1654 – The Treaty of Westminster officially ends the first Anglo-Dutch War

The first Anglo-Dutch War was largely a result of the formation of the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell after the execution of King Charles I. It began in 1652 with English attacks on Dutch merchant shipping, but quickly escalated into a full-scale naval conflict on both sides, which despite being more or less numerically equal was decisively won by the British – although there would be three more Anglo-Dutch Wars over the next 130 years, as the two preeminent naval powers of Europe contested for trade and colonies (Holland would win the second and third wars, but the English would ultimately win the fourth and decisive war).

The Treaty was signed after a lengthy negotiation process, and was notable in several respects. It was the first international treaty in which both nations agreed to be bound by the decisions of a third party arbitrator (in this case, Switzerland), as well as an article specifying an early version of what would today be called ‘mutual most-favoured nation status’, and is thus the foundation of the modern concept of international diplomacy. It was remarkably lenient to the Dutch, considering their defeat – a fact widely attributed to the Dutch negotiators simply being better than their English counterparts. By containing a secret clause obliging the Dutch to enact the Act of Seclusion (forbidding Prince William III of Orange from ever being Stadtholder) which had dramatic effects on Dutch internal politics over the years that followed. Finally, it established England as a serious power in Europe, which had been inclined to dismiss this non-monarchy as no threat prior to that.

Referenced in:
Oliver Cromwell – Monty Python

1932 – Charles L. ‘Sonny’ Liston born

It’s possible that this isn’t actually the birthday of Sonny Liston – certainly he looked older than his years for most of his life – but it’s the one he always claimed. Born in Arkansas, he was the 12th of 13 children and was frequently beaten by his father (leaving him with scars he would bear his entire life). Perhaps that’s why he started boxing – and it’s hard to imagine that it wasnt a motivation of his. In the course of his professional career, Sonny Liston would become one of the most successful boxers of all time.

He fought a total of 54 fights, of which he won 50 (and 39 of those via knockout), over the course of a career that spanned the years 1953 to 1970. Of his four defeats, two of them were to Muhammed Ali and one to Marty Marshall (whom Liston defeated in the rematch).

Referenced in:

Song for Sonny Liston – Mark Knopfler

1951 – Du Pont Chemical publically releases Dacron

One of the wonder-fabrics of the Fifties, Dacron was the trade name of a particular polyester sold by Du Pont Chemical – the first from that company and the second overall (after Terylene). Its actual chemical name is Polyethylene terephthalate. It was first sold in New York, where it was used to make a variety of garments, most prominently men’s suits. Although a fashion sensation at the time, it has dropped out of favour since the technophiliac Fifties, and is no longer used as much in clothing.

Modern applications for Dacron include ropes (especially for nautical use) and artificial organs, especially hearts – both applications where Dacron’s lack of biodegradability is desirable.

Referenced in:

We Didn’t Start The Fire — Billy Joel