March 11 – On this Day in History

This article highlights significant historical events that occurred on March 11th, spanning from ancient times to the modern era.

It covers a range of moments, including political milestones, natural disasters, scientific innovations, and cultural achievements that have left lasting impacts on society.

From the assassination of a Roman Emperor to the adoption of groundbreaking medical technologies, and from the birth of the first national daily newspaper to significant advancements in international relations, each event offers a glimpse into the evolving narrative of human history.

March 11th Events in History

222 – Roman Emperor Elagabalus is assassinated, along with his mother, Julia Soaemias, by the Praetorian Guard during a rebellion

On March 11, 222, Elagabalus, the Roman Emperor known for his eccentric and controversial reign, was assassinated after a brief and tumultuous rule that began in 218.

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His ascension to the throne at the young age of 14 was marked by religious and social reforms that challenged the Roman status quo, including the promotion of the Syrian sun god El-Gabal as the chief deity of the Roman pantheon.

Elagabalus’ lifestyle and policies alienated the Roman military and political establishment, leading to his assassination by members of the Praetorian Guard. He and his mother, Julia Soaemias, were murdered in a mutiny led by his cousin, Severus Alexander, who was then proclaimed emperor.

1702 – The Daily Courant, England’s first national daily newspaper is published for the first time

England’s first national daily newspaper, The Daily Courant, was published on March 11, 1702. The paper was launched by Elizabeth Mallet and operated out of Fleet Street, London, a location that would become synonymous with the British press.

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The Daily Courant was a single sheet, printed on both sides, and aimed to provide readers with foreign news reports without editorial commentary, distinguishing itself from other news publications of the time which were often biased or influenced by political factions.

This approach to journalism marked the beginning of a new era in the dissemination of news and information.

Luddite Rebellion

1811 – During the Luddite Rebellion in England, textile workers destroy weaving machinery as a form of protest against the industrial revolution that they believed was destroying their jobs

The Luddite Rebellion, starting in 1811, was a movement by English textile workers in the 19th century who protested against the newly developed labour-economizing technologies, particularly the power looms and knitting frames, which they feared would displace their jobs.

The movement derived its name from Ned Ludd, a folkloric figure who was said to have destroyed weaving machinery. On March 11, textile workers in Nottinghamshire took action by breaking into houses to destroy the machines that they believed threatened their livelihoods.

This marked the start of a series of protests and machine-breaking incidents across England, reflecting the workers’ struggle to preserve their traditional way of life amidst the Industrial Revolution.

1861 – American Civil War: The Constitution of the Confederate States of America is adopted

On March 11, 1861, the Confederate States of America, having seceded from the United States, adopted their own constitution. This document closely mirrored the U.S. Constitution but with several key differences, notably the explicit protection and recognition of slavery as an institution in the Confederate territories.

It also emphasized states’ rights, limiting the central government’s power over individual states. The adoption of the Confederate Constitution was a significant step in the secession process, leading to the American Civil War, as it solidified the governance structure of the Confederacy.

1864 – The Great Sheffield Flood: The largest man-made disaster ever to befall England kills over 250 people in Sheffield

The Great Sheffield Flood occurred on March 11, 1864, when the Dale Dyke Dam, located near Sheffield, England, catastrophically failed during its first filling. This unleashed a massive volume of water down the Loxley and Don valleys.

The flood killed over 250 people and caused extensive damage to homes, businesses, and infrastructure. It remains one of the worst man-made disasters in English history. The disaster highlighted the need for better engineering oversight and safety measures in the construction of large-scale infrastructure projects.

The Great Blizzard of 1888

1888 – The Great Blizzard of 1888 begins in the northeastern United States, halting transportation and telegraph service for days and killing approximately 400 people

One of the most severe recorded blizzards in the history of the United States, the Great Blizzard of 1888 struck the northeastern part of the country on March 11, lasting until March 14. The storm blanketed the region with up to 50 inches (127 cm) of snow, accompanied by fierce winds that created drifts as high as 50 feet (15 m).

The blizzard brought major cities like New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., to a standstill, paralyzing transportation and communication. The storm resulted in the deaths of approximately 400 people and caused significant damage to infrastructure.

It also led to the establishment of underground utility lines in many cities and the creation of New York City’s subway system as a response to the transportation disruptions caused by the snow.

1917 – Baghdad falls to Anglo-Indian forces commanded by General Stanley Maude, during the Mesopotamian campaign of World War I

On March 11, 1917, during the Mesopotamian campaign of World War I, Baghdad was captured by Anglo-Indian forces led by General Stanley Maude. This victory was significant for the Allied Powers, marking the end of centuries of Ottoman rule in the region.

The capture of Baghdad not only had strategic military importance but also helped bolster Allied morale. It allowed for greater control over Middle Eastern oil supplies, critical to the Allied war effort, and laid the groundwork for the post-war partitioning of the Ottoman Empire, significantly shaping the modern political landscape of the Middle East.

1927 – In New York City, Samuel Roxy Rothafel opens the Roxy Theatre

The Roxy Theatre, one of the most famous movie palaces of its time, opened in New York City on March 11, 1927.

Founded by Samuel Roxy Rothafel, a well-known theater operator and impresario, the Roxy Theatre was renowned for its lavish design, large seating capacity of over 5,000, and state-of-the-art sound and projection equipment.

It was nicknamed the “Cathedral of the Motion Picture” because of its grandiose architecture and became a landmark in the entertainment industry. The opening of the Roxy Theatre symbolized the golden age of Hollywood and the movie palace era, where going to the movies became a major cultural event.

1941 – World War II: President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Lend-Lease Act into law, providing American military aid to foreign nations

On March 11, 1941, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Lend-Lease Act into law, marking a significant shift in American foreign policy in the early stages of World War II.

The act allowed the United States to supply military aid to foreign nations fighting against the Axis powers, signaling the end of strict neutrality and the beginning of more active support for Allies like Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and China.

The Lend-Lease Act facilitated billions of dollars in weapons, vehicles, and other supplies to be shipped to Allied nations, playing a crucial role in their ability to continue fighting until the U.S. formally entered the war later that year.

General Douglas MacArthur

1942 – World War II: General Douglas MacArthur leaves the Philippines as Japanese forces advance, vowing “I shall return”

In one of the most famous events of World War II, General Douglas MacArthur evacuated the Philippines as Japanese forces advanced, on March 11, 1942. Before he left, he famously promised, “I shall return.”

MacArthur’s withdrawal was ordered by President Roosevelt, who feared the general’s capture. MacArthur and his family, along with key military staff, traveled by PT boat through enemy-blockaded waters, eventually reaching Australia. His promise to return became a rallying cry for Filipino and American forces, as well as for the Filipino people.

MacArthur’s eventual return to the Philippines in October 1944 was a key moment in the Pacific Theater, fulfilling his vow and playing a significant role in the liberation of the Philippines from Japanese occupation.

1952 – The first artificial heart is used in a human patient

On March 11, 1952, a groundbreaking medical procedure took place when the first artificial heart was used in a human patient. This event marked a pivotal moment in medical history, showcasing the potential of technology to support or replace organ functions.

The device, designed to temporarily aid the heart’s pumping action, was used during a complex heart surgery. While the patient, a 41-year-old man, only survived for a brief period after the operation, this experiment paved the way for the development of more advanced heart-assist devices and ultimately the permanent artificial hearts and heart transplantation procedures that have since saved countless lives.

1977 – The 1977 Hanafi Muslim Siege: Hanafi Muslim gunmen seize three Washington, D.C., buildings, killing two and taking 149 hostage

The 1977 Hanafi Muslim Siege began on March 11, when over 120 Hanafi Muslims, led by Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, took over three buildings in Washington, D.C.: the B’nai B’rith headquarters, the Islamic Center of Washington, and the District Building (City Hall).

The siege was motivated by demands for the extradition of those convicted in the 1973 murders of Khaalis’ family members, as well as grievances against the movie “Mohammad, Messenger of God,” which they found blasphemous.

The standoff lasted 39 hours and resulted in the death of two individuals, including a police officer, and injuries to over a dozen hostages. The siege ended with the gunmen’s surrender and highlighted vulnerabilities in public security and the potential for religiously motivated terrorism.

1985 – Mikhail Gorbachev is chosen to succeed Konstantin Chernenko as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union

Mikhail Gorbachev was chosen as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on March 11, 1985, following the death of his predecessor, Konstantin Chernenko. Gorbachev’s rise to power marked the beginning of a significant shift in Soviet politics and international relations.

He implemented policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) aimed at reforming the Soviet system by promoting greater transparency and economic liberalization.

Gorbachev’s leadership eventually led to the end of the Cold War, significant reductions in nuclear arsenals through treaties with the United States, and ultimately, the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

His tenure is often seen as a turning point in the 20th century, moving the world away from the brink of nuclear war and towards a new era of international cooperation.

1990 – Lithuania declares independence from the Soviet Union, becoming the first Baltic state to break away from the USSR

On March 11, 1990, Lithuania declared its independence from the Soviet Union, becoming the first Baltic state to break free from Soviet control. This declaration marked a critical moment in the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

The move came amidst rising nationalist movements within the Baltic states and other Soviet republics, spurred by Gorbachev’s policies of glasnost and perestroika. The Soviet Union initially responded with economic sanctions and a military presence, but Lithuania’s declaration of independence eventually led to the restoration of sovereignty not only in Lithuania but also in Latvia and Estonia.

The bold action of Lithuania emboldened other Soviet republics to seek their own independence, contributing significantly to the eventual breakup of the Soviet Union in December 1991.

2004 – Madrid train bombings: Simultaneous explosions on rush hour trains in Madrid, Spain, kill 191 people and injure more than 2,000

On March 11, 2004, Spain experienced one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in its history when ten bombs exploded on four commuter trains during the morning rush hour in Madrid. The attacks killed 191 people and injured more than 2,000, causing widespread shock and horror across Spain and the world.

The bombings were initially thought to be the work of the Basque separatist group ETA, but evidence later pointed to an Islamist militant group with links to al-Qaeda, acting in response to Spain’s involvement in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The attacks had a profound impact on Spanish society and politics, leading to mass demonstrations against terrorism and influencing the Spanish general elections that took place just three days later. The Madrid bombings remain a somber reminder of the global reach of terrorism and the importance of international cooperation in combating extremism.

2006 – Michelle Bachelet is inaugurated as first female president of Chile

On March 11, 2006, Michelle Bachelet was inaugurated as the first female president of Chile, marking a significant milestone in the country’s political history. Bachelet’s presidency represented not only a breakthrough in gender equality in Chile but also a shift towards more progressive policies in the region.

Her administration focused on social reforms, including pension reform, protection of workers’ rights, and gender equality initiatives. Bachelet, a pediatrician and epidemiologist by training, had previously served as Health Minister and Defense Minister, showcasing her diverse capabilities in leadership roles.

Her election was seen as a sign of changing social attitudes in a traditionally conservative country and inspired a wave of female political participation across Latin America.

2011 – A magnitude 9.0 earthquake strikes off the coast of Japan, triggering a massive tsunami and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, one of the worst nuclear accidents in history

On March 11, 2011, a catastrophic magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the northeast coast of Japan, triggering a massive tsunami with waves reaching heights of up to 40.5 meters (133 feet).

The earthquake and tsunami caused widespread devastation, killing over 15,000 people, displacing thousands, and causing extensive damage to buildings, infrastructure, and the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

The nuclear plant suffered major damage from the tsunami, leading to meltdowns in three of its reactors and the release of radioactive materials, marking the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. The disaster prompted international concern over nuclear safety and led to a reevaluation of nuclear energy policies worldwide.

2012 – A series of shootings in Toulouse and Montauban, France, begins, targeting French soldiers and Jewish civilians. The attacks would culminate in the deaths of seven people

In March 2012, France was shaken by a series of terrorist attacks in Toulouse and Montauban. Over several days, Mohammed Merah, a French citizen of Algerian descent, targeted French soldiers and Jewish civilians in a series of shootings, killing seven people, including three children at a Jewish school, and injuring several others. The attacks sparked a nationwide manhunt that ended with Merah’s death in a police siege.

The incidents raised serious concerns about radicalization within France, the integration of immigrant communities, and the country’s counterterrorism measures. It also led to increased security around Jewish institutions and a reevaluation of intelligence and surveillance practices in France.

2013 – Pope Francis is elected as the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church, becoming the first Jesuit pope, the first pope from the Americas, and the first from the Southern Hemisphere

On March 13, 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was elected as the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church, taking the name Pope Francis. He became the first Jesuit pope, the first pope from the Americas, and the first from the Southern Hemisphere.

His election was notable for his emphasis on humility, poverty, and the need for the Church to be more open and compassionate towards all individuals, especially the marginalized and the poor. His papacy has focused on issues such as environmental protection, social justice, and a more inclusive approach to church doctrine.

Pope Francis’ simple lifestyle and focus on fundamental human values have endeared him to Catholics and non-Catholics alike, marking a significant chapter in the modern history of the Catholic Church.

2018 – A Bangladeshi aircraft crashes at Kathmandu airport in Nepal, killing at least 51 of the 71 people aboard

On March 12, 2018, US-Bangla Airlines Flight BS211, a passenger flight from Dhaka, Bangladesh, crashed during its landing approach at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal. The crash resulted in the deaths of 51 of the 71 people on board, making it one of the deadliest aviation accidents in Nepal’s history.

The accident was attributed to several factors, including miscommunication between the air traffic control tower and the airplane’s cockpit crew, as well as possible confusion and disorientation on the part of the pilots in challenging landing conditions.

The tragedy highlighted significant issues in aviation safety and underscored the importance of clear communication and rigorous pilot training, especially in airports located in difficult terrain.