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Last Week In History

Monday January 15th

On this day in 2001, online encyclopedia website Wikipedia was launched by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger. The name is a portmanteau of the words ‘wiki’ (a collaborative website) and ‘encyclopedia’ (a book or series of books that give information on particular subjects). At the time of writing, Wikipedia is the 5th most visited website according to Alexa rankings (behind Google, Youtube, Facebook and Baidu) and has over 40 million articles.

Famous Death: Wrestler Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka (1943-2017)

Holiday: Korean Alphabet Day (North Korea/DPRK)


Tuesday January 16th

In 1919 the United States of America ratified the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This meant that, within the year following its ratification, Prohibition would be introduced in the States. This was the result of the Temperance campaigns, and would legally prohibit the sale of alcohol. The Volstead Act set forth what intoxicating substances were prohibited, with exceptions given to substances with (amongst other reasons) medical & religious purposes. It was repealed just over thirteen years later when the twenty-first amendment was passed in 1933.

Famous Death: Evangelist & eponymous university founder Bob Jones Sr. (1883-1968)

Holiday: National Religious Freedom Day (USA)


Wednesday January 17th

Patrice Lumumba, anti-colonialist campaigner and the first Prime Minister of the Republic of Congo, was executed on this day in 1961. Following a constitutional crisis in late 1960 Lumumba was deposed as Prime Minister by Joseph-Désiré Mobutu. He was then handed over to Katangan forces, and was executed by firing squad. It is believed by many that Belgium, as well as the United States, had a part in Lumumba’s execution. His body was later exhumed, dismembered and dissolved in sulfuric acid. His death was not publicly announced until three weeks afterward.

Famous Death: World Chess Champion (and noted anti-semite) Bobby Fischer (1943-2008)
Holiday: National Day (Menorca)


Thursday January 18th

On this day, in 1919, the Paris Peace Conference first met to discuss the outcomes of the First World War, and the terms to be imposed upon the losers. Delegates from 32 countries attended, and its main outcomes were: the creation of the League of Nations, transferring of ownership of German and Ottoman overseas colonies, the payment of war reparations and the redrawing of national borders. The conference resulted in the Treaty of Versailles, and is regularly given as a reason for hostilities that lead to the Second World War.

Famous Death: Eagles frontman Glenn Frey (1948-2016)

Holiday: Revolution and Youth Day (Tunisia)


Friday January 19th

Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie, known as the ‘Butcher of Lyon’, was captured in Bolivia on this day in 1983. Following the end of World War II, Barbie was recruited by the US Army Counterintelligence Corps, and was helped to flee to Bolivia through ratlines established by the army and the Roman Catholic Church. Having been discovered by Nazi hunters, he was eventually extradited to France in 1983. He was later sentenced to life imprisonment, and died in 1987 from leukemia, cancer of the spine and prostate, aged 77.

Famous Death: Singer-songwriter Wilson Pickett (1941-2006)

Holiday: Husband’s Day, or Bóndadagur (Iceland)