On This Day … 31 December


  • 406: Vandals, Alans and Suebians cross the Rhine, beginning an invasion of Gaul.
  • 535: Byzantine general Belisarius completes the conquest of Sicily, defeating the Gothic garrison of Palermo (Panormos), and ending his consulship for the year.
  • 870: Battle of Englefield: The Vikings clash with ealdorman Æthelwulf of Berkshire. The invaders are driven back to Reading (East Anglia), many Danes are killed.
  • 1225: The Lý dynasty of Vietnam ends after 216 years by the enthronement of the boy emperor Trần Thái Tông, husband of the last Lý monarch, Lý Chiêu Hoàng, starting the Trần dynasty.
  • 1229: James I the Conqueror, King of Aragon enters Medina Mayurqa (now known as Palma, Spain) thus consummating the Christian reconquest of the island of Majorca.
  • 1501: The First Battle of Cannanore commences.
  • 1600: The British East India Company is chartered.
  • 1660: James II of England is named Duke of Normandy by Louis XIV of France.
  • 1687: The first Huguenots set sail from France to the Cape of Good Hope.
  • 1757: Empress Elizabeth I of Russia issues her ukase incorporating Königsberg into Russia.
  • 1775: American Revolutionary War: Battle of Quebec: British forces repulse an attack by Continental Army General Richard Montgomery.
  • 1857: Queen Victoria chooses Ottawa, then a small logging town, as the capital of Canada.
  • 1862: American Civil War: Abraham Lincoln signs an act that admits West Virginia to the Union, thus dividing Virginia in two.
  • 1862: American Civil War: The Battle of Stones River begins near Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
  • 1906: Mozaffar ad-Din Shah Qajar signs the Persian Constitution of 1906.
  • 1944: World War II: Hungary declares war on Nazi Germany.
  • 1944: World War II: Operation Nordwind, the last major Wehrmacht offensive on the Western Front begins.
  • 1946: President Harry S. Truman officially proclaims the end of hostilities in World War II.
  • 1951: Cold War: The Marshall Plan expires after distributing more than US$13.3 billion in foreign aid to rebuild Western Europe.
  • 1963: The Central African Federation officially collapses, subsequently becoming Zambia, Malawi and Rhodesia.
  • 1965: Jean-Bédel Bokassa, leader of the Central African Republic army, and his military officers begins a coup d’état against the government of President David Dacko.
  • 1981: A coup d’état in Ghana removes President Hilla Limann’s PNP government and replaces it with the Provisional National Defence Council led by Flight lieutenant Jerry Rawlings.
  • 1983: In Nigeria a coup d’état led by Major General Muhammadu Buhari ends the Second Nigerian Republic.
  • 1992: Czechoslovakia is peacefully dissolved in what is dubbed by media as the Velvet Divorce, resulting in the creation of the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.
  • 1994: The First Chechen War: The Russian Ground Forces begin a New Year’s storming of Grozny.
  • 1999: The US government hands control of the Panama Canal (as well all the adjacent land to the canal known as the Panama Canal Zone) to Panama. This act complied with the signing of the 1977 Torrijos–Carter Treaties.

People (Births)

  • 695: Muhammad bin Qasim, Syrian general (d. 715).’
  • 1585: Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, Spanish general and politician, 24th Governor of the Duchy of Milan (d. 1645).
  • 1720: Charles Edward Stuart, Scottish claimant to the throne of England (d. 1788).
  • 1738: Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis, English general and politician, 3rd Governor-General of India (d. 1805).
  • 1763: Pierre-Charles Villeneuve, French admiral (d. 1806).
  • 1815: George Meade, American general and engineer (d. 1872).
  • 1880: George Marshall, American general and politician, 50th United States Secretary of State, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1959).
  • 1911: Dal Stivens, Australian soldier and author (d. 1997).
  • 1912: John Frost, Indian-English general (d. 1993).

People (Deaths)

  • 192: Commodus, Roman emperor (b. 161).
  • 669: Li Shiji, Chinese general (b. 594).
  • 1568: Shimazu Tadayoshi, Japanese daimyō (b. 1493).
  • 1575: Pierino Belli, Italian commander and jurist (b. 1502).
  • 1775: Richard Montgomery, American general (b. 1738).
  • 1964: Henry Maitland Wilson, British field marshal (b. 1881).
  • 1990: Vasily Lazarev, Russian physician, colonel, and astronaut (b. 1928).
  • 2014: Valerian Wellesley, 8th Duke of Wellington, British soldier and politician (b. 1915).

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