Groundbreaking novel “Don Quixote” is published

Year
1605
Month Day
January 16

On January 16, 1605, Miguel de CervantesEl ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha, better known as Don Quixote, is published. The book is considered by many to be the first modern novel as well as one of the greatest novels of all time.

The protagonist is a minor noble, Alonso Quixano, whose obsessive reading of chivalric romances drives him mad. He adopts the name Don Quixote and, along with his squire Sancho Panza, roams around La Mancha, a central region of Spain, taking on a number of challenges which exist entirely in his mind. Quixote attacks a group of monks, a flock of sheep, and, most famously, some windmills which he believes to be giants. The episodic story is intentionally comedic, and its intentionally archaic language contributes to its satirization of older stories of knights and their deeds.

The novel was an immediate success, although Cervantes made only a modest profit off of its publication rights. It was re-published across Spain and Portugal within the year. Over the next decade, it was translated and re-published across Europe and widely read in Spain’s American colonies. Over the subsequent centuries, critics have continued to praise, analyze, and re-interpret Don Quixote. Many analyses focus on the theme of imagination and the more subversive elements of the text, which has been taken as a satire of orthodoxy, chivalry, patriotism and even the concept of objective reality. The novel gave rise to a number of now-common idioms in Spanish and other languages, including the English phrase “tilting at windmills” and the word “quixotic.” Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, another novel frequently called one of the greatest of all time, was heavily influenced by Don Quixote, as was Mark Twain’s enormously influential The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which explicitly references Cervantes’ work. Cerebral, comedic and groundbreaking, Don Quixote has endured in a way that only a select few novels could. 

READ MORE: After 400 Years, Investigators Find Remains of Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote’s Creator

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Shah flees Iran


Year
1979
Month Day
January 16

Faced with an army mutiny and violent demonstrations against his rule, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the leader of Iran since 1941, is forced to flee the country. Fourteen days later, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the spiritual leader of the Islamic revolution, returned after 15 years of exile and took control of Iran.

In 1941, British and Soviet troops occupied Iran, and the first Pahlavi shah, who they regarded with suspicion, was forced to abdicate in favor of his son, Mohammad Reza. The new shah promised to act as a constitutional monarch but often meddled in the elected government’s affairs. After a Communist plot against him was thwarted in 1949, he took on even more powers. However, in the early 1950s, the shah was eclipsed by Mohammad Mosaddeq, a zealous Iranian nationalist who convinced the Parliament to nationalize Britain’s extensive oil interests in Iran. Mohammad Reza, who maintained close relations with Britain and the United States, opposed the decision. Nevertheless, he was forced in 1951 to appoint Mosaddeq premier, and two years of tension followed.

In August 1953, Mohammad Reza attempted to dismiss Mosaddeq, but the premier’s popular support was so great that the shah himself was forced out of Iran. A few days later, British and U.S. intelligence agents orchestrated a stunning coup d’etat against Mosaddeq, and the shah returned to take power as the sole leader of Iran. He repealed Mosaddeq’s legislation and became a close Cold War ally of the United States in the Middle East.

In 1963, the shah launched his “White Revolution,” a broad government program that included land reform, infrastructure development, voting rights for women, and the reduction of illiteracy. Although these programs were applauded by many in Iran, Islamic leaders were critical of what they saw as the westernization of Iran. Ruhollah Khomeini, a Shiite cleric, was particularly vocal in his criticism and called for the overthrow of the shah and the establishment of an Islamic state. In 1964, Khomeini was exiled and settled across the border in Iraq, where he sent radio messages to incite his supporters.

The shah saw himself foremost as a Persian king and in 1971 held an extravagant celebration of the 2,500th anniversary of the pre-Islamic Persian monarchy. In 1976, he formally replaced the Islamic calendar with a Persian calendar. Religious discontent grew, and the shah became more repressive, using his brutal secret police force to suppress opposition. This alienated students and intellectuals in Iran, and support for Khomeini grew. Discontent was also rampant in the poor and middle classes, who felt that the economic developments of the White Revolution had only benefited the ruling elite. In 1978, anti-shah demonstrations broke out in Iran’s major cities.

On September 8, 1978, the shah’s security force fired on a large group of demonstrators, killing hundreds and wounding thousands. Two months later, thousands took to the streets of Tehran, rioting and destroying symbols of westernization, such as banks and liquor stores. Khomeini called for the shah’s immediate overthrow, and on December 11 a group of soldiers mutinied and attacked the shah’s security officers. With that, his regime collapsed and the shah fled.

The shah traveled to several countries before entering the United States in October 1979 for medical treatment of his cancer. In Tehran, Islamic militants responded on November 4 by storming the U.S. embassy and taking the staff hostage. With the approval of Khomeini, the militants demanded the return of the shah to Iran to stand trial for his crimes. The United States refused to negotiate, and 52 American hostages were held for 444 days. Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi died in Egypt in July 1980. 

READ MORE: U.S.-Iran Tensions: From Political Coup to Hostage Crisis to Drone Strikes

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The Persian Gulf War begins


Year
1991
Month Day
January 16

At midnight in Iraq, the United Nations deadline for the Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait expires, and the Pentagon prepares to commence offensive operations to forcibly eject Iraq from its five-month occupation of its oil-rich neighbor. 

At 4:30 p.m. EST, the first fighter aircraft were launched from Saudi Arabia and off U.S. and British aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf on bombing missions over Iraq. All evening, aircraft from the U.S.-led military coalition pounded targets in and around Baghdad as the world watched the events transpire in television footage transmitted live via satellite from Baghdad and elsewhere. At 7:00 p.m., Operation Desert Storm, the code-name for the massive U.S.-led offensive against Iraq, was formally announced at the White House.

The operation was conducted by an international coalition under the command of U.S. General Norman Schwarzkopf and featured forces from 32 nations, including Britain, Egypt, France, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. During the next six weeks, the allied force engaged in a massive air war against Iraq’s military and civil infrastructure, and encountered little effective resistance from the Iraqi air force or air defenses. Iraqi ground forces were helpless during this stage of the war, and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s only significant retaliatory measure was the launching of SCUD missile attacks against Israel and Saudi Arabia. Saddam hoped that the missile attacks would provoke Israel to enter the conflict, thus dissolving Arab support of the war. At the request of the United States, however, Israel remained out of the war.

On February 24, a massive coalition ground offensive began, and Iraq’s outdated and poorly supplied armed forces were rapidly overwhelmed. Kuwait was liberated in less than four days, and a majority of Iraq’s armed forces surrendered, retreated into Iraq, or were destroyed. On February 28, President George H.W. Bush declared a cease-fire, and Iraq pledged to honor future coalition and U.N. peace terms. One hundred and twenty-five American soldiers were killed in the Persian Gulf War, with another 21 regarded as missing in action.

On March 20, 2003, a second war between Iraq and a U.S.-led coalition began, this time with the stated U.S. objective of removing Saddam Hussein from power and, ostensibly, finding and destroying the country’s weapons of mass destruction. Hussein was captured by a U.S. military unit on December 13, 2003 and was executed three years later. No weapons of mass destruction were ever found. 

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Prohibition is ratified by the states


Year
1919
Month Day
January 16

The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, prohibiting the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes,” is ratified by the requisite number of states on January 16, 1919.

The movement for the prohibition of alcohol began in the early 19th century, when Americans concerned about the adverse effects of drinking began forming temperance societies. By the late 19th century, these groups had become a powerful political force, campaigning on the state level and calling for total national abstinence. In December 1917, the 18th Amendment, also known as the Prohibition Amendment, was passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification.

Nine months after Prohibition‘s ratification, Congress passed the Volstead Act, or National Prohibition Act, over President Woodrow Wilson’s veto. The Volstead Act provided for the enforcement of prohibition, including the creation of a special unit of the Treasury Department. One year and a day after its ratification, prohibition went into effect—on January 17, 1920—and the nation became officially dry.

Despite a vigorous effort by law-enforcement agencies, the Volstead Act failed to prevent the large-scale distribution of alcoholic beverages, and organized crime flourished in America. In 1933, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was passed and ratified, repealing prohibition.

READ MORE: The Night Prohibition Ended

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Montenegro capitulates to Austro-Hungarian forces


Year
1916
Month Day
January 16

After an eight-day offensive that marked the beginning of a new, aggressive strategy in the region, Austro-Hungarian troops under commander in chief Franz Conrad von Hotzendorf take control of the Balkan state of Montenegro.

By the end of 1915, after initial setbacks, the Central Powers had completed their conquest of Serbia, the upstart Balkan country that they claimed had provoked the war in June 1914, when a Serbian nationalist had assassinated Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Despite their success in the Balkans, Conrad was incensed that the victories had been achieved largely by German, not Austrian, forces. He opposed the establishment of a joint German-Austrian command in the region, fearing, with reason, that Austria would be subordinated to its stronger ally. Relations between Conrad and his German counterpart, Erich von Falkenhayn, who sought to turn German energies more fully toward France and the Western Front, had become so strained that they ceased direct communication almost entirely for a full month from December 1915 to January 1916. During that time, Conrad proceeded to develop Austria’s strategy for early 1916, which was to capture Montenegro in the winter and then turn toward Italy with an attack in the Trentino.

On January 8, 1916, with a 500-gun artillery barrage, 45,000 Austrian troops and 5,000 Bosnian Muslims attacked Serbia’s ally, the neighboring state of Montenegro. Events unfolded quickly: Within 48 hours, the Montenegrins had retreated to their capital, Cetinje, after being driven from their fortresses at Mount Lovcen on the Adriatic Sea. Cetinje fell on January 11 and the end was already in sight. Montenegro surrendered on January 16. When her emergency came, there was no one to help her, the American diplomat John Coolidge wrote of Montenegro, so she had to go.

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Benny Goodman brings jazz to Carnegie Hall


Year
1938
Month Day
January 16

Jazz has been called “America’s classical music,” a label that does more than just recognize its American origins. The label also makes the case that jazz is worthy of aesthetic consideration alongside music usually thought of as “classical.” In the current era, when programs of Duke Ellington and J.S. Bach often draw the same highbrow crowds, that argument hardly seems controversial. In the 1930s, however, the notion was almost laughable, which is what made Benny Goodman’s January 16, 1938, concert at New York City’s famed Carnegie Hall so revolutionary. Goodman and his supporting cast claimed a new place for jazz on the American cultural scene that night, in what has come to be seen as the most important jazz concert in history.

Benny Goodman was at the absolute height of his legendary career when his publicist first suggested they book Carnegie Hall. He was a star on radio, on stage and on film, and the label “King of Swing” was already attached permanently to his name. So outlandish was the suggestion that a jazz band might play inside the citadel of American high culture, however, that Goodman is said to have laughed the idea off at first. Once he warmed to the notion, however, Goodman threw himself into the task with characteristic passion. In addition to numbers from the regular repertoire of his own band—which included the legendary Harry James on trumpet, Lionel Hampton on vibraphone and Gene Krupa on drums—Goodman planned a program featuring a brand-new “Twenty Years of Jazz” piece and an extended jam session featuring stars of the Duke Ellington and Count Basie orchestras. The concert sold out weeks in advance, with the best seats fetching $2.75.

It would be another decade before anyone who was not in the audience or listening on the radio that night would hear the famed concert. All recordings of the show were presumed lost until Goodman’s sister-in-law came across a set of acetates in 1950. By then, the performance had already become the stuff of legend—particularly the stunning, unplanned piano solo by Jess Stacy on “Sing, Sing, Sing,” the evening’s final number. The album made from the recovered acetates became one of the first 33 1/3 LPs to sell over a million copies. The eventual discovery of the aluminum studio master recordings led to high-quality CD reissues in 1998, 2002 and 2006 of the legendary Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert.

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Actress Carole Lombard killed in plane crash


Year
1942
Month Day
January 16

On January 16, 1942, the actress Carole Lombard, famous for her roles in such screwball comedies as My Man Godfrey and To Be or Not to Be, and for her marriage to the actor Clark Gable, is killed when the TWA DC-3 plane she is traveling in crashes en route from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. She was 33.

Gable and Lombard met in 1932 during the filming of No Man of Her Own. He was just starting out on his trajectory as one of Hollywood’s top leading men and she was a talented comedic actress trying to prove herself in more serious roles. Both were married at the time–Gable to a wealthy Texas widow 10 years his senior and Lombard to the actor William Powell–and neither showed much interest in the other. When they met again, three years later, Lombard had divorced Powell and Gable was separated from his wife, and things proceeded quite differently. Much to the media’s delight, the new couple was open with their affection, calling each other Ma and Pa and exchanging quirky, expensive gifts. In early 1939, Gable’s wife finally granted him a divorce, and he married Lombard that April.

In January 1942, shortly after America’s entrance into World War II, Howard Dietz, the publicity director of the MGM film studio, recruited Lombard for a tour to sell war bonds in her home state of Indiana. Gable, who had been asked to serve as the head of the actors’ branch of the wartime Hollywood Victory Committee, stayed in Los Angeles, where he was set to begin filming Somewhere I’ll Find You with Lana Turner. Dietz advised Lombard to avoid airplane travel, because he feared for its reliability and safety, and she did most of the trip by train, stopping at various locations on the way to Indianapolis and raising some $2 million for the war effort.

On the way home, however, Lombard didn’t want to wait for the train, and instead boarded the TWA DC-3 in Las Vegas with her mother, Elizabeth Peters, and a group that included the MGM publicity agent Otto Winkler and 15 young Army pilots. Shortly after takeoff, the plane veered off course. Warning beacons that might have helped guide the pilot had been blacked out because of fears about Japanese bombers, and the plane smashed into a cliff near the top of Potosi Mountain. Search parties were able to retrieve Lombard’s body, and she was buried next to her mother at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California, under a marker that read “Carole Lombard Gable.”

Hysterical with grief and adrift in the empty house he had shared with Lombard, Gable drank heavily and struggled to complete his work on Somewhere I’ll Find You. He was comforted by worried friends, including the actress Joan Crawford. That August, Gable decided to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Forces. He spent most of the war in the United Kingdom, and flew several combat missions (including one to Germany), earning several decorations for his efforts. He would remarry twice more, but when he died in 1960 Gable was interred at Forest Lawn, next to Lombard.

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“Moon Maniac” killer is executed


Year
1936
Month Day
January 16

Albert Fish is executed at Sing Sing prison in New York. The “Moon Maniac” was one of America’s most notorious and disturbed killers. Authorities believe that Fish killed as many as 10 children and then ate their remains. Fish went to the electric chair with great anticipation, telling guards, “It will be the supreme thrill, the only one I haven’t tried.”

Fish was executed for the murder of 10-year-old Grace Budd. In 1928, at his Wisteria Cottage in Westchester County, New York, Fish strangled the girl and then carved up her body with a saw. Six years later, Fish wrote Budd’s mother a letter in which he described in detail killing the girl and then preparing a stew with her flesh that he ate over the next nine days. The letter was traced back to the 66-year-old man.

A psychiatrist who examined Fish stated, “There was no known perversion that he did not practice and practice frequently.” Albert Fish was obsessed with sadomasochism. He had his own children hit him with a paint-stirrer and a hairbrush; they also witnessed him hitting himself with a paddle studded with nails. He inserted sewing needles into his body. Nearly 30 needles were found in his groin area after he told a psychiatrist they were there. Fish also ate his own excrement and burned himself with hot irons and pokers.

Most disturbingly, Fish was obsessed with cannibalism. He carried writings about the practice in his pockets. When he was arrested, Fish confessed to the murders of other young children whom he claimed to have eaten. Although nearly everyone agreed that he was insane, including the jury deciding his fate, he was nevertheless sentenced to die. Reportedly, his last statement was a handwritten note filled with filthy obscenities.

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Soviets send troops into Azerbaijan


Year
1990
Month Day
January 16

In the wake of vicious fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in Azerbaijan, the Soviet government sends in 11,000 troops to quell the conflict.

The fighting–and the official Soviet reaction to it–was an indication of the increasing ineffectiveness of the central Soviet government in maintaining control in the Soviet republics, and of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s weakening political power.

Strife in Azerbaijan was the result of centuries of tensions between the Islamic Azerbaijanis and the Christian Armenians. Since the Russian Revolution in 1917, the communist regime managed to maintain relative peace between the two groups, but with the gradual weakening of the Soviet Union during the late-1980s, ethnic rivalries began to re-emerge. In its weakened state, the Soviet Union chose to only partially involve itself in the conflict. The approach was unusual–had it occurred under the strict communist regime of the Cold War’s peak, such a tense internal conflict would likely have been immediately and forcefully quelled.

In the latest outbreak of violence, Armenians took the brunt of the attacks and nearly 60 people were killed. Armenian spokesmen condemned the lack of action on the part of the Gorbachev regime and pleaded for military intervention. Soviet officials, however, were not eager to leap into the ethnic fray and attempted to downplay the seriousness of the situation in the press. One Soviet official declared that the fighting in Azerbaijan was not a “civil war,” but merely “national strife.”

Some Gorbachev supporters even voiced the suspicion that the violence in the region was being stirred up by anti-Gorbachev activists merely to discredit the regime. Gorbachev dispatched 11,000 Soviet troops to quiet the situation, and the United States government supported his action as a humanitarian response to the killings and terror.

The troops Gorbachev sent did little to alleviate the situation–over the next two years, ethnic violence in Azerbaijan continued, and the weakening Soviet regime was unable to bring a lasting resolution to the situation. Less than two years later, Gorbachev resigned from power and the Soviet Union ceased to exist.

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Crittenden Compromise is killed in Senate


Year
1861
Month Day
January 16

The Crittenden Compromise, the last chance to keep North and South united, dies in the U.S. Senate.

Proposed by Senator John J. Crittenden of Kentucky, the compromise was a series of constitutional amendments. The amendments would continue the old Missouri Compromise provisions of 1820, which divided the West along the latitude of 36 30′. North of this line, slavery was prohibited. The Missouri Compromise was negated by the Compromise of 1850, which allowed a vote by territorial residents (popular sovereignty) to decide the issue of slavery. Other amendments protected slavery in the District of Columbia, forbade federal interference with the interstate slave trade, and compensated owners whose slaves escaped to the free states.

Essentially, the Crittenden Compromise sought to alleviate all concerns of the Southern states. Four states had already left the Union when it was proposed, but Crittenden hoped the compromise would lure them back. Crittenden thought he could muster support from both South and North and avert either a split of the nation or a civil war. The major problem with the plan was that it called for a complete compromise by the Republicans with virtually no concessions on the part of the South. The Republican Party formed in 1854 for the main purpose of opposing the expansion of slavery into the Western territories, particularly the areas north of the Missouri Compromise line. Just six years later, the party elected a president, Abraham Lincoln, over the opposition of the slave states. Crittenden was asking the Republicans to abandon their most key issues.

The vote was 25 against the compromise and 23 in favor of it. All 25 votes against it were cast by Republicans, and six senators from states that were in the process of seceding abstained. One Republican editorial insisted that the party “cannot be made to surrender the fruits of its recent victory.” There would be no compromise; with the secession of states continuing, America marched inexorably towards civil war.

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