[It never occurred to me until recently what a hard-on I seem to have for bridges; judging by the number of them which have had their pictures in POPnews - two so far in this week alone - you'd think this was some kind of a specialist blog instead of the scattered ramblings of an intellectual magpie. All this despite the fact that I have no particular fondness for either the science of engineering or the few practitioners of it I've met. Possibly the attraction is an aesthetic one; their tracery of girders aping the delicate filigree of a spider's web so as to belie the harsh industrial reality of their brick and steel and concrete invariably makes for a bloody brilliant photo. It's either that or it's because they're big and hard and long. As soon as I figure out which I'll let you know... Paging Dr. Freud!]
1215 - England's hapless King John - excommunicated for refusing to appoint Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury - swore an oath to Pope Innocent III, pledging to join a crusade as penance; the King's actions on this day sent his nobles into a right tizzy, and three months later they compelled him to sign the Magna Carta.
1238 - The Battle of the Sit River was fought in the northern part of the present-day Yaroslavl Oblast of Russia between the Batu Khan and Yuri II of Vladimir-Suzdal; the melee was an important victory for the invaders during the Mongol invasion of Russia.
1386 - Władysław II Jagiełło - also known as Jogaila - was crowned King of Poland.
1493 - Explorer Christopher Columbus returned to Europe aboard his ship Niña from his first voyage of discovery to the Americas, putting into port at Lisbon; he returned to Spain ten days later.
1877 - Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's ballet Swan Lake premiered at Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre.
1933 - Hoping to quell anti-Nazi rioting, Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss suspended that country's Parliament on a matter of procedure, thereafter ruling as a dictator.
1941 - The United Kingdom launched Operation Claymore on Norway's Nazi-occupied Lofoten Islands, during World War II; initially intended merely as a raid on munitions, during the exercise a crucial component of the Enigma machine was captured, offering Allied code-breakers at Bletchley Park an important advantage.
1977 - An earthquake in southern and eastern Europe and centred on Bucharest killed more than 1,500.
1979 - The first encyclical written by Pope John Paul II - Redemptor Hominis (Latin for 'The Redeemer of Man') - was promulgated less than five months after his elevation to the papacy.
1982 - Bertha Wilson was the first woman appointed to sit on the Supreme Court of Canada.
2001 - A massive car bomb exploded in front of the BBC Television Centre in the Shepherd's Bush area of west London, seriously injuring 11 people; the attack was the responsibility of the Real IRA.
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