May 18 Events in History

In this article, we explore a series of significant historical events that occurred on May 18th, each marking a unique moment in time that has contributed to shaping societies around the world.

From groundbreaking achievements in human rights and technology to catastrophic natural disasters and pivotal political developments, these events span a broad spectrum of human experience.

We delve into the detailed narratives of each occurrence, understanding their contexts and the lasting impacts they have left on contemporary history.

May 18th – On this Day in History

1152 – Eleanor of Aquitaine marries Henry II of England, becoming Queen Consort of England later that year

Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of the most powerful and influential figures of the Middle Ages. Before marrying Henry II on May 18, 1152, Eleanor was previously married to Louis VII of France, but the marriage was annulled.

Her marriage to Henry II, who would become the King of England in 1154, was significant not only for consolidating power but also because it brought the vast Duchy of Aquitaine under English control.

Also Read: May 17 Events in History

This union significantly strengthened the Angevin Empire—an empire which at its height included lands throughout England, parts of France, and Ireland.

 Fall of Acre

1291 – Fall of Acre (or Acca), the last major stronghold of the Crusaders in the Kingdom of Jerusalem

The Fall of Acre on May 18, 1291, marked a pivotal moment in the Crusades, effectively ending Christian crusader presence in the Holy Land. Acre was besieged by the Mamluks under Sultan Al-Ashraf Khalil, who eventually breached the city’s defenses after a fierce and bloody battle.

Also Read: May 19th – On this Day in History

The loss of Acre was a devastating blow to the Crusaders and led to a rapid decline in their influence in the region, marking the end of the Crusader states.

1302 – Bruges Matins, the nocturnal massacre of the French garrison in Bruges by local Flemish militia

This event occurred on the morning of May 18, 1302, in the city of Bruges, now in modern-day Belgium. It involved the citizens of Bruges revolting against the occupying French forces.

The militia of Bruges, composed mainly of local craftsmen and townspeople, managed to massacre the French garrison in a surprise attack during the night. This revolt was significant as it led to the Battle of the Golden Spurs, where Flemish forces won a decisive victory against the French, a turning point in the Franco-Flemish War.

1593 – Playwright Thomas Kyd’s accusations of heresy lead to an arrest warrant for Christopher Marlowe

Thomas Kyd, a contemporary of Christopher Marlowe, was arrested in early May 1593, and under torture, implicated Marlowe in matters of heresy. Documents considered heretical, found in Kyd’s possession, which he claimed belonged to Marlowe, led to Marlowe’s summons by the Privy Council.

This event is surrounded by mystery and controversy, as Marlowe was killed in a tavern brawl shortly after being released on bail, leading to various speculations about his death being connected to his alleged heretical views and possibly even his work as a government spy.

1642 – The city of Montreal is founded

Montreal was founded on May 18, 1642, by a group of French settlers led by Paul de Chomedey, Sieur de Maisonneuve, and Jeanne Mance.

The original name of the settlement was Ville-Marie, and it was meant to be a mission colony dedicated to the Virgin Mary and a hub for converting Indigenous peoples to Christianity.

Over time, Ville-Marie became known more simply as Montreal and grew to be a major economic and cultural center in New France. The founding of Montreal played a crucial role in expanding French influence in North America.

1652 – Rhode Island passes the first law in North America making slavery illegal

Rhode Island passed a pioneering law on May 18, 1652, which prohibited lifelong ownership of slaves. Although primarily aimed at white and Native American indentured servants, it marked a significant early legislative attempt to curb the enslavement practices.

However, the law was limited in scope and enforcement, applying only within the colony and mainly to the case of indentured servitude rather than African slavery. Despite its limitations, this law was a precursor to the more comprehensive anti-slavery sentiments that would develop much later in American history.

Seven Years' War

1756 – The Seven Years’ War begins

The Seven Years’ War, often referred to as the first “global war,” officially began with declarations of war in 1756, although conflicts had started earlier. It involved most of the great powers of the time across Europe, North America, South America, Africa, and Asia.

The war was primarily driven by the commercial and imperial rivalry between Britain and France and their respective allies. The outcomes of the war significantly altered the colonial territories, with Britain emerging as the dominant colonial power, especially in North America and India, following the Treaty of Paris in 1763.

1804 – Napoleon Bonaparte is declared Emperor of the French by the French Senate

On May 18, 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte was declared Emperor of the French by the French Senate, marking a significant transformation from the French Republic to the French Empire. This change solidified Napoleon’s control over France, which he had been consolidating since becoming First Consul in 1799.

Napoleon’s coronation as emperor occurred later that year, in December, symbolizing a new era in French history characterized by ambitious military campaigns across Europe, significant legal reforms like the Napoleonic Code, and a restructured social hierarchy.

1860 – Abraham Lincoln wins the Republican Party presidential nomination over William H. Seward, who later becomes the United States Secretary of State

Abraham Lincoln’s nomination for the U.S. presidency by the Republican Party on May 18, 1860, came during the party’s national convention in Chicago. Lincoln was not the initial favorite and was considered more of a dark horse candidate compared to the frontrunner, William H. Seward.

However, Lincoln’s moderate views on slavery and political shrewdness helped him secure the nomination on the third ballot. His election later that year was pivotal to the onset of the American Civil War, as it prompted the secession of several southern states.

1896 – The United States Supreme Court rules in Plessy v. Ferguson that the “separate but equal” doctrine is constitutional

The Plessy v. Ferguson decision on May 18, 1896, was a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld the legality of racial segregation in public facilities, as long as the segregated facilities were equal in quality.

This “separate but equal” doctrine legalized racial segregation and disenfranchisement in the United States, especially affecting African Americans in the southern states.

It institutionalized an era of more rigorous and oppressive Jim Crow laws and was not overturned until the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which recognized segregation in public schools as unconstitutional.

Colored Waiting Room

1910 – The Earth passes through the tail of Halley’s Comet

On May 18, 1910, the Earth made a notable passage through the tail of Halley’s Comet, an event that occurs roughly every 76 years when the comet returns to the inner solar system. This particular passage was highly anticipated and caused a mix of excitement and fear among the global population.

Some feared catastrophic effects from the gases purported to be in the comet’s tail, though scientists reassured the public that the event would pose no danger. The passage provided a valuable opportunity for scientific observations that helped advance the understanding of cometary compositions and orbits.

1912 – The first Indian film, “Shree Pundalik” by Dadasaheb Torne, is released in Mumbai

“Shree Pundalik,” released on May 18, 1912, is often considered the first Indian film. Directed by Dadasaheb Torne, the film was a recording of a popular Marathi play based on a Hindu mythological story.

It was about 40 minutes long and mainly consisted of a filmed stage play. Although some debate exists about whether it qualifies as the first feature film in India due to its theatrical style and British cameraman’s involvement, “Shree Pundalik” marked a significant moment in the birth of Indian cinema, paving the way for the prolific and influential film industry that would develop in India.

1926 – Evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson disappears while visiting a Venice, California beach

Aimee Semple McPherson was a famous evangelical preacher and founder of the Foursquare Church. On May 18, 1926, she went missing from Venice Beach, California, leading to a huge media frenzy and police investigation. She reappeared in Mexico over a month later, claiming to have been kidnapped and held for ransom.

However, her story was met with skepticism, and accusations about staging her disappearance to cover up an alleged affair with a married man tarnished her reputation. Despite this, she remained a significant religious figure until her death.

1927 – The Bath School disaster: A series of violent bombings in Bath Township, Michigan, kills 38 schoolchildren and 6 adults

The Bath School disaster, which occurred on May 18, 1927, is one of the deadliest school massacres in U.S. history.

Andrew Kehoe, a local farmer and school board treasurer, detonated multiple explosives at Bath Consolidated School in an act of revenge against the community after losing his farm to foreclosure.

The bombings killed 38 schoolchildren and 6 adults, and injured at least 58 other people. Kehoe also killed his wife and himself that day. This horrific event shocked the nation and is a tragic chapter in the history of American education.

1933 – New Deal: President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs an act creating the Tennessee Valley Authority

On May 18, 1933, as part of his New Deal programs to help the United States recover from the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Act.

The TVA was created to address a range of issues, including flooding, providing electricity to rural communities, and improving the economic development in the Tennessee Valley, a region significantly affected by the economic downturn.

The TVA developed dams and hydroelectric projects that provided jobs, modernized the region’s infrastructure, enhanced navigation, and increased flood control, becoming a model for America’s efforts to balance natural resource development with environmental conservation.

1953 – Jacqueline Cochran becomes the first woman to break the sound barrier

On May 18, 1953, Jacqueline Cochran, an American pilot and one of the most prominent racing pilots of her generation, became the first woman to break the sound barrier. Flying a Canadair F-86 Sabre jet over Rogers Dry Lake, California, Cochran surpassed the speed of sound, achieving yet another milestone in her illustrious career.

Her accomplishment was significant not only as a record for women but also for its contribution to understanding supersonic flight. Cochran held more speed, distance, and altitude records than any other pilot, male or female, at the time of her death in 1980.

1974 – India conducts its first nuclear test, making it the sixth nation to do so

India conducted its first nuclear test on May 18, 1974, at the Pokhran Test Range in Rajasthan. Codenamed ‘Smiling Buddha,’ the test made India the sixth country in the world to demonstrate nuclear capability.

This was a pivotal moment in India’s national security policy, significantly altering its international relations and establishing its status as a regional power in South Asia. The test was also a moment of national pride and scientific achievement, although it led to India facing sanctions and international criticism.

1980 – Mount St. Helens erupts in Washington, United States, causing a massive amount of destruction and killing 57 people

On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted in one of the most significant volcanic events in the contiguous United States. The eruption was preceded by two months of seismic activity, including a series of minor earthquakes and steam-venting episodes.

The eruption resulted in the reduction of the mountain’s height by about 1,300 feet and left a mile-wide horseshoe-shaped crater. The event caused the death of 57 people, devastating environmental damage, and economic hardship due to the destruction of timber, homes, and infrastructure.

1990 – The General Assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO) eliminates homosexuality from the list of psychiatric diseases

On May 18, 1990, the General Assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO) made a landmark decision to remove homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).

This significant change was a result of evolving understanding and attitudes towards sexual orientation, marking an end to the official classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder.

The decision was a major victory for LGBTQ+ rights activists and is celebrated annually on May 17 as the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia.

1991 – Northern Somalia declares independence from the rest of Somalia as the Republic of Somaliland, though it is not recognized by the international community

On May 18, 1991, following the collapse of the central government of Somalia, the northern part of the country declared its independence as the Republic of Somaliland. The declaration was made during a conference held in Burao, attended by major clans in the region.

Despite maintaining a stable government, democratic elections, and its own currency, Somaliland has not received official recognition from any other nation or international organization, which affects its international relations and economic development.