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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Shakespeare and Cervantes die

The date 23 April 1616 marked the end of two eras in world literature; for on that day, two giants of Renaissance letters died. Poet and playwright William Shakespeare died in his home at Stratford-upon-Avon. Farther south, Spanish poet, playwright, and novelist Miguel de Cervantes also passed away.

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Captain Cook sights Australia

This Day in World History
“What we have as yet seen of this land appears rather low, and not very hilly, the face of the Country green and Woody, but the Sea shore is all a white Sand.” Thus James Cook concluded his log entry for April 19, 1770 — the day Europeans first sighted the continent of Australia.

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Earthquake and fire destroy much of San Francisco

This Day in World History
Shortly after 5:12 A.M. on April 18, 1906, and for as long as a minute, the earth shook violently along nearly 300 miles of the San Andreas Fault in California. The violent earthquake, estimated around 8 on the Richter scale, caused severe damage from Salinas, south of San Francisco, to Santa Rosa, north of the city. People as far away as southern Oregon, Los Angeles, and central Nevada felt its tremors.

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Leonardo da Vinci is born

This Day in World History
Painter, sketch artist, sculptor, architect, civil and military engineer, cartographer, anatomist, physical scientist, botanist, geologist, mathematician, and more — Leonardo da Vinci defined the phrase “Renaissance man.” Born on April 15, 1452, and dying at 67, he produced a body of work that remains unrivaled. Giorgio Vasari, biographer of the great Italian artists of the Renaissance, aptly called Leonardo “truly marvelous and celestial.”

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Crusaders capture Constantinople

This Day in World History
On April 12, 1204, French and Italian Crusaders breached the walls of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire and one of the richest cities in the world. Their capture of this rich prize launched one of the most destructive sacks of a city in history. But why did Crusaders who set off to win control of the Holy Land from Muslims attach the chief city of the Eastern Orthodox Church?

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First Jewish ghetto established in Venice

This Day in World History
On April 10, 1516, the government of Venice officially confined the city’s Jews to one small area of the city—the first Jewish ghetto. This area remained the required home to the city’s Jews until Napoleon took the city in 1797 and abolished it. Nevertheless, the old ghetto remains the center of Venetian Jewry.

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Kenyatta sentenced to seven years hard labor

This Day in World History
On April 8, 1953, Jomo Kenyatta and five associates were sentenced by a British judge to seven years hard labor for allegedly directing the Mau Mau rebellion, a bloody, ongoing violent protest against European domination of what is now Kenya.

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First modern Olympic Games held in Athens

This Day in World History
An estimated 60,000 spectators witnessed the opening ceremonies of the first modern Olympic Games, held in Athens, Greece, on April 6, 1896. The ceremonies took place in the Panathinaiko Stadium, originally built in 330 B.C. and rebuilt in gleaming marble for the occasion.

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Martin Luther King, Jr., is assassinated

On 4th April 1968, as he stood on a balcony outside his room at the Lorraine Motel of Memphis, Martin Luther King, Jr., was struck in the neck by a sniper’s bullet. The bullet severed his spinal cord, killing him instantly. King’s death was followed by rioting in several of the nation’s cities.

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Scientists propose Big Bang Theory

This Day in World History
Poet T.S. Eliot might still be right—the world might end with a whimper. But on April 1, 1948, physicists George Gamow and Ralph Alpher first proposed the now prevailing idea of how the universe began—with a big bang.

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Ferdinand and Isabella order expulsion of Jews from Spain

This Day in World History
On January 2, 1492, Ferdinand II, King of Aragon, and Isabella, Queen of Castile, completed La Reconquista (the Reconquest) — the Christian victory over Muslims in Spain — by forcing the surrender of Granada, the last Muslim stronghold. Less than two months later, they signed a decree that signaled the end of the toleration of another religious group within their lands. On March 30, they ordered that all of Spain’s Jews had to either convert to Christianity or leave the country. And those Jews had just four months to make their choices.

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Paris Commune formed

This Day in World History
In the wake of France’s defeat by Prussia in the Franco-Prussian War, workers and students of Paris joined together to form a revolutionary government called the Paris Commune. Elected on March 26, the Commune was in direct opposition to the conservative national government. Some historians call the period of the Commune’s rule the first working-class revolt. Though historic, the rebellion failed.

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Greeks launch revolt against Turkish rule

This Day in World History
Chafing from four centuries of rule by the Ottoman Empire and taking advantage of the Ottoman army’s need to suppress a rebellious local official, the Greek organization Filike Etaireia ( “Friendly Brotherhood”) launched revolts across Greece on March 25, 1821. While it took years for the Greeks to win independence, the day the revolt began is still celebrated as Greek Independence Day.

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Handel conducts London premiere of Messiah

This Day in World History
On March 23, 1743, composer George Frideric Handel directed the first London performance of his sacred oratorio, Messiah. While the composition has become revered as a magnificent choral work—and a staple of the Christmas holiday season—it met some controversy when it first appeared.

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Nadir Shah enters Delhi and captures the Peacock Throne

This Day in World History
On March 21, 1739, Nadir Shah, leading Persian (Iranian) and Turkish forces, completed his conquest of the Mughal Empire by capturing Delhi, India, its capital. He seized vast stores of wealth, and among the prizes he carried away was the fabled Peacock Throne.

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Magellan reaches the Philippines

This Day in World History
On March 16, 1521, Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan — attempting to sail around the world for Spain — reached the Philippine archipelago. Magellan and his expedition were the first Europeans to reach the Philippines, a stop on the first circumnavigation of the globe — though Magellan’s portion of that journey would soon end.

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