Monday, September 27, 2010

August 19th in History

17th century Witches  with a Demon illustration

1612    The "Samlesbury witches", three women from the Lancashire village of Samlesbury, England, are put on trial, accused for practicing witchcraft, one of the most famous witch trials in English history.  An indication of the belief in witches and their ability to affect or predict events was the play MacBeth by Shakespeare which has a famous scene with three witches.  The Samlesbury witches - Jane Southworth, Jennet Bierley, and Ellen Bierley.  The witchcraft charges, including allegations of child murder and cannibalism, flying, and demonic sex acts, were brought by a 14 year old girl, Grace Sowerbutts, who was the granddaughter of Jennet Bierley, niece of Ellen Bierley.  All three women were acquitted despite an account written by the clerk to the court, Thomas Potts, "The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster" that claimed the people in court were overwhelmingly persuaded the women were guilty. 

modern photo of Samlesbury Hall,
the real estate inheritance of
the Southworth family indirectly
at issue in the witchcraft trial

Sir Edward Bromley was the magistrate in the witchcraft trial;  he was seeking promotion under King James, who had a keen concern for the practice of witchcraft in England and Scotland.  King James, notable author on the topic of the divine right of kings and initiator of the King James translation of the Bible, was convinced witches were conspiring against him.  On being questioned by Bromley, accuser Grace Sowerbutts broke down, admitting that she was coached to make the accusation by the brother of Jane Southworth's father-in-law, who was a Jesuit priest.  The Southworth family had been divided over the practice of Roman Catholicism by Southworth's father-in-law, and his son and daughter-in-law's practice of the protestant Anglican faith. 

Saint Sir John Southworth

Father-in-law John Southworth was eventually canonized as an English martyr to the reformation in 1929, and subsequently canonized in 1970 by Pope Paul VI.  Bromley impressed King James and got not just a prestigious judicial promotion, but a series of other promotions as well. There is speculation that Bromley may have been a bit too enthusiastic in sentencing other witches to death, and that the exoneration of the three Samlesbury witches was an effort to demonstrate his appropriate credulity and restraint. Jane Southwell's oldest son eventually inherited all of his saintly Roman Catholic grandfather's considerable property despite the elder Southworth brother's attempts to both disinherit and discredit the Anglican branch of the family.  This episode in history suggests the wisdom of caution and skepticism, as well as a healthy respect for the roll of greed and self-promotion, in any highly emotional issue based on beliefs and ideology and fear, as much or more than based on facts.

1631    Birth of John Dryden, English poet (d. 1700)

1662   Birth of Blaise Pascal, French mathematician, physicist, and philosopher (b. 1623)
1692   Salem witch trials: in Salem, Massachusetts, Province of Massachusetts Bay five people, one woman and four men, including a clergyman, are executed after being convicted of witchcraft.

1772   Gustavus III of Sweden stages a Coup d'état, in which he assumes power and enacts a new constitution that divides power between the Riksdag and the King.

1782   American Revolutionary War: Battle of Blue Licks – the last major engagement of the war, almost ten months after the war was over with the surrender of the British commander Lord Cornwallis following the Siege of Yorktown.  I'm always fascinated by wonderful battle triumphs that occur AFTER the actual wars are over, as also occurred in the War of 1812.

1812   War of 1812, American frigate USS Constitution defeats the British frigate HMS Guerriere off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada earning her nickname "Old Ironsides".

1839 – Presentation of Jacque Daguerre's new photographic process to the French Academy of Sciences.

1848 – The New York Herald breaks the news to the East Coast of the United States of the gold rush in California (although the rush started in January).

1862 – Indian Wars: during an uprising in Minnesota, Lakota warriors decide not to attack heavily-defended Fort Ridgely and instead turn to the settlement of New Ulm, killing white settlers along the way.

1871   Birth of Orville Wright, American aviation pioneer (d. 1948)

1883   Birth of Coco Chanel, French clothing designer, and business tycoon; responsible for classic clothing and classic perfume, like Chanel No. 5. (d. 1971)

1919   Afghanistan gains full independence from the United Kingdom.

1921   Birth of Gene Roddenberry, American television writer and producer, creator of Star Trek (d. 1991)

1929   The  black comedy "Amos 'n' Andy" made its network radio debut on NBC.

1927   Cleric Metropolitan Sergius proclaims the declaration of loyalty of the Russian Orthodox Church to the Soviet Union.

1934   The first All-American Soap Box Derby is held in Dayton, Ohio.
           The creation of the position Führer is approved by the German electorate with 89.9% of the popular vote.

Renee Richards

 Birth of Renée Richards, American opthalmologist and tennis player, famous and controversial for being a transgender athlete.  An interesting factoid I discovered while looking up information on Dr. Richards is that the two countries which currently perform the highest number of gender reassignment surgeries are Thailand, and Iran.  The latter surprised me.

1944   World War II: Liberation of Paris – Paris rises against German occupation with the help of Allied troops.

1953   Cold War: the CIA helps to overthrow the government of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran and reinstate the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

1960   Cold War: in Moscow, downed American U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers is sentenced to ten years imprisonment by the Soviet Union for espionage.
          Sputnik program: Sputnik 5 – the Soviet Union launches the satellite with the dogs Belka and Strelka, 40 mice, 2 rats and a variety of plants.

1977   Death of comedian Groucho Marx at age 86.

1981   Gulf of Sidra Incident: United States fighters intercept and shoot down two Libyan Sukhoi Su-22 fighter jets over the Gulf of Sidra.

1989  Polish president Wojciech Jaruzelski nominates Solidarity activist Tadeusz Mazowiecki to be the first non-communist Prime Minister in 42 years.

1989   Raid on offshore pirate station, Radio Caroline in North Sea by British and Dutch governments.
           Several hundred East Germans cross the frontier between Hungary and Austria during the Pan-European Picnic, part of the events which began the process of the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

1991   Collapse of the Soviet Union, August Coup: Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev is placed under house arrest while on holiday in the town of Foros, Crimea.

1999   In Belgrade, tens of thousands of Serbians rally to demand the resignation of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia President Slobodan Milošević.

2004 The Internet search engine Google went public.

No comments:

Post a Comment