1 November: On this day in history

What events happened on 1 November in history? Dominic Sandbrook rounds up the events, births and deaths…

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1 November 1611

The King’s Men staged the first known performance of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest before James VI and I at Whitehall Palace.

1 November 1755: Lisbon is levelled by a deadly earthquake

Cataclysm claims up to 100,000 lives

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There “never was a finer morning seen than the 1st of November,” the Reverend Charles Davy, who was staying in Lisbon, wrote afterwards. “The sun shone out in its full lustre; the whole face of the sky was perfectly serene and clear.”

Shortly after nine that morning, Davy was writing a letter when he felt the table “tremble with a gentle motion”. Then the house began to shake, which he put down to the carriages rattling down to the palace nearby. Then came a loud noise, like the “hollow distant rumbling of thunder”. And then Davy ran.

The spectacle that greeted Charles Davy might have been a scene from the end of the world. Hundreds of people were milling in the streets, screaming and shouting. Buildings were crashing to the ground; on the top of St Catherine’s Hill, Davy watched in horror as the parish church crumbled into dust. At the seafront, he saw a gigantic wave sweeping towards the city, carrying upturned boats with it. “It was at the time of which I am now speaking,” Davy wrote, “that the fine new quay, built entirely of rough marble, at an immense expense, was entirely swallowed up, with all the people on it.”

The earthquake that hit Lisbon in 1755 was one of the deadliest in history. The Portuguese capital was almost completely destroyed, and some estimates put the death toll at 100,000 people. Later, the city was rebuilt in elegant, classical style by Portugal’s chief minister, the Marquis de Pombal.

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But across Europe, the disaster left a scar on the imagination of a generation. In years to come, theologians, philosophers and political theorists, from Rousseau to Kant, grappled with the existential implications of such a terrible natural catastrophe. The French writer Voltaire was one of many thinkers to be shaken by the news. If God was all- powerful and all-loving, he wondered, how could he have let it happen?

Julian Humphrys rounds up smaller anniversaries…

1 November 1609

Birth in Alderley, Gloucestershire of Mathew Hale, one of 17th-century England’s most influential lawyers. Hale served as a judge for both Crown and Cromwell and wrote extensively on English common law.

1 November 1848

WH Smith and Son open their first railway bookstall at London and North Western Railway’s Euston Station. They will sign similar deals with other railway companies, using the railway network to become the country’s leading newspaper distributor.

1 November 1887 

The artist LS Lowry is born in Stretford, Manchester.

1 November 1950

US President Harry S Truman survived an assassination attempt by two Puerto Rican nationalists who attempted to shoot their way into Blair House – the president’s home while the White House was being refurbished.

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