May 14 Events in History

This article takes a journey through history, highlighting 20 significant events that occurred on May 14th across various years.

From pivotal battles and declarations of independence to major scientific advancements and influential cultural moments, each event offers a glimpse into the impactful and often transformative nature of these historical milestones.

May 14th – On this Day in History

1264 – The Battle of Lewes is fought in England between King Henry III and the barons led by Simon de Montfort

This significant battle occurred during the Second Barons’ War in England, which was a conflict between the autocratic King Henry III and his barons, who were led by Simon de Montfort. The battle took place in Lewes, Sussex.

Also Read: May 13 Events in History

The barons’ victory at Lewes was pivotal; it led to the signing of the Mise of Lewes, a settlement which temporarily curtailed the king’s power and increased the influence of the barons.

Simon de Montfort then effectively controlled the government and called the first directly-elected parliament in medieval Europe the following year.

The Battle of Lewes

1607 – Jamestown, Virginia is settled as an English colony

Jamestown, located in Virginia, was the first permanent English settlement in the Americas. Established by the Virginia Company of London, the settlement was named in honor of King James I.

Also Read: May 15th – On this Day in History

The colonists faced immense hardships including hostile relations with Native American tribes, severe food shortages, and disease. Despite these challenges, Jamestown is notable for its role in the survival and expansion of English America.

1608 – The Protestant Union is founded in Auhausen

The Protestant Union, also known as the Evangelical Union, was established in the Imperial City of Auhausen in present-day Germany.

It was formed by Lutheran and Reformed states of the Holy Roman Empire to defend the rights, lands, and person of each member against external and internal threats, particularly from the Catholic League.

This alliance was a direct response to mounting religious tensions in the Empire, which would eventually contribute to the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War in 1618.

1610 – Henry IV of France is assassinated by François Ravaillac

King Henry IV, one of France’s most beloved monarchs, was assassinated in Paris by François Ravaillac, a Catholic fanatic.

Henry IV, originally a Protestant who converted to Catholicism to secure his reign (“Paris is well worth a Mass”), had issued the Edict of Nantes in 1598, granting substantial religious freedoms to Protestants and helping to stabilize a country torn by religious wars.

His assassination marked the end of a period of relative peace and plunged France back into political uncertainty.

1643 – Louis XIV becomes King of France at age four upon the death of his father, Louis XIII

Louis XIV, known as the Sun King, became king at the tender age of four upon the death of his father, Louis XIII. His reign, which would last until 1715, is the longest of any monarch of a major country in European history.

During his time on the throne, Louis XIV transformed French monarchy, centralized governmental power, and fostered a flourishing of art and culture that established France as a leading European power.

His early years as king were overseen by his mother, Anne of Austria, and the powerful chief minister, Cardinal Mazarin, until he took personal control of the government in 1661.

Louis XIV

1796 – Edward Jenner administers the first smallpox inoculation

Edward Jenner, an English physician, made a significant medical breakthrough by administering the first smallpox vaccination. Jenner used material taken from a cowpox lesion on the hand of a milkmaid named Sarah Nelmes to inoculate an eight-year-old boy named James Phipps.

Jenner observed that Phipps developed a mild case of cowpox but then demonstrated immunity to the far more dangerous smallpox. This procedure laid the foundation for the development of immunology and led to the eventual eradication of smallpox in the 20th century.

1804 – The Lewis and Clark Expedition departs from Camp Dubois and begins its historic journey by traveling up the Missouri River

The Lewis and Clark Expedition, commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, began its journey from Camp Dubois in Illinois.

Led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, the expedition’s primary goal was to explore the newly acquired western portion of the United States and to find a practical route across the western half of the continent.

Their journey, which lasted until 1806, provided valuable scientific, geographic, and diplomatic insights and significantly contributed to the westward expansion of the United States.

1811 – Paraguay gains independence from Spain

Paraguay declared independence from Spanish rule on May 14, 1811, following a bloodless revolution that was initiated by local leaders in Asunción. This movement was partly inspired by similar independence movements in other parts of South America.

Paraguay’s independence was significant as it marked the country’s emergence as a sovereign nation, free from colonial governance, and began a period of self-rule which would eventually be characterized by significant isolation under future leaders.

1863 – The Battle of Jackson takes place during the American Civil War

This battle occurred during the American Civil War and was part of Union Major General Ulysses S. Grant’s campaign to capture the Confederate-held city of Vicksburg, Mississippi, which was a strategic point along the Mississippi River.

The Union forces successfully captured Jackson, Mississippi, inflicting significant damage and weakening the Confederate defense in the region. This victory was crucial in isolating Vicksburg and set the stage for its eventual surrender, which was pivotal in gaining control of the Mississippi River for the Union.

Boshin War

1868 – Boshin War: The Battle of Utsunomiya Castle ends as former Tokugawa shogunate forces withdraw northward

The Boshin War was a civil war in Japan, fought between forces loyal to the Tokugawa shogunate and those seeking to return political power to the Imperial Court. The Battle of Utsunomiya Castle was one of the conflicts during this war.

Tokugawa loyalists made a stand at Utsunomiya but were eventually forced to retreat northwards to Aizu by Imperial forces. This battle was part of a series that led to the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate and the restoration of the emperor, marking the beginning of the Meiji Era, which transformed Japan into a modernized nation-state.

1900 – The Olympic Games open in Paris, held as part of the 1900 World’s Fair

The 1900 Paris Olympic Games were held as part of the 1900 World’s Fair, marking the second occurrence of the modern Olympics. These games were notable for their lack of organization and structure; they were spread over several months and were overshadowed by the exposition.

Notably, this Olympics was the first to allow women to compete. Events were scattered and sometimes poorly attended, but the games played a critical role in gradually shaping the international sporting competition we recognize today, fostering a spirit of global sportsmanship and competition.

1913 – New York Governor William Sulzer approves the charter for the Rockefeller Foundation, which begins operations with a $100 million donation from John D. Rockefeller

On this day, New York Governor William Sulzer approved the charter for the Rockefeller Foundation, one of the world’s wealthiest and most influential philanthropic organizations.

Founded by John D. Rockefeller along with his son John D. Rockefeller Jr., and senior advisor Frederick T. Gates, the foundation was started with a $100 million donation. It aimed to promote the well-being of humanity around the world by tackling some of the time’s most pressing issues, including public health, medical training, and the arts.

1940 – The Netherlands surrenders to Germany during World War II

During World War II, the Netherlands was invaded by Nazi Germany on May 10, 1940, and after just four days of fighting, the Dutch army surrendered on May 14th following the devastating bombing of Rotterdam.

The capitulation led to a five-year occupation by the Germans, during which Dutch citizens and resistance movements suffered greatly under harsh repression. The surrender had significant implications for the Dutch royal family and government, who went into exile in Britain and continued to support the resistance from abroad.

1948 – Israel is declared an independent state as the British Mandate of Palestine is terminated

On the eve of the expiration of the British Mandate in Palestine, David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency, proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel. This historic declaration led to the first Arab-Israeli War as neighboring Arab states invaded the next day.

The establishment of Israel was a pivotal moment in Middle Eastern history, leading to decades of conflict, but also the fulfillment of a homeland for Jewish people in accordance with Zionist goals.

1955 – The Warsaw Pact is signed by the Soviet Union and seven Eastern Bloc countries as a collective defense treaty

The Warsaw Pact was a collective defense treaty signed in Warsaw, Poland, by the Soviet Union and seven Eastern Bloc satellite states of Central and Eastern Europe during the Cold War.

The treaty was established as a counterbalance to NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), which had integrated West Germany earlier that month, exacerbating Soviet fears of potential aggression.

The Warsaw Pact solidified the division of Europe into Eastern and Western blocs and was central to the Cold War’s military alignments until it was dissolved in 1991 after the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.

1961 – Civil rights movement: A “Freedom Riders” bus is fire-bombed near Anniston, Alabama, and the civil rights protestors are beaten by an angry mob

The Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States in 1961 to challenge the non-enforcement of United States Supreme Court decisions that segregated buses were unconstitutional.

On this day, one of the buses was fire-bombed near Anniston, Alabama, and the riders were beaten by an angry mob. This violence drew national attention to the civil rights movement and underscored the harsh realities of racial segregation, prompting further federal action towards civil rights.

1973 – Skylab, the United States’ first space station, is launched

Skylab was the first United States space station, launched by NASA. The station went into orbit on this day, and although it encountered significant technical problems during its launch (including losing its thermal protection and one electricity-generating solar panel), it was subsequently repaired by the first crew that docked with it almost a month later.

Skylab hosted a total of three manned missions and gathered valuable scientific data on the effects of microgravity on humans, solar observations, and Earth resources before it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere in 1979.

1991 – Jiang Qing, the widow of Mao Zedong and member of the Gang of Four, commits suicide in prison

Jiang Qing, also known as Madame Mao, was the wife of Mao Zedong, the former leader of the People’s Republic of China. She was a major political figure during the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) and a member of the radical political alliance known as the Gang of Four.

After Mao’s death, she was arrested and sentenced to death for her role in the political persecutions during the Cultural Revolution, though this sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment.

She committed suicide in 1991 while still under house arrest, ending a controversial life that had a profound impact on Chinese politics and culture.

1998 – The finale of the television sitcom “Seinfeld” airs to 76 million viewers in the United States

“Seinfeld”, a popular American TV sitcom often described as “a show about nothing”, aired its finale on this day. Created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, the show centered on a stand-up comedian named Jerry Seinfeld and his group of friends navigating life in New York City.

The finale drew an audience of 76 million viewers, making it one of the most-watched TV events in U.S. history. The show’s end was met with mixed reactions but it remains a cultural icon, widely regarded for its influence on comedy and television programming.

2012 – Agni-V, an intercontinental ballistic missile, is successfully test-fired by India

Agni-V is an intercontinental ballistic missile developed by India, capable of delivering a nuclear warhead. Its successful test-firing marked a significant advancement in India’s strategic capabilities, demonstrating the missile’s range of over 5,000 kilometers, capable of reaching parts of Europe and Asia.

This development was a key component of India’s deterrence strategy, enhancing its standing as a major regional power with advanced missile technology and contributing to its strategic autonomy in global affairs.