A Brief History
On October 14, 1066, the Normans under William the Conqueror defeated the English at the Battle of Hastings. This date is one that you might find on a high school or college history test or perhaps on the television trivia show Jeopardy. Certain battles in history are associated with a particular date or year that many people remember or are reminded of, regardless of the importance of the battle. Here 9 such dates and battles are listed. (By battles we mean the starting or ending date of the battle or the date of a significant event that is related to the battle.)
9. c. 1184 B.C., Trojan War.
This entry is tricky, since we do not really know when exactly the siege started and ended or even if it took place at all! The Trojan War, however, one of the most famous military events in history, has been the subject of many movies and cultural references. It is included in this list because few people have any idea at all when it was supposed to have occurred. Now you know. Kind of…
8. 480 B.C., Thermopylae.
This battle and date are included because of the recent surge in interest as a result of movies and television specials about the Spartans who bravely faced overwhelming Persian forces. There were actually several battles fought at Thermopylae throughout history due to its location as a choke point. Bonus Date: 490 B.C., The Battle of Marathon, when a messenger ran 26.2 miles to Athens to report the victory; history’s first “marathon.”
7. August 6, 1945, Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima.
This is the day the world entered the age of nuclear war, and tens of thousands of people were erased in a flash. Life would not be the same from that day onward, something the people of Nagasaki found out only 3 days later. History and Headlines Note: V-J Day (Victory over Japan) is generally considered August 14, 1945 in the U.S., but the actual surrender was signed on September 2, 1945.
6. June 18, 1815, Battle of Waterloo.
It is said that everyone meets their “Waterloo,” and in the case of Napoleon Bonaparte, his “Waterloo” really was Waterloo. The name of this place has become synonymous with a final decisive defeat, rather than a victory, which, of course, it was for the other side (the British, Prussians, et al). Americans may be more familiar with the year than the actual date of the battle, but you can bet many Europeans also know the date.
5. August 5, 1914, First Battle of World War I (Battle of Liège).
The starting date of World War I is July 28, 1914, the date the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia. The first major hostilities, however, began on August 4, when Germany invaded Belgium, and on August 5, the first battle of World War I, the Battle of Liège, commenced. This 11-day battle possibly delayed the German invasion of France by 4-5 days and was the reason why Great Britain entered the war.
4. October 14, 1066, Battle of Hastings.
“Merrie Olde” England was a land of Celts, Gaels, Anglo-Saxons and some residual Romans when the Normans defeated King Harold II and the English at the Battle of Hastings. Following this landmark event, the Normans, who were descendants of Vikings, moved across the Channel and added their genetics and linguistic influence to the mix and helped shape what would become the modern-day Englishman and the English language we are familiar with. Most people know that the battle took place in 1066, but now you also know it was on October 14.
3. September 1, 1939, Start of World War II.
There are some amateur and professional historians who claim that World War II actually started in 1937 when the Japenese invaded China. Septemeber 1, 1939, the date Germany invaded Poland, however, is the date generally recognized and accepted by the overwhelming majority of laymen and scholars.
2. December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor.
As President Franklin Roosevelt said, December 7, 1941 is “A date that will live in infamy.” This date marks one of America’s most spectacular defeats when Japanese airplanes and submarines attacked Pearl Harbor Naval Base and Hickam Air Field on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, forcing the U.S. into World War II.
1. November 11, 1918, World War I Armistice.
World War I ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. Known as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day in the rest of the world, November 11 is known as Veterans Day in the United States.
Question for students (and subscribers): What other dates and battles come to your mind? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Grant, R. G. Battle: A Visual Journey Through 5,000 Years of Combat. DK, 2009.
The featured image in this article, Bayeux Tapestry – Scene 57: the death of King Harold at the Battle of Hastings, is a faithful photographic reproduction of an original two-dimensional work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason: This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1924. This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
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