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9 December: On this day in history

What events happened on 9 December in history? Dominic Sandbrook rounds up the events, births and deaths…

Published: December 9, 2021 at 6:05 am
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9 December 1960: Coronation Street hits TV sets

Millions of viewers tune in as the first episode of the working-class domestic saga airs

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For British audiences, 9 December 1960 was a milestone in television history. At seven that evening, with more than 3 million people staring at their sets, a brass band struck up a mournful tune, the grainy black and white picture showed a long street of terraced back-to-backs, and Coronation Street began its record-breaking run as the nation's best-loved soap opera.

Coronation Street was the brainchild of a young Granada scriptwriter, Tony Warren. In keeping with the sociological trends of the late 1950s, Warren was keen to explore working-class life in the urban north, a world already being transformed by postwar affluence.

“A fascinating freemasonry, a volume of unwritten rules,” began his note on the new series. “These are the driving forces behind life in a working-class street in the north of England. To the uninitiated outsider, all this would be completely incomprehensible.” The point of his new show, he explained, was “to entertain by examining a community of this kind and initiating the viewer into the ways of the people who live there”.

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Yet although viewers clearly loved the new soap, the critics were not kind to Coronation Street. In the Mirror, one writer thought Warren had focused on the "wrong folk. For there is little reality in his new serial, which, apparently, we will have to suffer twice a week." The paper's main reviewer, Jack Bell, struck a similar note. Who, he wondered, could possibly want this "continuous slice-of-life domestic drudgery two evenings a week"?

Julian Humphrys rounds up smaller anniversaries

9 December 1608
Poet John Milton is born. Early works include masques and religious tracts while a problematic first marriage to a girl 17 years his junior will lead him to write a paper proposing divorce on the grounds of incompatibility. A staunch supporter of and apologist for the English Commonwealth, he works for the Republic's Council of State despite losing his sight in 1652. His best-known work Paradise Lost will be written after the Restoration.
9 December 1641
Flemish painter Sir Anthony Van Dyck died in London where he had mainly lived and worked for nine years. Van Dyck is estimated to have painted around 40 portraits of King Charles I and about 30 of Queen Henrietta Maria.
9 December 1872
Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback became the first person of African-American descent to become governor of a US state, when he briefly held office as the 24th governor of Louisiana.
9 December 1917 
The British capture Jerusalem from the Turks.
9 December 1939
Corporal Thomas Priday of the First Battalion, King's Shropshire Light Infantry was killed leading a patrol near the Maginot Line in France. He is believed to be the first British soldier killed in action in the Second World War.
9 December 1940
General O'Connor's Western Desert Force launched Operation Compass, a counter-attack against General Graziani's 10th Italian Army at Sidi Barrani, Egypt. By early February 1941, over 130,000 prisoners had been taken together with 500 tanks and 800 guns.

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Authors

Dominic SandbrookHistorian and presenter

Dominic Sandbrook is historian and presenter, and a regular contributor to BBC History Magazine

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