5 June 754

During an expedition to convert the Netherlands to Christianity, the Anglo-Saxon missionary St Boniface is brutally murdered by Frisian armed robbers.


5 June 1762

The publication of issue number one of the North Briton, a weekly newspaper established by the radical politician John Wilkes in opposition to Tobias Smollett’s pro-government paper, the Briton.

5 June 1832: Angry Parisians man the barricades

A working-class rebellion becomes the inspiration for Victor Hugo’s most famous work

Paris, 1832. In the Tuileries garden, the young writer Victor Hugo was strolling by the river when he heard gunshots: trouble was brewing in the working-class district of Les Halles.

Hugo went to investigate. For 15 minutes he hid behind a pillar and watched as the king’s soldiers fired on republican rebels. At last the battle moved away, giving Hugo the chance to make his escape. It was a moment that stayed with him for the rest of his life. Some 13 years later, he began work on a novel set in Paris during those tumultuous June days: Les Misérables.

More like this

Today, thanks to the success of the musical and film versions, Les Misérables is by far Hugo’s best-known work. Many people assume that it is set during the French Revolution. In fact, the insurrection at its heart was a two-day uprising against the Orleanist king Louis-Philippe, which ended in failure.

The June Rebellion was triggered by the food shortages of the late 1820s, a devastating cholera epidemic and the death of the popular general Jean Lamarque, who had become a hero to the working classes of Paris. At his funeral on 5 June, republican demonstrators rallied the crowds, waving red flags and calling for “liberty or death”. The mood turned ugly, and by the evening rioters had taken control of much of central and eastern Paris, throwing up the barricades that play such a key role in Hugo’s novel.

It was all for nothing. The army stayed loyal to Louis-Philippe, and by morning the uprising had lost momentum. At the Cloître Saint-Merri, the last demonstrators were surrounded by the king’s troops. By nightfall it was all over. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook

5 June 1883

Start of the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits’ Express d’Orient service as its first train left Paris’s Gare de l’Est for Giurgiu in Romania via Vienna.

5 June 1900

After praying for advice, the anti-alcohol campaigner Carrie Nation receives a message from God telling her to smash up saloons in Kiowa, Kansas. When she does so two days later, a tornado strikes, which she sees as divine approval.

5 June 1968: Robert Kennedy is assassinated

A Palestinian gunman slays the presidential hopeful in an LA hotel

It was just after midnight on 5 June when, to the roars of his supporters, Senator Robert F Kennedy emerged into the glare of the ballroom at the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles. After one of the most turbulent campaigns in living memory, he seemed to have taken a decisive step towards the Democratic presidential nomination, having narrowly defeated his rival anti-war senator, Eugene McCarthy, in the California and South Dakota primaries.

For months Kennedy had hesitated to challenge President Lyndon Johnson over the Vietnam War, but at last the prize was within sight. Now, as the crowd pressed urgently around him, his aides propelled him towards the press room, taking a short cut through the hotel kitchen. It was there that a 24-year-old Palestinian drifter, Sirhan Sirhan, enraged by Kennedy’s support for Israel, saw his chance. As the senator pushed past him, Sirhan lifted his revolver and fired.

Even as Kennedy’s bodyguards overpowered his assassin, the senator was bleeding to death on the floor.

He had been shot three times; later, photographs showed him being cradled by a kitchen assistant, who pressed a rosary into his hand. “Don’t lift me,” Kennedy said weakly when, a few minutes later, the paramedics arrived. For more than a day he clung to life, but at 2am on 6 June, his press secretary told the waiting journalists that it was all over. Less than five years after his older brother had fallen to an assassin’s bullet, American politics had claimed the life of another Kennedy. | Written by Dominic Sandbrook


5 June 1981

The US Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report stated that five men in California had a rare form of pneumonia that was found in patients with weakened immune systems. They turned out to be the first recognised cases of AIDS.

Browse more On this day in history