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Joséphine kneels before Napoleon during his coronation at Notre Dame

Major historical anniversaries in December

Image: Joséphine kneels before Napoleon during his coronation at Notre Dame | Public Domain

From the first human heart transplant to the abdication of Edward VIII, discover what major historical events have taken place in the month of December.

1 December

Rosa Parks bus boycott (1955)

Known as the ‘mother of the civil rights movement’ in America, Rosa Parks invigorated the fight for racial equality by refusing to give up her seat to a white man whilst on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

2 December

Napoleon crowned emperor (1804)

Napoleon Bonaparte - one of history's greatest military leaders who shaped early 19th-century Europe through the Napoleonic Wars - became Emperor of France after being crowned in Paris by Pope Pius VII.

Pablo Escobar is shot dead (1993)

Infamous Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, who founded the notorious Medellín Cartel, was shot dead by armed police after a brief period on the run.

3 December

First human heart transplant (1967)

The world’s first successful human heart transplant was performed in Cape Town, South Africa on 53-year-old Louis Washkansky.

5 December

Death of Nelson Mandela (2013)

The anti-apartheid activist and South Africa’s first Black president passed away at the age of 95.

Mary Celeste is spotted (1872)

Known as the most famous ghost ship in history, the Mary Celeste was spotted drifting hundreds of miles off course and abandoned. Despite a vast amount of research into the mystery, to this day no one knows what happened to her 10 passengers.

The Great Smog of London (1952)

A thick yellow cloud descended on London for five days causing havoc and killing an estimated 4,000 people. The event is remembered as the worst air pollution disaster in the history of the UK.

7 December

Attack on Pearl Harbor (1941)

The Japanese launched a surprise military attack against the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii during the early hours of a Sunday morning. Nearly 2,500 American servicemen were killed in the attack which lasted just over an hour. America declared war on Japan the next day, officially entering WWII.

11 December

Abdication of Edward VIII (1936)

After inheriting the throne in January 1936 upon the death of his father George V, Edward VIII abdicated in order to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Edward’s brother, George VI subsequently inherited the throne.

13 December

Saddam Hussein is captured (2003)

After spending eight months on the run, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was captured by American forces whilst hiding in a hole at a farmhouse in northern Iraq.

14 December

British women vote in an election for the first time (1918)

Thanks to the suffragette movement, women voted in a general election for the very first time in British history.

16 December

The Boston Tea Party (1773)

342 chests of tea were famously dumped into the water at Boston Harbour, Massachusetts by a group of colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians. The colonists boarded three British tea ships in protest of the recent British Tea Act.

Birth of Jane Austen (1775)

The English novelist and author of literary classics such as Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Emma, was born on this day in 1775.

18 December

Wright Brothers achieve flight (1903)

For the first time in history, mankind took to the skies as the Wright Brothers’ Wright Flyer aircraft lifted off the ground in North Carolina, USA.

19 December

President Clinton is impeached (1998)

After lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton became just the second president in U.S. history to be impeached. He was later acquitted.

21 December

Lockerbie bombing (1988)

Pan Am Flight 103 from Frankfurt to Detroit, exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie after a bomb went off. All 259 people on board were killed, along with 11 residents on the ground. It is the deadliest terrorist incident to have taken place on British soil.

23 December

Van Gogh chops off his ear (1888)

The famous Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh chopped off his left ear after a row with fellow artist Paul Gauguin. He then, apparently, packaged it up and presented it to a prostitute in a nearby brothel.

24 December

Christmas Truce (1914)

It was a remarkable moment of humanity during one of mankind’s darkest hours. On Christmas Eve 1914, a spontaneous truce erupted along the lines of the Western Front during WW1. German, Belgian, French and British troops came together in No-Man’s Land in the spirit of Christmas to fraternise with one another, exchange gifts and even kick a ball about.

25 December

William the Conqueror is crowned King of England (1066)

After defeating Harold II - the last Anglo-Saxon king of England - at the Battle of Hastings in October 1066, Duke William of Normandy (or as he’s more famously known, William the Conqueror) was crowned king two months later on Christmas Day at Westminster Abbey.

26 December

Indian Ocean tsunami (2004)

Around 8am on Boxing Day, a massive earthquake with a magnitude of 9.3 struck off the west coast of northern Sumatra, Indonesia. The quake triggered a series of monumental tsunamis that hit numerous coastal areas in the region and caused widespread destruction. The natural disaster caused 227,898 people to lose their lives.

30 December

USSR is founded (1922)

With its roots in the October Revolution of 1917, the Soviet Union (officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, USSR) was founded and comprised Russia, Byelorussia, Ukraine and the Transcaucasian Federation.

Rasputin murdered (1916)

Revered and reviled in equal measure during his lifetime, Rasputin - the so-called 'Mad Monk' - went from lowly peasant to close ally of the last Russian Tsar and his wife, before eventually being assassinated by a group of Russian noblemen.