1879 – The Land League of Mayo is formed

Michael Davitt and Charles Parnell were the two leadng lights of the Land League of Mayo. Formed in response to the Land Act of 1870, which was actually intended to make life for Irish farmers less harsh. Unfortunately, most of the good it might have donw was wiped away by years of economic depression that followed it – and even had that not been the case, it fell far short of what the Irish wanted. The demands of the Land League were the three F’s: Fair rent, Fixity of tenure and Free sale. It was one of the major resistance movements against British Rule in Ireland, intended as a way to fight for Irish Independence within the system, and to relieve some of the burdens of occupation.

Inevitably, resistance crystallised around it to become something less legal and more overt: the period of prolonged civil unrest and low level rebellion generally known as the Land War, and the Land League of Mayo was suppressed as a revolutionary organisation in 1881, and many of its leaders thrown into prison.

Referenced in:

A Forgotten Hero — Andy Devine

1879 — Albert Einstein is born

One of the most influential scientists of all time, who revolutionized physics and had no small effect on global politics while he was at it, Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, in what was then the Kingdom of Württemberg in the German Empire. He and his family were non-observant Jews, but it’s not like that mattered to the Nazis in 1933, when Einstein moved to the United States.

From undistinguished beginnings, Einstein would become the most famous scientist of the 20th century, devising both the General and Special Theories of Relativity, winning the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921, being a key advisor of President Franklin Roosevelt regarding atomic weapons, and even being offered the Presidency of Israel in 1952 (he declined). Time Magazine named him the Person of the Century in 1999.

Referenced in:

The Big Bang Theory — Barenaked Ladies

1879 — Thomas Edison invents the light bulb

Technically, he’d been in the process of inventing it for a while. October 22, 1879 is simply the day on which he first successfully tested a practical incandescent electric light bulb.

Reliable electric light is one of those inventions that changes the world. Sure, we aleady had candles and gaslight, but electric light was both brighter and more reliable than its predecessors. Edison changed the world with it. He changed the hours of our work and leisure, and the way we think about both.

And being Thomas Edison, he went on to invent still more stuff, many of which also changed the world, but none so much as the humble light bulb.

Referenced in:

Black Man — Stevie Wonder
Mother Necessity — Schoolhouse Rock
It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World — James Brown

1879 – The Anglo-Zulu wars begin

A series of border disputes between British settlers and the Zulu people escalated to the point where, in late 1878, the British sent an ultimatum to Cetshwayo, the ruler of the Zulu nation, requiring among other things that he disband his army, pay reparations and once more allow Christian missionaries into his lands. Cetshwayo ignored the ultimatum, which expired on January 10, 1879. The following day, a British and allied forced under Lieutenant General Frederick Thesiger, the 2nd Baron Chelmsford, invaded Zulu territory.

The Zulus had a massive numeric advantage over the British (over two to one), and were also fighting on their own land. The British, on the other hand, were better armed, with rifles and cannons as compared to the Zulu’s assegai (short spears). The Zulu nearly succeeded in overwhelming the British at Rorke’s Drift, but were turned back with enormous casualties on both sides. Another Zulu attack, at Islandwana, was more successful, and turned back the British. However, less than six months after the war’s commencement, the British had triumphed, and the Zulu nation’s power was broken forever.

Referenced in:
Short Memory – Midnight Oil