[The West front of York Minster remained largely undamaged when the centuries-old Gothic cathedral was struck by lightning and caught fire on this day in 1984 - which is very fortunate indeed, since the large window dates from 1338, and the towers from between 1433 and 1472.]
455 CE - Roman military commander Avitus was proclaimed Emperor of the Western Roman Empire some weeks after the death of his predecessor Petronius Maximus.
1357 - Holy Roman Emperor Charles V assisted in laying the foundation stone of the Charles Bridge across Prague's Vltava River; the date and time - 5:31 AM - had been carefully chosen by astrologers to ensure the bridge's success. So far so good... It's still standing.
1540 - Henry VIII, as head of the Church of England, ended his marriage to Anne of Cleves; their annulment came on amiable terms, and she spent the last 17 years of her life in England.
1793 - The Act Against Slavery was passed by the Council of Upper Canada (Ontario) banning slavery there and prohibiting the importation of new slaves into Lower Canada (Quebec). Slavery wouldn't be truly abolished in Canada until 1833, when it was banned by Parliament in London throughout the British Empire.
1807 - The second signing of the Treaties of Tilsit occurred at Tilsit between Napoleon and Prussia's Frederick William III; two days earlier the French Emperor had signed the first phase of the treaty with Russia's Tsar Alexander I on a raft in the middle of the Neman River.
1815 - Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, Prince de Benevente became Prime Minister of France.
1816 - Argentina declared its independence from Spain.
1850 - President Zachary Taylor died of acute gastroenteritis only 16 months into his term of office; he was succeeded by Millard Fillmore.
1868 - The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, granting blacks full citizenship and access to due process under the law. Enforcement is expected to begin any day now.
1875 - The Herzegovinian Rebellion, against the rule of the Ottoman Empire, began.
1900 - The Commonwealth of Australia was created with the royal assent of Queen Victoria, thus uniting Australia's colonies into one nation under a federal Parliament.
1918 - In Nashville an inbound local train collided with an outbound express - both belonging to the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railroad - killing 101 and injuring 171 people, making it the deadliest rail accident in United States history.
1922 - Johnny Weissmuller swam the 100 meters freestyle in 58.6 seconds breaking a world swimming record and the 'minute barrier'.
1944 - American forces commanded by Lieutenant General Holland Smith took Saipan - one of the Pacific's Mariana Islands chain - from his Japanese counterpart Yoshitsugu Saito following more than three weeks' fierce fighting during the Battle of Saipan.
1955 - The Russell-Einstein Manifesto was released by Bertrand Russell in London.
1979 - A Renault automobile owned by famed 'Nazi hunters' Serge and Beate Klarsfeld - who were involved in the location and capture of such illustrious war criminals as Klaus Barbie, René Bousquet, Jean Leguay, Maurice Papon and Paul Touvier - was destroyed by a car bomb outside their home in France; a note purportedly from pro-Nazi terrorist organization ODESSA claimed responsibility. No one was injured in the blast, and it failed to stop the couple from continuing with their valuable work.
1984 - Historic York Minster was struck by lightning; the ensuing fire caused considerable damage to the structure, much of which dates from 1080, although the site was first consecrated in 627 CE, having been built to baptize Edwin, King of Northumbria.
1986 - Homosexuality was made legal in New Zealand with the passage of the Homosexual Law Reform Act.
1995 - The Grateful Dead gave their last public performance, following a 30-year career, at Soldier Field in Chicago. Just a month later, on August 9th, founding member Jerry Garcia was dead, for which no one was grateful.
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