1649 — King Charles I of England is executed

The decisive exclamation mark that ends the English Civil War. Never before had an English monarch been deposed, tried and convicted of high treason, and then executed. (To date, no other English monarch has suffered the same fate, either.) The decapitation of Charles the First made plain to the people of England and the courts of Europe that the winds of change were blowing in England.

Charles’ son, Charles II, would eventually be restored to the throne that was his by right of primogeniture, and in the interregnum that followed, England would be variously led by Parliament, by Lord-Protector Oliver Cromwell, and briefly, by Lord-Protector Richard Cromwell (Oliver’s less talented and determined son). The restored king was a damned sight more careful of Parliament, and the gradual decline of the power of the monarchy would only continue from this time onwards.

Referenced in:
Oliver Cromwell — Monty Python

1933 — Adolf Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany

It’s often overlooked, what the enormity of his crimes afterwards, but Hitler came to power more or less legally, elected Chancellor of Germany in an election not that much more corrupt than any seen in modern democracies. But his accession to the highest position in Germany was not enough for him.

There were enemies to be purged and pogrommed, lebensraum to be reclaimed, treaties to be ignored or violated, and, of course, the most devastating war in human history to start, and fortunately for us all, to lose. But while his run lasted, he had a better claim to the title of emperor of Europe than any man since the fall of Rome, won in just as bloody a fashion as any Roman Caesar.

Referenced in:
To Be Or Not To Be (The Hitler Rap) — Mel Brooks

1968 — The Tet Offensive commences

The Tet Offensive – so-called because it began during the Tet Festival of 1968 – was a major offensive mounted by North Vietnamese forces that spanned nine months of 1968. Its primary goal was to inspire uprisings behind South Vietnamese lines, but in this respect, and in most traditional military respects, it failed. The offensive over-estimated Vietcong capabilities, especially in terms of arms and manpower, and under-estimated the resolve, mobility and firepower of American and South Vietnamese forces. Particular battles of the campaign were fought at Hue and Khe Sanh in January 1968, while later attacks would involve infiltration behind American lines, even striking in Saigon.
However, it was a major propaganda victory for the Vietcong in America, as the attack came as a complete surprise and demonstrated just how much America as a whole had under-estimated their foe. The Tet Offensive and the heavy casualties it inflicted – both among the American and allied forces, and among the civilian population – made the war in Vietnam a major issue in the 1968 Presidential election, and spurred opposition to the war among the American public.

Ultimately, the results of the Tet Offensive can only be seen as inconclusive. Both sides took heavy casualties, but little territory was lost on either side, and both sides soon reinforced. The war itself would drag on for another seven years before North Vietnam finally achieved victory.

Referenced in:
People of the Sun — Rage Against The Machine

1972 — The Bloody Sunday incident takes place in Derry

On January 30, 1972, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association held a rally which marched through the Bogside area of Derry, in Northern Ireland. And that’s about the last detail that anyone agrees on for the next few hours.

Accounts of the size of the crowd vary from 300 to 30,000, and of its behaviour even moreso. The level of hostility by each side to the other is disputed, with each accusing the other of causing the events that followed.

What happened after that is not disputed. Members of the UK armed forces, primarily representing the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment, opened fire on the march. 26 protestors were shot by police and military forces, half of those fatally (another died months later from injuries attributed to the shots). Two more were injured when hit by military vehicles.

Understandably, the event became known as Bloody Sunday.

Referenced in:
Sunday Bloody Sunday — U2