The death of Mumtaz Mahal, the chief consort of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, prompted her husband to construct the Taj Mahal.
Mumtaz Mahal, whose name means ‘the Exalted One of the palace’, was originally known as Arjumand Banu Begum. Born into a prominent Persian noble family, she married the future Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1612. She is widely recorded as being the favourite of his three wives with whom he shared a genuine love, and who was a valued confidant and trusted advisor.
The birth of couple’s fourteenth child resulted in Mumtaz Mahal’s death on 17 June 1631 from postpartum haemorrhage as a result of excessive blood-loss during a thirty hour labour. The couple were supervising a military campaign in the Deccan Plateau, and so the empress’ remains were temporarily buried at Burhanpur. Her husband entered a long period of mourning, after which he commissioned the construction of the magnificent Taj Mahal as a mausoleum.
Work on the Taj Mahal began in 1632 and, although the majority of the mausoleum’s construction was completed by 1643, the rest of the elaborate complex was not finished for another decade. The mausoleum itself is built of white marble that is inlaid with 28 different types of precious and semi-precious stones brought from all over India and Asia.
In 1658 Shah Jahan was deposed by his third son, Aurangzeb, who put him under house arrest in Agra Fort from where he could see the Taj Mahal in the distance. When he died eight years later, Shah Jahan’s body was taken there by river and laid to rest next to his beloved Mumtaz Mahal.
On June 16th 1958, Hungarian Communist politician Imre Nagy was executed. Arrested after Soviet forces brought the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 to an end, Nagy was found guilty of treason in a secret trial and executed by hanging.
Nagy had been sacked from his position as Chairman of the Council of Ministers in April 1955 due to his independent attitude that favoured a “New Course” in Socialism. Although his moderate reforms were met with hostility from the USSR, they garnered significant support within Hungary where opposition to the hard-line government of Mátyás Rákosi had grown since the death of Stalin in 1953. Nagy’s popular support led to him being appointed Prime Minister on October 24th 1956, the day after the Revolution began.
After a week of violence, Nagy recognised the crowd’s desire for political change. Despite being an ardent Marxist he began moves towards introducing a multiparty political system and, on November 1st, announced Hungary’s withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact and its status as a neutral country. This proved too much for Khrushchev in the USSR, who moved his troops into Budapest and seized control of most of the city by the 8th November. Nagy took refuge in the Yugoslavian embassy, but was arrested when he was given false promises of safe passage to leave Hungary on the 22nd November. He, and other leading members of the deposed government, were imprisoned in Romania until 1958 when they were returned to Hungary for trial.
News of Nagy’s trial and execution were only made public after the sentence had been carried out.
The Pig War border confrontation began when Lyman Cutlar shot a British-owned pig on San Juan Island.
The archipelago of which San Juan Island is part lies between Washington State on the United States mainland and Vancouver, in what was then British North America. The 1846 Oregon Treaty had established a boundary along the 49th parallel along ‘the middle of the channel which separates the continent from Vancouver’s Island’. The problem was that San Juan Island itself lies in the middle of the channel, leading both countries to claim sovereignty over it.
By 1859 the British Hudson’s Bay Company had established a sheep ranch on the island. A small number of American settlers had also arrived under the terms of the Donation Land Claim Act, even though the ownership of the land was disputed.
On 15 June 1859 a free-roaming black pig owned by the Hudson Bay employee Charles Griffin began rooting through American settler Lyman Cutlar’s potato patch. Cutlar shot the pig. Although the exact details of what happened next are unclear, a number of sources claim that Cutlar offered $10 compensation while Griffin demanded $100. Whatever the truth, Griffin reported Cutlar to the British authorities who threatened to arrest him. In response the US General William S. Harney sent 66 soldiers from the 9th Infantry, which the British governor responded to by sending three British warships.
By 10 August a force of 461 Americans and five British ships with over 2,000 men were caught in a tense standoff. However, the arrival of British Rear Admiral Robert L. Baynes heralded a de-escalation of tensions after he refused to ‘involve two great nations in a war over a squabble about a pig.’ An international commission eventually ruled in 1872 that America should control the island.
On the 14th June 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed the so-called Flag Resolution and adopted the stars and stripes as the flag of the United States. The day is now celebrated as Flag Day, which first proclaimed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 although it is not an official federal holiday.
The Flag Resolution stated some general parameters for the appearance of the flag. Specifically it said that there should be thirteen alternate red and white stripes and a group of white stars against a blue background. However, it didn’t specify a precise arrangement. Consequently a range of different designs, all of which met the definition, were produced. Of these, the so-called Betsy Ross flag which has the stars arranged in a circle is probably the most famous.
The design of the flag has changed numerous times during its history to reflect the admission of more states into the Union. However, in 1818 Congress approved the Flag Act that specified there should always be thirteen stripes to represent the original thirteen colonies that broke away from British rule, and the same number of stars as states. Consequently the 50 stars on the current flag first appeared after Hawaii joined the United States in 1959.
Therefore the flag about which the national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, was written is not the same design as the one in use today. That was instead a 15-star, 15-stripe flag flown at Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbour during a bombardment by British Royal Navy ships in the War of 1812.
Any suspect arrested in the USA must be informed of four key rights. ‘You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can, and will, be used against you in court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed for you.’
Known as the Miranda warning, the requirement for the police to inform all criminal suspects of these rights came about as the result of Arizona labourer Ernesto Miranda’s 1963 conviction for kidnapping and rape. A confession made to the Phoenix Police Department was entered as evidence yet, despite the form being printed with the statement that he had ‘full knowledge of my legal rights’, it later emerged that he had not been informed of either his right to an attorney or his right to remain silent.
Although Alvin Moore, Miranda’s court-appointed lawyer for his trial, objected to the use of the confession this was overruled by Judge Yale McFate and Miranda was sentenced for 20-30 years imprisonment. Having failed to win an appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court, the case eventually made it to the U.S. Supreme Court where Miranda was represented by attorney John Paul Frank.
The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 majority that, in order for evidence from questioning to be used in court, the police must have first informed the suspect of their rights. Since Miranda’s conviction was based on a confession before which he had not been informed of his rights, his conviction was overturned. However, he was later retried and again found guilty thanks to the testimony of the woman he had been living with at the time.
On the 12th June 1942, Anne Frank received a diary as a thirteenth birthday present from her father. Barely three weeks later, Anne and her family went into hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. Her diary, which chronicled her experiences over the next two years, was published posthumously after the war under the title The Diary of a Young Girl and became one of the twentieth century’s most celebrated books.
The Frank family originated in Frankfurt, Germany, but moved away after the Nazi party won local elections in 1933. Anne’s father, Otto, was a businessman who chose to move the family to Amsterdam after receiving an offer to start a company there. However, when the German army invaded the Netherlands in 1940 the family found themselves trapped in a country subjected to anti-Semitic laws.
When, in July 1942, Anne’s older sister Margot was ordered by the Nazi authorities to go to a labour camp, their father instead arranged for the family to go into hiding in a so-called ‘Secret Annexe’ above his office building. It was here that Anne wrote her diary, which she addressed as Kitty. Over three volumes she recorded the relationships between the Frank family, the Van Pels family, and her father’s friend Fritz Pfeffer with whom they shared their confined hiding place.
An anonymous tip-off led to the discovery and arrest of the eight inhabitants on the 4th August 1944. They were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp a month later. Anne died of typhus in early 1945 after being transferred to Bergen-Belsen. She was fifteen years old.
Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức burned himself to death at a busy crossroads in Saigon.
Quảng Đức’s self-immolation came in response to the persecution of Buddhists by the government under Diệm, who belonged to the Catholic minority and was supported by the USA. Buddhists were regularly subjected to discriminatory policies that ranged from limited access to United States aid to employment. Even the military saw some Buddhists convert in order to improve their chance of promotion.
In early May 1963 the government banned the Buddhist flag. This coincided with Phật Đản, otherwise known as Vesak, the birthday of Gautama Buddha. Buddhists were incensed by the ban and, on 8 May, a number of Buddhists in the city flew the flag and later marched on the government-controlled radio station where government troops repelled the protesters with live ammunition. Nine people were killed, but Diệm blamed the violence on the Viet Cong. His refusal to hold the local authorities to account or to grant religious equality triggered more protests around the country.
On the morning of 11 June, 350 Buddhist monks and nuns processed along the road outside the Cambodian embassy in Saigon. Thích Quảng Đức calmly emerged from a car and adopted the lotus position on a cushion in the intersection where he was doused in petrol from a five-gallon can. After chanting a prayer he struck a match and his body was engulfed in flames.
Photographs of the act shocked the world, and increased international pressure on Diệm who failed to implement reforms that he promised in the aftermath. On 1 November he was overthrown in a coup and assassinated the following day.
The Arab Revolt began fully on June 10th 1916 when Grand Sharif Hussein bin Ali, the guardian of the holy city of Mecca, ordered his troops to attack the Ottoman Caliphate’s garrison in the city. Hussein’s troops, drawn from his tribe, significantly outnumbered the Ottoman soldiers but were considerably less well equipped. Consequently, despite impressive initial gains, Hussein’s troops were unable to win the battle until Egyptian troops sent by the British arrived to provide artillery support.
Through correspondence with Sir Henry McMahon, the British High Commissioner of Egypt at the time, Hussein had become convinced that the Revolt would be rewarded with an independent Arabian empire stretching through the Middle East. The British supported the Revolt as it distracted tens of thousands of Ottoman troops from joining other fronts in the First World War.
Captain T. E. Lawrence, known as Lawrence of Arabia for his involvement in the Revolt, did not join with the Arab forces until October 1916. Although he was just one of many British and French officers who worked closely with the Arabs during the Revolt, newspaper reports of his guerrilla tactics and close relationship with Hussein’s sons Faisal and Abdullah earned him fame.
The Revolt was an enormous success, but the outcome was not what was agreed in the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence. The British and French instead divided the land according to the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement that they had negotiated between themselves in 1916. Hussein was given the Hejaz region in the Arabian Peninsula, but was defeated in 1925 by Ibn Saud.
Nero, the last Roman emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, committed suicide.
Nero was Augustus’ great-great grandson and was adopted by his great-uncle, Claudius, after he married his mother Agrippina the Younger. Following Claudius’ death in 54 CE, the sixteen year old Nero became emperor with the support of the Praetorian Guard whose leaders were loyal to his mother.
There are few surviving sources relating to Nero’s reign, with the majority of what we know being drawn from Tacitus, Suetonius, and Cassius Dio. Consequently historians have to exercise caution when drawing conclusions about his rule, but the contemporary accounts suggest that he acted with moderation and respect for the Senate during the early years of his reign.
By 62, however, Nero had ordered the murder of both his mother and his wife while his rule became increasingly brutal and unpredictable. He immersed himself in artistic pursuits at the expense of government, and approved vicious punishments for the Christians he blamed for starting the Great Fire in 64 CE.
Nero’s extravagant orders for the reconstruction of Rome, alongside his other expensive pursuits, had a devastating effect on the economy. Dissent turned into revolt throughout the provinces and, in response to his failure to respond to the growing insurrections, the Spanish governor Galba came out in opposition to Nero. Galba soon won the support of the legions while Nero, having fled Rome, was tried in absentia and condemned to death as an enemy of the people.
Hearing the news, Nero prepared to commit suicide but only did so with the help of a servant. His death led to the catastrophic Year of the Four Emperors in which the empire descended into civil war.
On the 8th June 1972 one of the most iconic photographs of the Vietnam War was taken of Phan Thị Kim Phúc, a nine-year-old girl from the South Vietnamese village of Trang Bang. In the photograph, she is shown running away from a napalm attack, having stripped off her clothes after being severely burned.
The photograph, which went on to win a Pulitzer Prize, was taken by Nick Ut, a Vietnamese photographer for the Associated Press. He was one of number of press photographers who were with the group of fleeing civilians after the village had been bombed South Vietnamese planes. He took Kim Phúc and other injured children to a hospital in Saigon before delivering the film to be developed, and maintained contact with her throughout her recovery despite being told that her burns were so severe she was unlikely to survive.
The photograph was initially rejected by Associated Press due to the full-frontal nudity. However, the image was deemed to capture such a powerful news story that these concerns were put aside. When the picture appeared on the front page of the New York Times four days later, it had such a dramatic impact that President Nixon discussed with his chief of staff whether the shot had been ‘fixed’.
Kim Phúc stayed in hospital for 14-months, and underwent 17 surgical procedures and skin transplants before she was able to return home. However she did survive and – having sought political asylum in Canada during an aircraft refuelling stop on her honeymoon – she now lives in Ontario.