[As many as 15,000 students took part in a demonstration in Prague against the Communist rule of Gustáv Husák on this day in 1989; the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9th gave pro-democracy movements throughout the Eastern Bloc much needed momentum, and eventually enabled all of them to throw their former oppressors out, which they did in a largely peaceful way.]
284 CE - Diocletian was proclaimed Roman Emperor by his soldiers.
1183 - At the Battle of Mizushima the Minamoto clan led by Yada Yoshiyasu suffered a loss at the hands of the Taira clan under Taira no Tomomori and Taira no Noritsune as part of the ongoing Genpei War.
1558 - The Elizabethan Era began when England's Queen Mary I (better known as Bloody Mary) died and was succeeded by her half-sister Elizabeth I (popularly called Good Queen Bess); the day would be celebrated throughout the country for much of the next 200 years.
1603 - Sir Walter Raleigh went on trial for treason for his role in the Main Plot; a favourite of Elizabeth I, early in the reign of her successor he incurred the wrath of James VI and I of Scotland and England, resulting in Raleigh's fall from royal favour... Still, his popularity remained high, and because of it he wouldn't be rushed to the chopping block but rather spend nearly fifteen years in and out of captivity at the Tower of London before eventually being executed in October 1618.
1777 - The Articles of Confederation were submitted by the Second Continental Congress to the individual states for ratification.
1796 - At the Battle of Arcole Napoleon's French army defeated the Austrian forces of József Alvinczi during the third failed attempt by the Austrians to lift the Siege of Mantua.
1800 - The opening of the second session of the 6th United States Congress marked the first time that august body met in Washington DC; technically a lame duck session at the end of the Administration of the second US President, John Adams (shown, at right), the congressmen and senators elected to serve there nevertheless managed to preside over the appointment of John Marshall as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, decide the rancourous Election of 1800 (which saw Adam's Vice-President Thomas Jefferson elected President and Aaron Burr Vice-President), as well as placing the new capital under the jurisdiction of Congress.
1811 - José Miguel Carrera - general in the Chilean War of Independence during the Patria Vieja and one of the founders of modern Chile - was sworn in as President of the executive Junta of that country.
1820 - Captain Nathaniel Palmer became the first American to see Antarctica; the continent's Palmer Peninsula would later be named after him.
1839 - Giuseppe Verdi's first opera, Oberto, conte di San Bonifacio opened at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan.
1855 - David Livingstone became the first European to see Mosi-oa-Tunya (the Smoke that Thunders) in what is now present-day Zambia-Zimbabwe, renaming them Victoria Falls in honour of Queen Victoria.
1869 - Egypt's Suez Canal, linking the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea, was inaugurated in an elaborate ceremony. This marvel of engineering was overseen by Ferdinand de Lesseps, although it was almost certainly not the first such canal in the area; the Wadi Tumilat may have joined the navigable upper reaches of the Nile with the Red Sea as long ago as 1800 BCE.
1878 - The first assassination attempt was made against Italy's King Umberto I when His Majesty was attacked by an anarchist named Giovanni Passannante during a parade; although the King was injured only slightly, Prime Minister Benedetto Cairoli was gravely injured and the event was said to have left Queen Margherita emotionally fraught for years.
1905 - The Eulsa Treaty was signed between the Empire of Japan and the Korean Empire.
1919 - England's King George V proclaimed Armistice Day (later Remembrance Day); the idea was first suggested by Australian journalist and soldier Edward George Honey in a letter to London's Evening News, which had been written under the pseudonym Warren Foster.
1922 - Mehmed VI, former sultan of the Ottoman Empire, went into exile in Italy.
1950 - Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, was enthroned as Tibet's head of state at the age of fifteen; he has lived in exile since March 1959, at which time he fled to India following the illegal occupation of his country by China.
1973 - At a speech in Orlando, Florida, President Richard Nixon told 400 Associated Press managing editors 'I am not a crook'; moments later, eight hundred eyes rolled...
1989 - Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution began when a student demonstration in Prague was quelled by riot police; this sparked a more general uprising aimed at overthrowing the communist government, which it succeeded in doing on December 29th.
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