May 29th 1953: Hillary and Norgay reach Everest summit

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Norgay on Everest’s summit

 

On this day in 1953, Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay become the first people to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain: Mount Everest. Many previous attempts to scale the peak had failed, but New Zealander Hillary and Nepalese Norgay reached the top (29,028 feet) at 11.30am local time on May 29th 1953. Norgay later revealed that Hillary had been the first to step onto the summit. The pair spent only 15 minutes taking pictures at the summit before they began their descent. Norgay left chocolates in the snow as an offering and Hillary left a cross that he had been given by John Hunt (leader of the expedition). News of their success reached London on the morning of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation on June 2nd and upon arrival in Kathmandu Hillary and Hunt discovered they had been knighted.

 

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Hillary & Norgay near summit – May 28th

 

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May 27th 1564: Calvin dies

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John Calvin (1509 – 1564)

 

On this day in 1564, the French theologian John Calvin died in Geneva aged 54. Calvin, born in France in 1509, is best known for his formulation of the Protestant doctrine known as Calvinism. Calvinism advocates the view of predestination – that God chooses who will be saved and who will be damned even before their birth; there is thus nothing one can do in this life to alter their fate in the next. Whilst there is nothing one can do to alter their fate, Calvinists hold that those who live a godly life show evidence of being one of God’s elect, and so there is a point to living righteously. The elect had to prove their status by giving a narrative of their conversion before the church (which at this point meant the congregation of the elect). It was these views that provided the foundation of Puritan belief in Britain and colonial America. Calvin’s views made him a controversial figure in his lifetime, and he was an early supporter of Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation. In the last years of his life, Calvin was the ruler of Geneva where he relentlessly promoted Protestantism, even resorting to executing and exiling religious dissenters.

 

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The exact location of Calvin’s grave is unknown, but this site in Geneva is the traditional site

 

“We call predestination God’s eternal decree, by which He determined what He willed to become of each man. For all are not created in equal condition; rather, eternal life is ordained for some, eternal damnation for others.”
– John Calvin

April 26th 1937: Bombing of Guernica

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Soldiers walk through the destroyed streets of Guernica

 

On this day in 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, the Basque  town of Guernica was bombed by the German Luftwaffe. The attack was planned to fall on a market day, when they knew there would be a lot of people on the streets of Guernica. Guernica had little strategic value, but was a cultural centre of the Basque people who had been resisting Franco’s Nationalist forces. Over the course of three hours, over twenty five planes dropped one hundred thousand pounds of bombs, reducing the beautiful town to rubble. Those who tried to escape were shot down by the guns on the fighter planes. Final death tolls are unclear – most sources suggest around 1,500 were killed, however recent calculations have put the figure as under 400. The incident has become immortalised in the famous anti-war painting by Spaniard Pablo Picasso, which helped bring the atrocities of the civil war to international attention. The bombing served as a testing ground for Hitler’s military and the concept of ‘total war’, in which civilians are considered combatants and thus attacks on them are justified. The Guernica attack was indeed one of the first air raids and inaugurated the widespread use of aerial attacks in warfare. Just two years after the devastation of Guernica, World War Two broke out and the world experienced its first truly ‘total’ war.

 

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Guernica by Pablo Picasso

 

“We were still a good ten miles away when I saw the reflection of Guernica’s flames in the sky. As we drew nearer, on both sides of the road, men, women and children were sitting, dazed. I saw a priest in one group. I stopped the car and went up to him. ‘What happened, Father?’ I asked. His face was blackened, his clothes in tatters. He couldn’t talk. He just pointed to the flames, still about four miles away, then whispered: ‘Aviones…bombas’…mucho, mucho.’
– recollections of Noel Monks, the first journalist on the scene

April 14th 1759: Handel dies

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On this day in 1759, the German composer George Frederic Handel died aged 74. Famous for his Baroque pieces, Handel was born in Germany in 1685 but moved to Britain later in life. He gained a reputation there for his Italian operas, and some of his works were performed for Queen Anne and her successors on the British throne. Handel enjoyed royal patronage, and his music is regularly played at royal coronations even to this day. However he is perhaps best known for his biblical choral masterpiece: Messiah.

 

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The monument to Handel in Westminster Abbey

 

Handel died in 1759, and was honoured with a state funeral and burial in Westminster Abbey. Alongside his grave is a monument (pictured above), sculpted by Louis Francois Roubiliac, which was unveiled in 1762 and features a statue of Handel which supposedly has the exact likeness of his death mask.

Merry Christmas!

Hello everyone, I just wanted to wish you a happy Christmas!

As I’ve only just started this blog, and I’ll be the first to admit it has ample room for improvement, I really appreciate those of you who follow this blog.

Thanks again and have a wonderful day

Making a return

Hi, there has been a definite lull on this page (haven’t posted in over a year!) Very sorry about that, but I’ve decided to give this another shot so I’m going to try and get back to posting every day. Thanks!

Welcome!

This blog is pretty self explanatory. I personally find one of the most poignant parts of learning about history is remembering what major events happened on a particular day, so that’s what this blog is about. I’m still getting used to WordPress but I’ll try my best!