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A photograph of Nelson Mandela during an event in London, 2006

Major historical anniversaries in February 

Image Credit: Alessia Pierdomenico / | Right Graphic:

Discover some of history’s most era-defining moments that have taken place during the month of February.

2 February

Battle of Stalingrad ends (1943)

The largest and bloodiest battle the world has ever seen marked the first major defeat for Hitler’s army. The vicious urban conflict cost the lives of around two million.

Idi Amin comes to power in Uganda (1971)

Considered one of the most brutal dictators in history, Idi Amin's eight-year reign of terror began on 2 February 1971. It's believed he was responsible for the murders of around 300,000 Ugandans.

4 February

George Washington elected the first US president (1789)

After leading the Continental Army to victory against the British during the American War of Independence, George Washington was unanimously elected the country’s first president.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is released by Disney (1938)

The ground-breaking animated movie was Disney's first-ever feature-length film.

Facebook launches (2004)

Originally built to connect Harvard students, Mark Zuckerberg's social media website called 'The Facebook' soon went global. Today, it is one of the most valuable companies in the world with nearly three billion active monthly users, over a third of the world’s population.

6 February

Elizabeth II ascends to the throne (1952)

At the age of 25, Elizabeth II ascended to the throne after the death of her father King George VI. She was in a treehouse in Kenya with her husband Prince Philip when she received the news of her father’s passing. She went on to become Britain's longest-serving monarch, sitting on the throne for 70 years.

Manchester United players die in Munich air disaster (1958)

British European Airways Flight 609 crashed on its third attempt to take off from Munich-Riem Airport in Germany after slush covered the runway. Onboard was the Manchester United football team, nicknamed the ‘Busby Babes’. Of the 44 on the flight, 23 were killed.

Ground-breaking tennis star Arthur Ashe dies (1993)

He is the only Black man to have ever won the men’s singles title at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open. Arthur Ashe died of complications from AIDS, at the age of 49.

8 February

Mary Queen of Scots is beheaded (1587)

Beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle for her complicity in a plot to murder Queen Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots had spent the previous nineteen years of her life imprisoned.

9 February

Princess Margaret dies (2002)

Queen Elizabeth II’s younger sister, Princess Margaret, passed away after suffering from a stroke at the age of 71. For the last 20 years of her life, Margaret had suffered from deteriorating health.

11 February

Margaret Thatcher becomes the leader of the Conservative Party (1975)

Upon winning the Tory leadership battle, Thatcher became the first female leader of a major political party in the UK. In 1979, she became the first woman in British history to become Prime Minister. She led the country until 1990.

Mandela released from prison (1990)

After 27 years in prison, the anti-apartheid activist and leader of the African National Congress (ANC), walked free from prison. Mandela went on to become South Africa’s first Black president and receive a Nobel peace prize.

12 February

Lady Jane Grey dies in the Tower of London (1554)

Beheaded at just sixteen years old, Lady Jane Grey has the unfortunate record of being the shortest-serving monarch in British history. Her reign lasted just nine days.

Charles Darwin is born (1809)

The famous naturalist, whose revolutionary theory of evolution changed how we look at the natural world, was one of many notable people from history born in February. Others include - George Washington (22 February 1732), Charles Dickens (7 February 1812), Thomas Edison (11 February 1847) and Rosa Parks (4 February 1913).

13 February

The bombing of Dresden (1945)

One of the most controversial events of the Second World War saw the Allies drop 4,000 tonnes of explosives and incendiary devices on the German city of Dresden – a city known for its intellectual culture and architectural beauty, not for its significance as a military target. The resulting firestorm is estimated to have killed 25,000 people.

14 February

St Valentine beaten and decapitated (270 AD)

Valentine was a priest in the Roman Empire who conducted marriages in secret, an act of direct defiance against the orders of Emperor Claudius II, who wished to outlaw the practice. Authorities caught St Valentine, threw him in prison beat and then decapitated him.

16 February

Howard Carter opened the door to Tutankhamun's tomb (1923)

In 1923, British archaeologist Howard Carter gazed upon the wonders held within the golden walls of King Tut’s tomb for the first time. It is considered one of the greatest archaeological finds in history.

21 February

Malcolm X assassinated (1965)

Malcolm X, an African American nationalist, religious leader and key figure in the US civil rights movement, was assassinated by rival Black Muslims while making a speech in New York City.

Battle of Verdun begins (1916)

It was one of the longest, bloodiest and most brutal battles of the First World War. The Battle of Verdun lasted ten months and saw the French repulse a major German offensive.

28 February

Deadliest crash in Tube history (1975)

At 8:46am, a train failed to stop at Moorgate station and crashed into the end wall. It resulted in the deaths of 43 people, becoming the worst peacetime accident in the London Underground.