Today in History, 21 July: What Happened on this Day

From the rise and fall of empires to groundbreaking scientific discoveries and cultural milestones, these historical events have paved the way for the world we know today. As we reflect on the past, we are reminded of the resilience, creativity, and ingenuity of human beings in the face of challenges and triumphs alike.

Historical Events


Diocletian appoints Maximian as Caesar and co-ruler

In the year 285, the Roman emperor Diocletian appointed Maximian as Caesar, which essentially made him a junior co-emperor and co-ruler of the Roman Empire. This was part of Diocletian’s efforts to strengthen the Roman government and deal with the challenges of the time. The appointment of Maximian as Caesar marked the beginning of the Tetrarchy, a system in which the Roman Empire was ruled by two Augusti (senior emperors) and two Caesars (junior emperors) who were intended to succeed the Augusti. The Tetrarchy was aimed at improving governance and maintaining stability, but its success was short-lived, as internal power struggles and external pressures eventually led to its collapse.



Battle of Shrewsbury

The Battle of Shrewsbury took place in 1403 during the reign of Henry IV, the King of England. In this significant conflict, Henry IV’s forces faced off against a rebel army led by Henry “Harry Hotspur” Percy of Northumberland. The battle was fought near Shrewsbury, England. Henry IV emerged victorious, defeating the rebel army and thereby quashing the Percy challenge to the English throne. It is noteworthy as it marked the first time that English archers fought against each other on English soil. The use of English longbow archers was a crucial aspect of medieval English warfare and had a profound impact on the outcome of battles during that period.



Arrest of John Dudley

John Dudley, also known as the Duke of Northumberland, was a prominent figure in Tudor England during the reign of King Edward VI. As the Lord President of the Council, Dudley held significant influence in the government. However, in 1553, following the death of Edward VI, a power struggle ensued to determine the succession to the English throne. Dudley supported Lady Jane Grey’s claim to the throne, and after she was declared queen, he effectively became the de facto ruler of England. However, his rule was short-lived, and he was arrested in Cambridge later that year when Mary I successfully asserted her claim to the throne and became the Queen of England.



Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina

In 1669, the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina were approved by the Lords Proprietors, who were the English aristocrats granted ownership of the Carolina territory in North America by King Charles II. The document was primarily drafted by the English philosopher John Locke, although its practical implementation was challenging and faced significant resistance. The Fundamental Constitutions aimed to establish a feudal-like system in the colony, granting certain privileges to the landowners, but it also recognized religious tolerance, to some extent, making it an early example of constitutional experimentation in the English colonies of America.



Battle of the Pyramids

The Battle of the Pyramids, also known as the Battle of Embabeh, occurred during Napoleon Bonaparte’s Egyptian campaign. In 1798, Napoleon led the French army against the Mamluk rulers of Egypt, seeking to establish French control over the region. The battle took place near the Pyramids of Giza, where Napoleon’s forces decisively defeated the Mamluk army, securing a significant victory for the French. The battle is remembered for Napoleon’s strategic brilliance and the effective use of his troops, including the famous “whiff of grapeshot” tactic employed by his artillery. This triumph in Egypt, however, was not enough to secure French domination in the region, as the British ultimately forced the French to withdraw from Egypt a few years later.



NY Central Park Created

On July 21, 1853, the New York State Legislature designated more than 750 acres of land on Manhattan Island to be transformed into Central Park. This decision marked the official creation of one of the most famous urban parks in the world. The park’s design was a collaborative effort between Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who won a design competition for the project. Central Park was intended to provide a green space for recreation and leisure in the rapidly growing and bustling city of New York. Today, Central Park remains an iconic landmark, attracting millions of visitors each year and serving as a vital green oasis in the heart of the city.



Wild Bill Hickok’s Showdown in Springfield

On July 21, 1865, in the market square of Springfield, Missouri, the legendary figure Wild Bill Hickok was involved in a fatal shootout with Davis Tutt. This event is regarded as the first true Western showdown, reflecting the popular image of the American Wild West. Hickok and Tutt had a longstanding dispute over gambling debts, which eventually led to a confrontation where both men faced off with revolvers. Hickok managed to shoot and kill Tutt, marking a pivotal moment in Wild Bill’s reputation as a skilled marksman and gunslinger. The Wild West, with its tales of gunslingers and outlaws, has become an enduring part of American folklore and entertainment.



Jesse James and James-Younger Gang’s Train Robbery

On July 21, 1873, the notorious outlaw Jesse James and his gang, including the Younger brothers, conducted their first successful train robbery at Adair, Iowa. The gang targeted a Rock Island Railroad train and managed to make off with a substantial amount of money. This event marked the beginning of a series of daring train and bank robberies committed by the James-Younger Gang throughout the American Midwest. Their exploits turned them into infamous symbols of the Wild West outlaw culture and have since been romanticized in numerous books and films.



Catholic Encyclical to Greek-Melkite Rite

In the year 1900, Pope Leo XIII issued an encyclical, a formal letter, addressed to the Greek-Melkite rite within the Catholic Church. The encyclical was titled “Praeclara Gratulationis Publicae” and aimed to promote unity and understanding between different Eastern and Western Catholic rites. The Greek-Melkite rite is one of the Eastern Catholic rites in communion with Rome, and Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical sought to affirm the richness of Eastern traditions and foster a spirit of ecumenism within the Catholic Church.

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Woodrow Wilson’s Third Lusitania Note

On July 21, 1915, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sent the third Lusitania note to Germany in response to the sinking of the RMS Lusitania. The Lusitania was a British passenger liner that was torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland on May 7, 1915, resulting in the deaths of nearly 1,200 people, including 128 Americans. The third Lusitania note warned Germany that any future infringement of American rights on the high seas would be considered “deliberately unfriendly.” This incident and the subsequent notes were pivotal in shaping public opinion in the United States and contributed to America’s eventual entry into World War I on the side of the Allies.



Anthony Fokker’s Aircraft Company

On July 21, 1919, the Dutch aviation pioneer Anthony Fokker established the Dutch Aircraft Factory in Amsterdam. Fokker was a renowned aircraft designer and manufacturer, known for his innovative contributions to aviation technology during World War I. His company played a significant role in the development of military aircraft during the war, producing several successful fighter planes. After the war, Fokker’s company continued to be a prominent player in the aviation industry, producing commercial aircraft that were widely used in the early decades of commercial aviation.



Scopes Monkey Trial Verdict

In 1925, the “Scopes monkey trial” took place in Dayton, Tennessee. John T. Scopes, a high school teacher, was accused of violating the state’s Butler Act, which prohibited the teaching of human evolution in public schools. The trial became a significant legal and cultural event, with prominent lawyers William Jennings Bryan representing the prosecution and Clarence Darrow representing the defence. Scopes was found guilty and fined $100, although the verdict was later overturned on a technicality. The trial highlighted the tension between science and religious fundamentalism in America and remains a landmark case in the debate over the teaching of evolution in schools.



Himmler Orders Construction of Majdanek Concentration Camp

On July 21, 1941, Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, ordered the construction of the Majdanek concentration camp in Lublin, Poland. Majdanek became one of the largest concentration camps in Nazi-occupied Europe, initially intended to house Soviet prisoners of war. However, it later evolved into a death camp where thousands of Jews, Poles, and other prisoners were systematically murdered. The camp’s discovery by the advancing Soviet forces in 1944 exposed the full horror of the Holocaust and the Nazi regime’s genocidal policies.



Winston Churchill’s Meeting with Montgomery

In 1944, during World War II, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill flew to France to meet with General Bernard Montgomery, the commanding officer of the British forces in Normandy. The meeting took place during the critical phase of the Battle of Normandy, which was part of the larger Allied invasion of Western Europe known as Operation Overlord. Churchill and Montgomery discussed the progress of the campaign and strategic decisions for the Allied forces. The success of the Normandy invasion marked a turning point in the war and eventually led to the liberation of Western Europe from Nazi occupation.



Günther von Kluge Warns Hitler of Front Collapse

In 1944, during World War II, Field Marshal Günther von Kluge, a German military commander, warned Adolf Hitler of the impending collapse of the front in Normandy. This warning came in the aftermath of the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944, when the Allied forces gained a foothold in France. The German defences were struggling to contain the advancing Allied armies, and von Kluge’s warning highlighted the severe challenges faced by the German military. Despite Hitler’s reluctance to acknowledge the reality of the situation, the eventual collapse of the German front in Normandy contributed to the Allies’ victory and the liberation of France.



Dalai Lama Returns to Tibet

In 1951, the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, returned to Tibet from exile in China. The Dalai Lama fled to China in 1950 amid the Chinese invasion of Tibet. His return to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, was met with great celebration and marked a significant moment in Tibetan history. However, the Chinese government’s growing influence and control over Tibet would later lead to tensions and eventually result in the 1959 Tibetan Uprising and the Dalai Lama’s subsequent escape into exile in India.



Sirimavo Bandaranaike Becomes the First Female Elected Head of Government

In 1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the widow of former Prime Minister Solomon Bandaranaike, became the world’s first female elected head of government. She was elected as the Prime Minister of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) after leading the Sri Lanka Freedom Party to victory in the general elections. Her ascension to power was a groundbreaking achievement for women in politics and represented a significant step forward for gender equality in leadership positions.



Apollo 11 Moon Landing

On July 21, 1969, during the Apollo 11 mission, American astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first person to step on the Moon’s surface. The historic moment was broadcast live to millions of people around the world, and Armstrong’s famous words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” became an iconic symbol of human achievement. The Apollo 11 mission was a milestone in space exploration, proving that humans could travel to and walk on another celestial body beyond Earth.



Sam Giancana’s Return to the United States

On July 21, 1971, notorious American mobster Sam Giancana returned to the United States after spending seven years in exile in Mexico. Giancana was a high-ranking member of the Chicago Outfit, a prominent organized crime syndicate. During his time in Mexico, he continued to be involved in criminal activities, but his return to the United States brought him back into the focus of law enforcement. His eventual assassination in 1975 remains unsolved, and his life is a part of the lore surrounding organized crime in America.



Arrest of Radovan Karadžić

On July 21, 2008, Radovan Karadžić, a Bosnian Serb politician and former President of Republika Srpska, was arrested in Serbia. He had been a fugitive from justice for over a decade, wanted by the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes during the Bosnian War. His arrest marked a significant step in the pursuit of justice for the war crimes committed during the conflict, including the Srebrenica massacre.

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India Scraps Tax on Sanitary Products

In 2018, India took a significant step toward menstrual hygiene and women’s health when the government decided to remove the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on sanitary products. The move came after a sustained campaign by activists and women’s rights groups advocating for improved access to affordable menstrual hygiene products. The elimination of the tax made sanitary products more accessible to women across the country, contributing to their overall well-being and dignity.



Stage 1 Completion of Blue Nile River Dam

On July 21, 2020, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that Stage 1 of the controversial filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile River was completed. The GERD is a massive hydroelectric dam project that has been the subject of regional tensions between Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt. While Ethiopia sees the dam as a vital source of electricity and development, downstream countries Sudan and Egypt have expressed concerns about potential impacts on water flow and their water security. The filling of the dam has been a contentious issue, and negotiations between the three countries have been ongoing.



President Xi Jinping’s Visit to Tibet

In 2021, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Tibet, making him the first Chinese leader to do so in 30 years. Tibet has been a sensitive and contested region, with China’s control over it being a point of concern for human rights advocates and Tibetan exiles. President Xi’s visit was seen as a signal of China’s firm stance on its territorial claims and sovereignty over Tibet. The visit also sparked international attention and discussions on Tibet’s autonomy and human rights situation. 

Art, Films, And Music





Stormy Weather

“Stormy Weather” is a musical film directed by Andrew L. Stone that premiered in the United States on July 21, 1943. The film features a star-studded cast, including legendary performers Bill Robinson, Lena Horne, and Fats Waller, with the latter delivering a memorable rendition of the song “Ain’t Misbehavin'”. The film is noted for its all-African American cast and its showcase of top-notch musical performances, making it an important milestone in the representation of African Americans in Hollywood during that era.


The Quiet Man

On July 21, 1952, “The Quiet Man,” a romantic drama film directed by John Ford, was released in the United Kingdom. Starring Hollywood icons John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, the movie tells the story of an American boxer who returns to his ancestral home in Ireland and falls in love with a local woman. Known for its lush cinematography and heartfelt performances, “The Quiet Man” remains a beloved classic in the world of cinema.


Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Premiering in New York City on July 21, 1978, “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” is a musical comedy film featuring the popular music of The Beatles, centred around their iconic album of the same name. The film stars The Bee Gees and other renowned musicians, who perform various tracks from the album throughout the movie. While the film was not a critical success, its unique tribute to The Beatles’ music has gained a cult following over the years.


Guardians of the Galaxy

On July 21, 2014, “Guardians of the Galaxy,” a superhero film directed by James Gunn, made its premiere in Hollywood, Los Angeles. Starring Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord and Zoe Saldana as Gamora, the movie follows a group of misfits who come together to save the galaxy from a powerful and destructive artefact. The film’s humour, stellar soundtrack, and the unexpected success propelled it to become one of the most popular entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


Final Harry Potter Book Published

On July 21, 2007, a literary milestone occurred with the worldwide release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the seventh and final book in the beloved Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. The book’s release marked the end of a cultural phenomenon that had captured the imaginations of readers of all ages. “Deathly Hallows” sold a staggering 11 million copies within the first 24 hours of its release, solidifying the series’ place in literary history and its impact on popular culture.


Film & TV History

At Comic-Con on July 21, 2019, Marvel Studios made a groundbreaking announcement, revealing plans for ten new superhero films. Among the highlights were “Blade,” featuring Mahershala Ali as the titular vampire hunter, and “Thor: Love and Thunder,” in which Natalie Portman’s character, Jane Foster, takes on the mantle of Thor. Additionally, the announcement included the groundbreaking “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” which became the first Asian-American-led superhero film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This significant development showcased Marvel’s commitment to diversity and representation within the superhero genre.

Notable Birthdays

Thomas Pelham-Holles


Thomas Pelham-Holles, the 1st Duke of Newcastle, was a prominent British politician and statesman who served as Prime Minister from 1757 to 1762. He was a member of the Whig party and played a crucial role in British politics during the mid-18th century. Born in London, he belonged to a noble family and held various influential positions throughout his career. As Prime Minister, he faced significant challenges, including dealing with the Seven Years’ War, which had major implications for Britain and its colonies. Pelham-Holles’ leadership and political acumen left a lasting impact on the political landscape of his time.


Ernest Hemingway


Ernest Hemingway, an iconic American author, was renowned for his distinctive writing style and literary contributions. He gained fame for his novels, short stories, and journalistic work. Notable among his works is “The Old Man and the Sea,” which earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. Hemingway’s writing was characterized by its concise and straightforward prose, often capturing the themes of war, love, and human struggle. Born in Oak Park, Illinois, he became one of the most celebrated and influential writers of the 20th century, leaving a profound impact on the world of literature.

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Marshall McLuhan


Marshall McLuhan, a Canadian writer and intellectual, is often considered a visionary for his insights into media and communication. He coined the phrase “the medium is the message,” emphasizing that the way information is delivered is just as important as the content itself. McLuhan’s ideas on the impact of media on society were groundbreaking, especially during the rise of television and other electronic forms of communication. Born in Edmonton, Alberta, his work sparked debates and discussions on the effects of media on culture and human behaviour, making him a key figure in the study of media theory.


Chandu Borde


Chandu Borde is an Indian cricket batsman who represented the national team in 55 Test matches from 1959 to 1967. Hailing from Pune, British India (now Pune, India), Borde was a talented and versatile player who excelled in both batting and fielding. He was known for his elegant stroke play and steady performances. Borde’s contributions to Indian cricket during the early years were significant, and he remains a respected figure in the sport.


Ken Starr


Ken Starr, an American lawyer, rose to prominence as the independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton during the Whitewater controversy and the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The investigation led to the publication of the Starr Report, which detailed Clinton’s relationship with Lewinsky and the ensuing political and legal fallout. Born in Vernon, Texas, Starr’s work had a major impact on American politics and public discourse. Despite the controversies surrounding the investigation, he maintained a distinguished legal career throughout his life.


Cat Stevens


Cat Stevens, whose real name is Yusuf Islam, is a British singer-songwriter known for his soulful and introspective music. His songs, such as “Peace Train” and “Moonshadow,” became anthems for a generation seeking peace and understanding during the turbulent 1960s and 1970s. Born in Marleybone, London, England, Stevens’ music touched the hearts of millions and remains popular to this day. After undergoing a spiritual transformation in the late 1970s, he embraced Islam and shifted his focus from music to philanthropy and humanitarian work.


Robin Williams


Robin Williams was an immensely talented American actor and comedian who became a beloved figure in the entertainment industry. Known for his improvisational skills and infectious humour, Williams starred in numerous iconic films such as “Mork & Mindy,” “Jumanji,” “Dead Poets Society,” and “Good Will Hunting,” for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Born in Chicago, Illinois, Williams’ performances transcended genres and touched the lives of people around the world. Tragically, his untimely death in 2014 left a void in the hearts of his fans and the entertainment community.

Notable Deaths

Robert Burns (1796)

Robert Burns, a Scottish poet renowned for his works like “Auld Lang Syne” and “A Red, Red Rose,” is considered the national poet of Scotland. Born on January 25, 1759, in Alloway, Scotland, Burns had a short but impactful life in the world of literature. His poetry often reflected themes of love, nature, and the struggles of common people. His works, written in both English and Scots language, have had a profound influence on Scottish culture and literature. Sadly, Robert Burns passed away at the tender age of 37, leaving behind a legacy that endures to this day, and he continues to be celebrated annually on Burns Night.


Basil Rathbone (1892-1967)

Basil Rathbone, a British actor born in South Africa, gained international fame for his portrayal of the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes in several films. His masterful performance as Holmes in movies like “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” earned him immense recognition and made him synonymous with the iconic character. Rathbone’s talent extended beyond the Sherlock Holmes series, as he excelled in various other roles on both stage and screen. On July 21, 1967, he tragically passed away at the age of 75 due to a heart attack, leaving behind a remarkable acting legacy that continues to inspire actors to this day.


Jimmie Foxx (1907-1967)

Jimmie Foxx, an American baseball player, etched his name in sports history as one of the greatest first basemen of all time. He had an illustrious career, with numerous achievements such as being a 9-time MLB All-Star, winning the World Series with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1929 and 1930, securing the AL MVP title three times (1932, 1933, and 1938), and achieving the Triple Crown in 1933. Foxx’s exceptional hitting prowess and defensive skills earned him widespread admiration and respect among his peers and fans alike. Unfortunately, his life was cut short when he choked on food and passed away on July 21, 1967, at the age of 59. Despite his untimely demise, his impact on baseball and his enduring legacy continue to be celebrated by sports enthusiasts worldwide.


Alan Shepard (1923-1998)

Alan Shepard, an American astronaut, made history as the first American to journey into space. Born on November 18, 1923, Shepard was part of the Mercury-Redstone 3 mission, also known as Freedom 7, which launched on May 5, 1961. During this historic suborbital flight, he spent approximately 15 minutes in space, reaching an altitude of 116 miles and achieving a maximum speed of 5,134 miles per hour. Shepard’s groundbreaking achievement played a crucial role in the United States space program and helped pave the way for subsequent space missions. Tragically, he battled leukaemia in his later years and passed away on July 21, 1998, at the age of 74. Shepard’s contributions to space exploration continue to be commemorated, and his name is forever etched in the annals of space history.

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Source: HIS Education

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