Today in History, 20 July: What Happened on this Day

History is a tapestry woven with countless threads of human experiences, triumphs, and struggles. Each event and life recounted here reminds us of the rich complexity of our collective journey.  

These historical events, from ancient conquerors to modern-day cultural icons, have left a profound impact on our world. They have shaped societies, influenced political landscapes, and inspired generations. 

Historical Events


Wars of Scottish Independence: Fall of Stirling Castle – King Edward I of England takes the last rebel stronghold of the war.

In 1304, during the Wars of Scottish Independence, King Edward I of England achieved a significant victory by capturing Stirling Castle, the last remaining stronghold of the Scottish rebels. The conflict between England and Scotland was fueled by competing claims to the Scottish throne and longstanding territorial disputes. Stirling Castle, located strategically atop a rocky outcrop, was a crucial defensive position and had withstood numerous attempts at capture. However, Edward I’s military prowess and determination eventually led to the downfall of the castle. The victory at Stirling Castle allowed England to assert its dominance over Scotland and paved the way for further consolidation of English rule in the region.


Battle of Ankara.

The Battle of Ankara, which took place in 1402, was a momentous clash between two powerful empires: the Ottoman Empire, led by Sultan Bayezid I, and the Timurid Empire, led by the formidable conqueror Timur (also known as Tamerlane). Timur, a renowned military strategist, confronted Bayezid’s forces near Ankara, in present-day Turkey. The battle is particularly noteworthy for Timur’s innovative use of heavily armoured elephants, which he deployed to devastating effect against the Ottoman troops. As a result of this battle, Bayezid was captured, leading to a power vacuum within the Ottoman Empire. Timur’s victory significantly weakened the Ottomans, paving the way for other regional powers to challenge their authority.


The capture of John Dudley, Lord President of the Council.

In 1553, John Dudley, the Lord President of the Council during the reign of King Edward VI of England, was captured in Cambridge. Dudley was a prominent political figure and a key player in the power struggles of the time. After the death of Edward VI, Dudley attempted to secure succession for Lady Jane Grey, but his plan failed, and Lady Jane Grey was deposed after only nine days as queen. Subsequently, Mary I ascended the throne and accused Dudley of treason for his involvement in Lady Jane Grey’s claim to the crown. Dudley’s capture marked the end of his political ambitions and ultimately led to his execution.


Reinforcement of the Anglo-Portuguese Treaty.

In 1654, the Anglo-Portuguese treaty, first established in 1373, was reinforced. The treaty solidified the alliance between England and Portugal, with England guaranteeing Portugal’s independence and territorial integrity. In return, Portugal granted trade concessions to England, fostering a mutually beneficial economic relationship. This strengthened alliance proved to be crucial in the face of various geopolitical challenges, and it endured for centuries, playing a significant role in both countries’ histories.


Napoleon’s Decree on Family Names for French Jews.

In 1808, during the reign of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, a decree was issued mandating that all Jews living in the French Empire adopt fixed family names. Prior to this decree, Jews often used patronymics or occupational names without a consistent family surname structure. Napoleon’s aim was to assimilate the Jewish population into French society and create a sense of unity and identity within the empire. This decree had a lasting impact on French Jewish communities, influencing their integration into broader French culture while also highlighting the complex relationship between state authority and religious identity.


Opening of Euston Station.

On September 20, 1837, Euston railway station opened in London, becoming the first intercity railway station in the city. It served as the terminus for the London and Birmingham Railway (L&BR), a pioneering railway line that significantly improved travel between London and Birmingham. Designed by architect Philip Hardwick, Euston Station was an architectural marvel of its time, featuring a Doric propylaeum entrance and a grand arch with statues symbolizing commerce and industry. The station’s opening marked a major milestone in the development of Britain’s railway network, revolutionizing transportation and facilitating greater connectivity between cities.


Gathering of Plombieres – Napoleon III meets Cavour.

In 1858, a significant meeting took place in Plombieres, a town in present-day France, between Napoleon III of France and Count Camillo di Cavour, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia. The two leaders discussed their mutual goal of weakening Austria’s influence in the Italian peninsula and forging a unified Italian state. This meeting laid the groundwork for the Franco-Sardinian alliance against Austria, leading to the Second Italian War of Independence in 1859. The war ultimately resulted in the unification of various Italian states under the leadership of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, with the exception of Venetia and the Papal States, which would later join unified Italy.


Surrender of Sioux Indian Chief Sitting Bull.

In 1881, Sioux Indian Chief Sitting Bull, a prominent leader and spiritual figure among his people, surrendered to United States federal troops. Sitting Bull played a crucial role in resisting American expansion into Native American territories, particularly during the Great Sioux War of 1876-1877, which culminated in the infamous Battle of Little Bighorn. However, after years of conflict and the dwindling prospects for the Sioux, Sitting Bull chose to surrender, hoping to secure a better future for his tribe. His surrender marked a turning point in the struggles of Native American communities and the encroachment of the United States on their lands and rights.


Acquittal of Former Dutch Premier Abraham Kuyper.

On this day in 1910, Abraham Kuyper, the former Prime Minister of the Netherlands, was acquitted of corruption charges. Kuyper was a significant political figure, known for his contributions to the development of the Anti-Revolutionary Party and his advocacy for orthodox Protestant values. His trial brought national attention to issues of political ethics and integrity in the Netherlands. The acquittal was seen as a vindication for Kuyper, who remained an influential figure in Dutch politics and continued to shape the country’s religious and political landscape.


Congresswoman Alice Mary Robertson’s Historic Moment.

On this day in 1921, Congresswoman Alice Mary Robertson made history by becoming the first woman to preside over the floor of the United States House of Representatives. Robertson, a Republican representative from Oklahoma, was a pioneering figure in the women’s suffrage movement and worked tirelessly to advocate for women’s rights and representation in government. Her election as the temporary chairwoman of the House marked a significant milestone in the ongoing struggle for gender equality in American politics, inspiring future generations of women to seek leadership roles in government and public service.


Franz von Papen’s Coup against the Prussian Government.

In 1932, Franz von Papen, a prominent German politician and former Chancellor of Germany, launched a coup against the Prussian government. The Prussian government, at the time, was controlled by the Social Democratic Party and was a stronghold of democratic and progressive forces in Germany. Von Papen, seeking to weaken democratic institutions and consolidate power, sought to dismantle the Prussian government through the use of emergency powers granted under Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution. However, his attempt at a coup ultimately failed, and the government resisted his efforts. Von Papen’s actions were indicative of the political turbulence and power struggles that plagued Germany during the Weimar Republic era, contributing to the rise of extremist ideologies and eventually leading to the Nazi regime.


Vatican’s Accord with Adolf Hitler.

In 1933, Vatican State Secretary Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, who would later become Pope Pius XII, signed an accord with Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime in Germany. The Concordat, as it was called, aimed to define the relationship between the Vatican and the Nazi government and addressed various issues, including the rights of the Catholic Church in Germany. The accord was widely criticized as it allowed the Nazi regime to tighten its grip on power while limiting the influence of the Catholic Church in political matters. The Vatican’s actions during this period have been a subject of controversy and debate, with some arguing that the Church was seeking to protect its interests and the rights of Catholics in Germany, while others viewed it as an appeasement of the totalitarian regime.


Formation of the Guinea Pig Club.

In 1941, during World War II, the Guinea Pig Club was formed at the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, England, by pioneering plastic surgeon Sir Archibald McIndoe. The club was made up of severely injured Allied airmen who had undergone innovative reconstructive surgery, primarily for severe burns and disfigurements sustained in combat. McIndoe’s groundbreaking surgical techniques and his dedication to the rehabilitation of his patients earned him the admiration and gratitude of the airmen. The Guinea Pig Club provided its members with camaraderie, support, and a sense of community during their long and challenging recovery process. It remains a symbol of resilience and the indomitable spirit of those who endured tremendous hardship during the war.


General Eisenhower’s Visit to Montgomery’s Headquarters in Normandy.

In 1944, during World War II, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, visited the headquarters of British General Bernard Montgomery in Normandy, France. The meeting took place after the successful Allied landings on D-Day and was significant in coordinating the ongoing Allied efforts in the European theatre. Eisenhower and Montgomery were key leaders in the Western Allies’ strategy to liberate Europe from Nazi occupation, and their collaboration and strategic decisions played a crucial role in the eventual defeat of Germany.


US President FDR’s Unprecedented Nomination for a 4th Term.

In 1944, at the Democratic National Convention, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) was nominated for an unprecedented fourth term as the Democratic candidate for President of the United States. FDR, having successfully led the country through the Great Depression and most of World War II, remained a popular and respected leader among the American public. The nomination was historic as no other US president had ever sought or won a fourth term in office. FDR’s nomination signalled the nation’s desire for continuity and stability during wartime and demonstrated the trust placed in his leadership during a critical juncture in world history.


Peace Treaty between African States and Madagascar and the European Community (EC).

In 1963, a peace treaty was signed between seventeen African states and Madagascar, collectively referred to as the “Group of Seventeen,” and the European Community (EC). The treaty aimed to foster cooperation and peace between the two regions and promote economic development. By signing the treaty, the African states sought to strengthen their ties with the EC and enhance trade and diplomatic relations. The treaty represented a significant step towards African unity and the pursuit of common interests on the international stage.


Pablo Neruda’s Recognition with the Viareggio-Versilia Prize.

In 1967, the renowned Chilean poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda was honoured with the Viareggio-Versilia Prize. This prestigious literary award recognized “world personalities who work for culture and understanding between peoples.” Neruda’s poems and writings had a profound impact on literature and captured the hearts of readers worldwide. Beyond his literary achievements, Neruda was also an ardent advocate for social justice, and his diplomatic career furthered his commitment to promoting peace and solidarity between nations. The award acknowledged Neruda’s contribution to both the literary world and his efforts in fostering cultural exchange and international understanding.


Václav Havel’s Resignation as President of Czechoslovakia.

In 1992, Václav Havel, the renowned dissident playwright and human rights advocate, resigned as the President of Czechoslovakia. Havel had played a pivotal role in the peaceful overthrow of the communist regime during the Velvet Revolution in 1989 and subsequently became the country’s first democratically elected president. However, as political tensions escalated between the Czech and Slovak regions, Havel faced challenges in holding the country together. His resignation marked a turning point in Czechoslovakia’s history, and just a few months later, the country peacefully split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, ushering in a new era for both nations.


Inauguration of Alexander Lukashenko as the First President of Belarus.

In 1994, Alexander Lukashenko was inaugurated as the first President of Belarus, following his victory in the country’s first presidential election. Lukashenko’s presidency has been marked by controversy, with critics accusing him of authoritarian rule and human rights abuses. Nevertheless, he remained a dominant figure in Belarusian politics, retaining power through multiple elections and amendments to the country’s constitution. His presidency had a profound impact on Belarusian society and politics, shaping the country’s direction and relations with other nations.


Kim Il-sung’s Placement in a Public Mausoleum.

In 1994, following his death on July 8, North Korean leader Kim Il-sung was placed in a public mausoleum at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang. Kim Il-sung had been the Supreme Leader of North Korea since the country’s establishment in 1948 and was revered as the “Eternal President” of the state. The mausoleum, an opulent and heavily guarded structure, became a site of veneration for the North Korean people, who were encouraged to pay their respects to their deceased leader regularly. The Kumsusan Palace of the Sun remains a symbol of the personality cult surrounding the Kim family and the entrenched authoritarian regime in North Korea.


Jeff Bezos’ Courage and Civility Awards Announcement.

In 2021, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced the establishment of the “Courage and Civility Awards.” These awards were each valued at $100 million and were granted to two individuals, writer, commentator, and non-profit founder Van Jones and chef and World Central Kitchen founder José Andrés. The recipients were given the freedom to distribute the funds to charities of their choice. The awards aimed to recognize and support individuals who have made significant contributions to promoting courage, civility, and understanding in society. The initiative underscored the importance of philanthropy and social responsibility among the world’s wealthiest individuals in addressing pressing global challenges.

Art, Film, And Music





Billboard Publishes its 1st Singles Record Chart

On this day in 1940, Billboard magazine published its first-ever singles record chart. The chart ranked the most popular songs of the week, establishing a standardized system for tracking the success of singles. The inaugural chart-topper was “I’ll Never Smile Again” by Tommy Dorsey, featuring Frank Sinatra’s smooth vocals. This marked the beginning of music charts as an essential tool in the music industry.


Jane Asher Breaks Her Engagement with Paul McCartney

Actress Jane Asher publicly ended her engagement with Paul McCartney, the iconic member of The Beatles, during an appearance on BBC-TV’s “Dee Time” program. The announcement shocked fans and highlighted the intense public interest in celebrity relationships. It was a significant moment in popular culture, showcasing the influence of famous figures’ personal lives on the public.


Judy Garland’s Last US Concert

Judy Garland, known for her iconic roles in films like “The Wizard of Oz,” headlined a concert at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia. This performance marked her last concert in the United States and was a poignant moment in entertainment history. It celebrated the talent of an extraordinary artist who had a profound impact on the music and film industry.


“Spirited Away” Released in Japan

“Spirited Away,” an animated fantasy film by Hayao Miyazaki, was released in Japan on this day. The film follows a young girl named Chihiro trapped in a magical world. Its breathtaking animation, storytelling, and characters captivated global audiences and received critical acclaim. “Spirited Away” became a significant cultural phenomenon, introducing audiences to Studio Ghibli’s brilliance and Miyazaki’s storytelling style.

Notable Birthdays

356 BC

Alexander the Great

Alexander was a renowned Macedonian king and military leader who was born in Pella, Macedonia (modern Greece). He ascended to the throne at the young age of 20 and went on to create one of the largest empires in history, stretching from Greece to Egypt and Persia. Known for his strategic brilliance and exceptional military skills, Alexander’s conquests left an indelible mark on the ancient world. He is remembered for spreading Greek culture throughout his vast empire, a period known as the Hellenistic era.


Mahmud II

Mahmud II was the 30th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, reigning from 1808 to 1839. Born in Topkapı Palace, Istanbul, Ottoman Empire, he is notable for undertaking significant reforms known as the Tanzimat reforms. These reforms aimed to modernize and centralize the Ottoman Empire, but they faced resistance from conservative elements. Mahmud II’s reign also saw struggles for independence within the empire, notably the Greek War of Independence and the Serbian Revolution.


Gregor Mendel

Gregor Mendel was an Austrian monk and scientist, widely recognized as the founder of modern genetics. Born in Heinzendorf, Austria, he conducted groundbreaking experiments with pea plants in the mid-19th century. Through meticulous crossbreeding studies, Mendel discovered the basic principles of heredity, now known as Mendelian inheritance. His work laid the foundation for understanding how traits are passed from one generation to the next and is considered a fundamental pillar in the field of genetics.


Mad Dog Coll

Vincent Coll also known as Mad Dog Coll, was an Irish-American mob hitman born in Gweedore, Ireland. He gained notoriety during the Prohibition era in the United States as a ruthless and feared gangster involved in various criminal activities. His violent confrontations with other gangs, particularly Dutch Schultz’s organization, led to the infamous “Beer Wars.” Coll’s criminal career came to an end when he was assassinated at the young age of 23.


Edmund Hillary

Edmund Hillary was a prominent New Zealand explorer and mountaineer, famously known for being one of the first two individuals to successfully summit Mount Everest. Alongside Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, he accomplished this feat in 1953. Born in Auckland, New Zealand, Hillary’s achievements in mountaineering and exploration made him a national hero in New Zealand. Beyond Everest, he dedicated much of his life to humanitarian and philanthropic work in Nepal, where he helped build schools, hospitals, and other projects to improve the lives of the local communities.


Mike Ilitch

Mike Ilitch was an American entrepreneur and sports team owner, best known for founding the popular Little Caesars Pizza chain and owning sports franchises like the Detroit Red Wings (NHL) and Detroit Tigers (MLB). Born in Detroit, Michigan, Ilitch built a successful business empire and became a beloved figure in the city for his commitment to revitalizing Detroit and supporting various charitable causes.


Sally Ann Howes

Sally Ann Howes was a British-American stage and screen actress and singer, with notable roles in classic productions like “Brigadoon” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” where she portrayed the beloved character “Truly Scrumptious.” Born in London, England, she made a significant impact on both stage and screen and garnered a dedicated fan following for her talents as a performer.


Marina Popovich

Marina Popovich was a Soviet Air Force colonel, engineer, and test pilot, renowned for setting 102 world records in aviation. Born in Leonenki, Smolensk Oblast, USSR, the exact date of her birth remains uncertain. She was a pioneering aviator and played a significant role in the Soviet space program. Popovich was one of the first female test pilots in the Soviet Union and made significant contributions to the advancement of aerospace technology during her illustrious career.


Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy was an American novelist who achieved widespread acclaim and numerous literary awards, including the Pulitzer Prize. Born in Providence, Rhode Island, McCarthy is known for his distinctive writing style, often portraying dark and profound themes in his novels. Some of his most famous works include “The Road,” “All the Pretty Horses,” and “No Country for Old Men,” which were adapted into successful films, further solidifying his literary legacy.


Natalie Wood 

Natalie Wood was a prominent American actress with a successful career in Hollywood. Born in San Francisco, California, she began acting at a young age and went on to star in several iconic films, such as “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Gypsy,” “Rebel Without A Cause,” and “West Side Story.” Wood’s talent and beauty made her one of the most celebrated actresses of her time, leaving an enduring impact on the film industry.


Carlos Santana

Carlos Santana is a celebrated Mexican-American rock guitarist and musician, best known for his band “Santana.” Born in Autlán de Navarro, Mexico, Santana’s unique fusion of rock, blues, jazz, and Latin influences earned him critical acclaim and worldwide success. His album “Supernatural” won multiple Grammy Awards and included the chart-topping hit “Smooth.” Santana’s mesmerizing guitar skills and signature sound continue to captivate audiences globally.

Notable Deaths



On July 20, 1903, Pope Leo XIII, the 256th Pope of the Catholic Church, passed away at the age of 93. He served as Pope from 1878 until his death in 1903, making him one of the longest-reigning popes in history. During his pontificate, Pope Leo XIII was known for his efforts to reconcile the Church with the modern world, emphasizing the importance of social justice and worker’s rights. He also issued numerous encyclicals on various theological and philosophical topics. His death marked the end of an era for the Catholic Church, and he is remembered for his significant contributions to the Church’s teachings and his impact on the modernization of Catholic thought.


Guglielmo Marconi

On July 20, 1937, the world lost Guglielmo Marconi, a pioneering Italian inventor and electrical engineer. Marconi is renowned for his groundbreaking work on long-distance radio transmission, which led to the development of wireless telegraphy, a crucial technology that revolutionized global communication. For his groundbreaking contributions, Marconi was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1909. His inventions and innovations laid the foundation for modern wireless communication, influencing various fields such as telecommunications, broadcasting, and navigation. His legacy continues to be honoured through the Marconi Prize, an esteemed award recognizing outstanding advancements in communications technology.


Bruce Lee

On July 20, 1973, the world mourned the loss of Bruce Lee, a legendary Hong Kong-American martial artist and actor. Bruce Lee was a cultural icon who elevated martial arts to new heights with his exceptional skills and charisma. He gained international fame through his performances in iconic movies such as “Enter the Dragon” and “Fists of Fury.” His martial arts philosophy, Jeet Kune Do, emphasized adaptability, directness, and self-expression, leaving a lasting impact on martial artists worldwide. Unfortunately, Bruce Lee’s promising career was cut tragically short when he died at the young age of 32 due to cerebral edema. His is influence on popular culture, martial arts, and cinema continues to endure, making him a timeless legend.


Roberto Suárez Gómez

On July 20, 2000, Roberto Suárez Gómez, known as the “King of Cocaine,” passed away from a heart attack at the age of 68. Gómez was a notorious Bolivian drug lord whose criminal activities were the basis for the movie “Scarface.” He was deeply involved in the drug trade and amassed immense wealth and power through his illegal operations. Gómez’s reign as one of the most prominent drug lords in South America came to an end when he was arrested and convicted for his involvement in drug trafficking. His story serves as a cautionary tale about the devastating impact of the illegal drug trade on societies and individuals, making his death a significant event in the ongoing fight against drug-related crimes.

| Today in History, 19 July: What Happened on this Day

| Today in History, 18 July: What Happened on this Day – Birthday, Events, Politics, Death & More

| Today in History, 17 July: What Happened on this Day – Birthday, Events, Politics, Death & More

| Today in History, 16 July: What Happened on this Day – Birthday, Events, Politics, Death & More

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