the Me too Movement, encouraging women to publicise instances of sexual misconduct.
11 years ago – (2008) The global financial crisis hits, meaning citizens the world over pay increased taxes to bail-out profligate banks, who in turn will later deny them credit. Barack Obama is elected US President.
10 years ago – (2009) Michael Jackson dies.
9 years ago – (2010) All 160 floors of the Burj Khalifa open in Dubai.
7 years ago – (2012) The World does not end, and despite various dire predictions, won’t end anytime soon.
5 years ago – (2014) ISIS escalates its territorial incursions in Iraq and the Levant towards a new Caliphate. Destruction of historic architecture and artifacts continue apace.
3 years ago – (2016) Donald Trump is elected President, causing the country to have a national tantrum. Great Britain votes to leave the European Union – Brexit causes a national tantrum.
(2020) – The Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic paralyses the globe.
(2021) – US Capitol Building is stormed, leading to yet another impeachment Trial of President Trump, who by that time has left office. A ‘coup’ of sorts (it might be called a ‘correction’) in Burma leaves Aung San Suu Kyi on Home-D. President Biden makes an unholy mess leaving Afghanistan.
(2022) – Cognitively struggling President Biden completes the most disastrous first presidential year since Hoover. His Vice President is even less impressive. Putin (therefore) decides to chance his arm in Ukraine. Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is shot dead by an assassin. The final leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, dies. Queen Elizabeth II dies.
(2023) – North America is swamped by Chinese balloons. An earthquake in Turkey leaves some 50,000 buried under shoddily-constructed buildings. The Ukraine War grinds on to its first anniversary. Russia suspends participation in the nuclear reduction treaty. Xi Jinping ‘re-elected’ as President of China. The FBI announces it thinks Covid-19 came from the Wuhan Virology Lab. Several boutique U.S. banks start failing.[Note that choice is necessarily our own. We have concentrated on events of some cultural significance. Right to edit further reserved. Correspondence will be entered into, but ceased at a time of our choosing.]