June 15, 1381 – Wat Tyler’s rebellion dies with him

Walter ‘Wat’ Tyler was born in 1341, and little is known of his life before his involvement in the Peasant’s Rebellion of 1381. He is believed to have served in the English army, seeing action at both Crécy and Poitiers, among others.

Tyler joined the rebellion apparently due to his strong egalitarian views, and sought an end, or at least a reform, of the feudal system. He led an army 50,000 strong into London, and their show of force persuaded the king to meet with them. Richard II, who was only 15, met with Tyler at Smithfield, although no account of their conversation survives. Tyler was struck down and stabbed repeatedly – it is widely believed that his first assailant was the Lord Mayor of London, who took exception to Tyler’s perceived ‘insolence’. Upon Tyler’s death, the king declared himself leader of the rebels, and commanded them to disperse. The promises he made to them were not kept, and the other leaders of the revolt were also killed, at his order.

1846 – The Oregon Treaty is signed

The area known as the Oregon Country originally encompassed a much larger area of land than is now occupied by the state of Oregon. On the American side of the border, t took in the states of Washington and Idaho, as well as parts of Wyoming and Montana. On the Canadian side, it took in Vancouver Island, and parts of mainland British Columbia. And where the border was to be drawn was a subject of dispute for half a century after the war of 1812 and the treaty of 1818.

The matter was finally settled with the signing of the Oregon Treaty in Washington D.C., which set the boundary at the 49th parallel (i.e. latitude 49 degrees north), with the exception of Vancouver Island, which straddles the parallel, and was given to Canada in its entirety. This represented a backdown for the Democratic Party that counted President Polk as its leader, as they had campaigned on the slogan “54 40 or Fight!”, asserting a claim to the territory as far north as 54 degrees 40 minutes – the southernmost latitude of what is now Alaska (and was then Russian America).

Referenced in:
James K. Polk — They Might Be Giants

1983 – Neighbourhood Watch begins in Victoria

Neighbourhood Watch is a community policing organisation found in many countries – it is more concerned with observing and reporting crimes than with directly preventing them (for example, through vigilante action). It is widely believed that it acts as a disincentive to criminals and lowers crime rates in the areas where it takes place.

The Victorian incarnation of this organisation began in Frankston, a suburb of Melbourne, with cooperation between community members and the local police. The project was quickly declared a success and rapidly spread to other areas of the state and the rest of Australia.

Its actual utility – and somewhat dubious motivations – are still matters of considerable debate, not least due to the difficulty of statistically proving the cause of a thing not happening.

Referenced in:
Neighbourhood Watch — My Friend The Chocolate Cake

1996 – Ella Fitzgerald dies

Justly referred to as “The First Lady of Song” and “The Queen of Jazz”, Ella Fitzgerald is one of the all time greats. Her voice spanned a range of three octaves, her control had few equals and her ability to improvise as a vocalist was the equal of any of the horn players she sang with.

Born in 1917, her recording career spanned 60 years, in which she sold 40 million copies of her 70-plus albums (6 of which were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame) and won 14 Grammy Awards. Ella was an intensely private woman – even now, it is unclear how many times she married – and she died in the peace and privacy of her own home in Beverly Hills. Her death was marked by numerous tributes from artists who had worked with her or been inspired or influenced by her.

Referenced in:
Woke Up This Morning – Alabama 3