This Day in History

January 11, 49 BC: Julius Caesar Crosses the Rubicon
1: January 11, 49 BC: Julius Caesar Crosses the Rubicon

Julius Caesar was known as a decisive general. When he chose to step forward, cross the Rubicon, and march on Rome with nothing but a single legion, this was one of the riskiest decisions in military history. Ultimately it resulted in the end of the Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire.

7 min
January 15, 1929: Martin Luther King Jr. Is Born
2: January 15, 1929: Martin Luther King Jr. Is Born

January 15, 1929: Martin Luther King Jr. is born. From this tiny beginning came huge change. Follow his footsteps through his involvement with the NAACP and the tremendous impact Ida B. Wells had on his leadership within the civil rights movement.

8 min
February 11, 1990: Nelson Mandela Freed from Prison
3: February 11, 1990: Nelson Mandela Freed from Prison

February 11, 1990, may have felt like an ordinary day for many of us, but it marks an extraordinary and often overlooked event in world history. On this date, South African revolutionary Nelson Mandela was freed from prison after 27 years of captivity. Join Professor Douglas Linder, the Elmer Powell Peer Professor of Law at the University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law, as he walks you through the astounding—and not too distant—story of blatant racism and apartheid, persistence and courage, and how this day in history marked the emergence of a real-life hero who changed our world for the better.

10 min
February 23, 1945: Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima
4: February 23, 1945: Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima

Join a four-star general to dig into the details and historical context around of the one of the most iconic images in American military history: “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” (Feb. 23, 1945).

8 min
March 17, 461: St. Patrick Dies
5: March 17, 461: St. Patrick Dies

On March 17, people all around the world hold religious and secular celebrations in honor of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Find out how his small acts of evangelism changed the face of religion in Ireland.

5 min
April 2, 1805: Hans Christian Andersen Is Born
6: April 2, 1805: Hans Christian Andersen Is Born

Join professional storyteller Hannah B. Harvey as she reveals a bit of history about Hans Christian Andersen and performs a truly delightful re-telling of “Thumbelina."

13 min
April 9, 1865: Robert E. Lee Surrenders
7: April 9, 1865: Robert E. Lee Surrenders

Award-winning professor Gary Gallagher reveals some astounding details about Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia to Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant, who led the Union Army. Look at the factors that went into making the decision of surrender, the fallout for the Confederates after the surrender, and the ramifications this one day had on the future of American democracy.

6 min
April 22, 1509: King Henry VIII Begins His Reign
8: April 22, 1509: King Henry VIII Begins His Reign

Unpack the impact of King Henry VIII’s first day in power and the widespread political and religious ramifications of his desire for an annulment.

5 min
April 24, 1479 BC: Queen Hatshepsut Seizes Power
9: April 24, 1479 BC: Queen Hatshepsut Seizes Power

Follow a truly fascinating tale of the king who was a woman as you delve into the story of Hatshepsut, who ruled Egypt for 22 years and then was erased from history. Follow an Egyptologist as he sorts through history, hieroglyphs, and hearsay to bring you the story of this amazing figure.

7 min
May 4, 2008: Star Wars Day Is Born
10: May 4, 2008: Star Wars Day Is Born

There’s no denying Star Wars is a powerful, enduring phenomena that resonates with audiences, but it also explores a number of important philosophical issues. Join Dr. David Kyle Johnson to unpack the deeper concepts behind this epic space opera.

9 min
May 14, 1607: Jamestown Colony Founded
11: May 14, 1607: Jamestown Colony Founded

Join a renowned anthropology professor to uncover the lost settlement of Jamestown and discover just how brutal life was for the early colonists during the inception of the first permanent British settlement in North America.

10 min
May 18, 1980: Mount Saint Helens Erupts
12: May 18, 1980: Mount Saint Helens Erupts

Join the Director of Programming for National Geographic Expeditions to relive the most destructive volcanic eruption in the continental United States—Mount St. Helens—from the perspective of a geologist.

6 min
June 10, 323 BC: Alexander the Great Dies
13: June 10, 323 BC: Alexander the Great Dies

Professor Garland introduces you to Alexander, the king of Macedonia in 336 and examines the political and social culture of the time. Look into the strange circumstances of his death and how his short reign had long-effecting impact on the world.

8 min
June 15, 1215: King John Signs the Magna Carta
14: June 15, 1215: King John Signs the Magna Carta

Although the signing of the Magna Carta went practically unnoticed by the entire rest of the world, it had political and social impacts that affect how we live, even today. Join Professor Dorsey Armstrong to learn about this monumental event.

9 min
June 16, 1904: Bloomsday
15: June 16, 1904: Bloomsday

Join English Professor Marc Conner for an illuminating look through the lens of history at the context and circumstances that contributed to James Joyce’s Ulysses, revealing the true-life people, places, and events that inspired the epic novel.

8 min
July 19, 1799: Rosetta Stone Discovered
16: July 19, 1799: Rosetta Stone Discovered

The Rosetta Stone—a rock inscribed with parallel passages of ancient Greek writing, Egyptian hieroglyphs, and Demotic script—has had quite a history. Follow this chapter of its transient story involving Napoleon and what the black basalt slab meant to him.

9 min
July 27, 1953: The Korean War Ends
17: July 27, 1953: The Korean War Ends

Examine how the Korean War Veterans Memorial came into being and how its different elements pay tribute to the troops and civilians who were involved in the conflict.

8 min
August 6, 1945: The United States Drops the First Atomic Bomb
18: August 6, 1945: The United States Drops the First Atomic Bomb

Join an award-winning professor of history to take an in-depth look at the options around and decision to deploy a uranium atomic bomb to be detonated over Hiroshima.

9 min
August 18, 1920: American Women Gain Voting Rights
19: August 18, 1920: American Women Gain Voting Rights

The ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution occurred on August 18, 1920. It took three years in the making and was the result of decades of work to ensure that women’s roles and rights in American society would dramatically change. Join an esteemed professor of history to walk through the activities and actions of the women’s suffrage movement.

8 min
August 24, AD 79: Mount Vesuvius Destroys Pompeii
20: August 24, AD 79: Mount Vesuvius Destroys Pompeii

Join a historian and trace the timeline of events, and the path of destruction, caused by Mount Vesuvius on August 24, 79 A.D.

9 min
August 30, 1797: Mary Shelley Is Born
21: August 30, 1797: Mary Shelley Is Born

Celebrate the author of the beloved novel Frankenstein and discover how, at just 18 years old, Mary Shelley is often credited with starting the modern science fiction tradition, while giving a poignant commentary on the dangers of unbridled scientific education.

12 min
September 12, 490 BC: Athens Wins the Battle of Marathon
22: September 12, 490 BC: Athens Wins the Battle of Marathon

One of the most famous military matchups of ancient history was that of the Battle of Marathon, where a vastly outnumbered Athenian army managed to emerge victorious. Join a noted historian to understand how this happened.

5 min
September 22, 1862: Lincoln Issues the Emancipation Proclamation
23: September 22, 1862: Lincoln Issues the Emancipation Proclamation

Discover how President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation reflected not only his desire to ensure a Union victory in the Civil War, but also his deepening conviction that the end of American slavery was the very will of God.

11 min
September 28, 1928: Alexander Fleming Discovers Penicillin
24: September 28, 1928: Alexander Fleming Discovers Penicillin

Dig into the history of penicillin and see how a dirty petri dish changed the face of modern pharmaceuticals.

4 min
October 4, 1957: The USSR Launches Sputnik 1
25: October 4, 1957: The USSR Launches Sputnik 1

See how the launch of Sputnik 1 impacted America’s role in the space race and quickly furthered our research and technology in a way nothing else has since then.

6 min
October 14, 1066: William Conquers England
26: October 14, 1066: William Conquers England

Examine how Duke William the Bastard of Normandy led the Normans to victory, created a strong feudal government, and fortified England as a powerful and influential nation—and, in doing so, shaped the history of Europe and the world.

13 min
November 9, 1989: The Berlin Wall Falls
27: November 9, 1989: The Berlin Wall Falls

More than just symbolizing the beginning of the end to the Cold War, when the Berlin Wall came down on November 9, 1989, it changed the world profoundly. And the most amazing part? It was due to an accident. Join Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius to trace the circumstances and oversights that led to the downfall of the Iron Curtain.

5 min
November 21, 1887: Sherlock Holmes Makes His Debut
28: November 21, 1887: Sherlock Holmes Makes His Debut

Travel back through the century to see why Sherlock Holmes has had such an impact on the mystery and suspense genre from the first moment of his unveiling in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet.

5 min
November 25, 1491: The Treaty of Granada Ends the Spanish Reconquista
29: November 25, 1491: The Treaty of Granada Ends the Spanish Reconquista

Join an esteemed history professor to discover how the signing of the Treaty of Granada came to be and how it shaped forthcoming events.

6 min
December 7, 1941: Japan Bombs Pearl Harbor
30: December 7, 1941: Japan Bombs Pearl Harbor

Take a unique look at one of the most well-known events in military history to better understand how the bombing of Pearl Harbor ultimately marked the beginning of the end for the Japanese empire. Professor Mark J. Ravina examines the reasons why Japan embarked on a war they were not prepared to finish—let alone, win—and the plethora of disastrous miscalculations based on flawed assumptions made under the guidance of a leader with no military experience.

10 min
December 15, 1832: Gustave Eiffel Is Born
31: December 15, 1832: Gustave Eiffel Is Born

Join Professor Stephen Ressler to uncover the inner workings of the most recognizable structure in the world: the Eiffel Tower.

8 min
January 15, 1559: Elizabeth I Is Crowned Queen of England
32: January 15, 1559: Elizabeth I Is Crowned Queen of England

Get to know Queen Elizabeth I, who turned a country ripe with religious and political turmoil into a golden age of English history.

10 min
January 19, 1809: Edgar Allan Poe Is Born
33: January 19, 1809: Edgar Allan Poe Is Born

Get to know Edgar Allen Poe and discover how his writing influenced a wide range of writers and literary genres.

11 min
February 6, 1895: Babe Ruth Is Born
34: February 6, 1895: Babe Ruth Is Born

George Herman “Babe” Ruth Jr. is one of the most famous names in baseball. Discover why his athletic achievements helped him obtain this notoriety and how he helped create the game as we know it today.

10 min
February 24, 1868: Andrew Johnson Impeached
35: February 24, 1868: Andrew Johnson Impeached

Look at this day in history to reveal the details, the speeches, the high and low points, and the impactful aftermath of the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson.

12 min
March 15, 44 BC: Julius Caesar Is Assassinated
36: March 15, 44 BC: Julius Caesar Is Assassinated

Join esteemed historian Gregory S. Aldrete to uncover the circumstances that led to the assassination of Julius Caesar, reveal the details of the act itself, and delve into the period of uncertainty that followed.

9 min
March 28, 1979: A Nuclear Accident Occurs at Three Mile Island
37: March 28, 1979: A Nuclear Accident Occurs at Three Mile Island

Join an award-winning professor of physics to go through the events of the Three Mile Island disaster, detailing the worst nuclear accident in U.S. history.

7 min